Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Imagination

Our annual Witches' Luncheon
by Kelley Lindberg


When I was growing up, there weren’t many store-bought Halloween costumes. If you wanted a costume, you made it. There were tin-foil robots, Frankenstein’s monsters, Raggedy Anns and Andys, hobos, and lots of ketchup-blood. I remember being Maid Marian, the headless horseman, a classic sheet ghost, and a gypsy more than once.

It was a wonderful celebration of imagination.

Earlier this week, I wondered if imagination still exists now that most of our costumes are store-bought. Rack after rack of pre-made monsters, diabolical doctors, giant walking food items, and licensed cartoon characters promise instant transformations for busy parents. But are we stifling imagination?

I don’t think so.

I’m pretty sure that tiny Superman at my door really suspects he could leap a building in a single bound if his mother would just let go of his hand. The zombie princess who just politely said “Thank you” had to hold still for an incredibly long time while her dad glued her fake wound to her forehead, but she did it because she fully embraced the irony that she’s almost too young to understand, and she can’t wait to see how many people she can gross out.

I think we’re still celebrating imagination. Never mind that the accessories came in a plastic bag. The dreams are still real. And the sense of fun and adventure are firmly ensconced.

I’ve made some of my son’s costumes over the years, like Robin Hood (if only I could still fit into my Maid Marian costume!), Captain Jack Sparrow, and Peter Pan. And I’ve bought some of his costumes pre-made, like Ninjas and a whole cast of Star Wars characters. And I discovered it didn’t matter where the costume came from – the minute he put it on, he was that character. Suddenly he was battling Capt. Hook or Storm Troopers. He was sailing the Black Pearl or rescuing a princess or relieving an evil sheriff of his ill-gotten gold. The costume might be a trigger, but the adventure springs from the kid and his imagination. Clothes don’t really make the hero. The kid makes the hero.

As part of my goal to celebrate imagination today, I attended an annual Witches’ Luncheon, where several friends and I tap into our inner children, dress up like witches, and go to lunch. We say hi to all the kids we see and watch as wonder and imagination light up their faces. The best is when they look back at us over their mothers’ shoulders and shyly wave at us. They are imagining a world where witches wear feathers and pointy hats, and smile and wave, and laugh all afternoon.

Imagination is alive and well this Halloween. How will you celebrate yours?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Skipping the Prologue

by Kelley Lindberg

“Write me a prologue…”
        – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare

Many people admit they never read prologues. They skip right over prologues and go straight to where any self-respecting story should start: Chapter 1.
 
So welcome to Chapter 1 of my blog.
 
But wait…I’m curious. Why don’t people read prologues?
 
Maybe they confuse them with introductions. Or prefaces. Or forewords. Okay, I’m beginning to sense a pattern – lots of stuff at the beginning of the story that prevents the story from getting started. No wonder some readers skip them.
 
But a prologue is different. A prologue is part of the actual story. It might be an event or action that happened earlier and that launched our hero into his current predicament. It might be a glimpse of the bad guy’s past, or of a seemingly innocent encounter between two people that will result in a dire situation later. But it’s part of the story – a “prequel” if you will. It just happens before the rest of the story, the same way an epilogue is the part of the story that tells what happens after the story (the “Where are they now?” part).
 
If a prologue is the “prequel” to the story, what are the intro, the preface, and the foreword? There seem to be a variety of definitions, but all agree that these front-matter pieces can do a lot of things for the story, but they aren’t part of the actual story itself.
 
In a preface, authors explain why they wrote the book, and they might share their background or credentials in the field.
 
Introductions, which are most common in nonfiction, generally explain how the book is organized and what you can expect to learn from it.
 
A foreword is usually written by someone other than the author (preferably someone well-known in the field), and it offers information about the author or the actual writing of the book. For example, an anniversary edition of a well-known book might delve into the author’s life or the impact that book has had on readers over time. Forewords by famous people can help lend the book more credibility, so they are often used as marketing tools.
 
And sometimes authors blend all three into a single “Introduction.”
 
So if you’re anxious to jump right into the story, it’s presumably safe to skip the introduction, the preface and the foreword. Since they talk about the book itself, the author, and maybe the topic, you can read those at any time (or not at all), and not lose any pieces of the actual story.
 
But the prologue? Don’t skip the prologue. It’s a key piece of the story puzzle. Skipping the prologue is a bit like deciding you don’t much like first chapters, so you always start reading at Chapter 2.
 
(But if you do skip prologues, you’re in good company, because an awful lot of folks seem to do the same thing. You can all be puzzled together.)
 
If you’re a writer and you’ve begun your book with a prologue, what can you do to make sure your readers don’t skip your prologue?
 
That’s easy. Rename your prologue to “Chapter 1.”
 
And thanks for visiting my Chapter 1.