by Carol Burnside
It seems most readers and writers are divided on whether prologues and epilogues are necessary or not. I hadn’t given them much thought until I became an author.
Apparently, I don’t like to end books and let go of my characters, because I have a tendency to add epilogues. Anyone who follows this blog knows I’ve been working on the third book of my Sweetwater Springs series. In A Small Town Princess, I’ve begun with a prologue because I believe readers of the series need to know the secrets of J.T.’s marriage back then in order for them to root for him to find lasting happiness now.
I actually wrote the bones of this prologue back in 2004, with intentions of it being a regular in the first version of A Suitable Wife, but it just didn’t feel right and didn’t fit with the character’s conflicts. So, I cut it and left it languishing on my hard drive with no thoughts of a series.
Just before this, J.T. receives a call that his wife has been injured and is being taken to hospital via ambulance. And for clarification–for those who aren’t familiar with roadway systems in the southern U.S.–J.T. is traveling along an access road, a two-lane road that runs parallel to the freeway/autobahn type thoroughfare, because the freeway has been closed to traffic.
Here’s the first glimpse (not yet edited) of a horrific day in J.T.’s life:
She was unconscious at the scene.
Sara couldn’t be badly hurt. She just couldn’t be. Nothing could happen to her because they still needed time to work things out, time to forgive, time to reconnect with feelings that had once been so easy. Now that they knew she wasn’t pregnant with another man’s baby, they needed to concentrate on rebuilding their marriage.
He leaned forward, straining through wipers and a steady drizzle on his windshield to see what the flickering red and blue lights surrounded. The creeping traffic added to his frustration, bringing an irrational fury.
He was ready to explode when the rain slacked to a mist as if someone flipped a switch, creating better visibility. His first glimpse of the carnage slammed him back against his seat.
My God, how could anyone have survived?
His chin trembled. His stomach churned. Despair washed over him in waves at the mess of twisted metal, broken glass, and gaping holes where once there were doors and headlights and windshields. Some vehicles wrapped eerily around others in a macabre embrace. Still others were unrecognizable for make and model. Law enforcement personnel moved like ants among the wreckage in bright slickers adorned with reflective strips. Some wore hats covered with shower cap-like coverings.
Faint shouts brought more personnel running with stretchers and backboards. Accident victims sat on the side of the road, shell-shocked and soaked. Some were lying down, blood trickling onto the pavement. Still others wandered, dazed, or sobbed as the EMTs worked frantically over their loved ones.
The scene resembled war zones he’d seen on television.
As traffic crawled forward, he rolled down the window, searching for Sara’s SUV. His gaze darted between the vehicle in front of him and the horrific scene. Maybe she saw the wreck in time and pulled to the side. Maybe. She couldn’t have been in the worst of this. His mind refused to accept it.
She was the mother of his children, his first love. Maybe things weren’t ideal between them right now, but he couldn’t envision his family without her.
There! If it hadn’t been for one intact taillight and license plate, he would have missed it altogether. Decimated beyond belief, Sara’s SUV looked like twisted scrap metal in a junkyard.
J.T. stopped his truck and stared.
Her vehicle sat sideways on the highway, the passenger side hugging the back of a flatbed truck. It looked as if she might’ve gone into a skid and gotten slammed from both sides, though the oncoming vehicle had been moved. A good portion of the driver’s side and the roof above was missing, cut away. My God. They’d had to use a Jaws of Life tool to get her out.
A dark stain marred the pale gray driver’s seat, now exposed to the elements. Hanging half-in, half-out of the floor in front of the back seat was Ryan’s bedraggled Elmo.
She had to survive. For their sons.
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Okay, time to weigh in. What’s your preference. Prologues or epilogues, neither or both? Neutral or opinionated, leave it in the comments.
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Sweetwater Springs series (w/a Carol Burnside)
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