I’m going through comments from beta readers and Darth Beta’s comment on the prologue title was–and I quote, “Ew. This sounds like a Hallmark card. Delete or find something less dorky.”
Yeah, I always love going through his comments. The first time he critiqued one of my manuscripts he used the word lame 26 times. I’ve since restricted him to 10 lames a manuscript but I foolishly said nothing about the word dorky.
The reason I chose this sentence for the title of the prologue (I’ve titled all of the other prologues, so I figure I should title this one too) is that you realize at the end of the prologue that the sentence has a different, darker meaning than what you first supposed. But you don’t know that when you first encounter it, so yeah, it does sound like something off of a motivational poster or Hallmark card. And I don’t want people to see it and roll their eyes.
Any suggestions on how to change it so it basically has the same meaning but doesn’t seem so card-like? I’ve included the 4 page prologue so you can see what it really means.
Six years ago.
Never underestimate the power of friendship.
Dirk Overdrake stood in front of a glass case in the Bonaparte Residence Museum and wondered how many years in prison people got for stealing priceless historical artifacts. A flawless replica of Napoleon’s laurel leaf coronation crown was nestled securely behind the glass. The exhibit label reported that the original had disappeared after Napoleon’s death and no one knew where it currently was. Well, no one except Dirk, because he was pretty sure he’d seen one just like this in his father’s bedroom vault.
His father wandered over to the case, done looking at the previous display. Even while on vacation, his father was crisp and professional, as though it were some sort of sin to put on jeans and Nikes. He wore beige pants and expensive Italian shoes, his dark hair perfectly in place.
Dirk pointed to the crown. “Hey, don’t you have one like this?”
His father made a curt shushing noise to indicate he shouldn’t speak of it here. Which pretty much answered Dirk’s question. Should he be impressed or ashamed that his father had somehow managed to get a hold of the original? He wasn’t surprised. After all, his father also had a golden breastpin worn by Julius Caesar and a small silver horse statue that had belonged to Alexander the Great. His father liked to collect souvenirs from conquerors.
Dirk’s father motioned for him to follow, and the two walked out of the museum onto the streets of Ajaccio, France. They’d already passed one statue of Napoleon on the way to the museum, and now they headed toward another.
Dirk’s father slipped a pair of sunglasses over his eyes. “Do you know why I brought you here?”
Yeah. Because his father had no idea what normal families did on vacation. Dirk’s friends were all at Disney World and the beach. Places twelve-year-olds actually wanted to go.
Dirk knew better than to say those words. “You like Napoleon because he used to live on St. Helena?”
Napoleon had been exiled on the island where his father grew up. Every time Dirk had visited St. Helena, he’d been forced to visit the Napoleon shrine there too.
“No,” his father said, drawing out the word to indicate he was turning this into one of those annoying teaching moments. “I brought you here to see the people lined up, eager to pay their money just so they can walk around the home where Napoleon was born.”
His father waved a hand in the direction of the museum. “The curators were able to recreate the drapes and wallpaper because so many people cut off pieces and saved them as if they were relics of the saints.”
Dirk and his father had reached the second town statue of Napoleon. He sat atop a horse, wearing his gold leaf crown and gazing triumphantly out on the plaza.
“I brought you here,” his father went, “for the same reason I brought you to Julius Caesar’s tomb. Thousands of years after his death, people still daily leave flowers on his grave. What does that show you?”
Dirk shrugged. “Tourists like to throw away money?”
“No. People admire greatness. It doesn’t even matter that Napoleon lost in the end or that Caesar was murdered by his friends. Both had the wherewithal to take control of their nation’s destiny and meld it to their will.” He gestured at the statue. “War is like love. It’s better to have fought and lost than never to have fought at all.” He lowered his voice. “And of course, it’s better still to win.”
Dirk nodded because he knew his father would continue lecturing if he didn’t think Dirk was listening. Mostly Dirk was wondering if Napoleon would have taken his kids to Disneyland or whether he would have dragged them around to look at statues.
His father wasn’t done. “Do you want to be the sort of person Napoleon and Caesar were?”
Banished from civilization or murdered by his friends? Not really.
His father didn’t give him time to answer. “Do you want to have cities across the world named after you like Alexander the Great? Or do you want to be like one of these pathetic tourists, so devoid of your own greatness that you have to pay money just to see the places where a great man once stood?”
Dirk knew the right answer to this question. Still, he looked skyward as though pondering it. “Dirk the Great has a nice ring to it.”
His father laid his hand on Dirk’s shoulder with approval. “To be a great leader, you need to know who your enemies are. You must know how they think, where you can find them, and how they plan to destroy you.”
Dirk nodded again. It was always better to just agree with his father when he went on about leadership.
His father dropped his hand from Dirk’s shoulder. “That’s why I signed you up for Dragon camp.”
Dirk cocked his head, not understanding. “There’s a camp for dragons?”
His father turned away from the statue. “No, there’s a camp for Slayers and this summer you’re going to attend. It’s time to meet your enemies.”
Dirk’s father had warned him about the Slayers enough times: kids his own age who would try to kill the dragons and him too if he got in their way. How many of them went to this camp? “You want me to fight them?” Before Dirk could decide whether to feel pumped or terrified by the idea, his father laughed.
“Not yet. You’ll learn their secrets first, their weaknesses, so you’ll know how to fight. Never underestimate the power of friendship.”
Someone just asked me what the other prolog titles were, so here they are.
Slayers 1: The Reason Parents Don’t Tell Their Children About Their Nightmares
Slayers 2: It’s Always the Things You Overlook
Slayers 3: The Downside of Being Married to a Dragon Lord
Slayers 4: You Should Never Make Promises You Can’t Keep
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I would just remove “the power of” and say “Never underestimate friendship.”
Thanks for your input!
I agree. It has the same meaning, same spin at the end, but it’s a little less Hallmark.
Thanks for the feedback!
I’ve been trying to think of a better alternative and I can’t. I vote for “Never underestimate friendship,” too.
“The power of friendship” evokes My Little Pony to me. Made me laugh when I read the last line of dialogue since it’s so against his character, and I don’t think that’s what you were going for. 😉
I just had a thought–a spinoff cartoon show called My Little Dragon. It’s going to be gold…
Ha! Very punny.
Two word prologue title.
……but in case you don’t like that one:
Best Friends Share Everything
(Or Share Secrets)
Why Prologues Have Ambiguous Titles
No Secrets Among Friends
Secret Friends, Friends’ Secrets
The Devastating Power of Friendship
You can pick your friends. You can pick your nose. You probably shouldn’t pick your friend’s nose.
You’ve definitely got some good ones! Thanks!
So, having read all the Slayer books and coming into this scene with all the knowledge that the previous books have provided…Never underestimate the power of friendship has some good play on it. Is it Dirk’s friendships with the Slayers that will end up helping him to overthrow his dad? From book two we learn that Dirk’s feelings for his friends are stronger than his dad anticipated. Should his dad not have underestimated his son’s friendships? It works to play both ways. But if you really don’t like that, you could have miscalculated friendships or The complications of friendships. Also, there is a typo in the first word of the second to last paragraph. **Dirk’s father 🙂
Yes, it’s definitely something that backfires on Overdrake. He wants the power of friendship to work against the Slayers–as in, Dirk will learn their secrets, but it actually works against Overdrake because Dirk cares about his Slayer friends, especially Tori. So in this case the power of friendship cuts both ways.
And thanks for pointing out the typo!
I keep envisioning Overdrake saying something much more Machiavellian. Of course, that type of a statement doesn’t have the twist that your original does (or the potential double meaning of that friendship having its own effect on Dirk). But here are a few inspirational quotes if you want to turn in that direction.
“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” –Machiavelli
“Men of sense often learn from their enemies. It is from their foes, not their friends, that cities learn the lesson of building high walls and ships of war.” –ARISTOPHANES, The Birds
“There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong.” –Ender’s Game.
Awesome quotes. I don’t know whether to be impressed or fear you…
I like the original. Nothing Wong with a title that sounds like a house cat and turns out to be sinister. Can’t wait to read it!