To Prologue or not to Prologue?

 

I started writing seriously about ten years ago.  I had written on and off all my life, but not in any kind of committed way. It was always something that was more of a lark, to see if I could finish a story or come up with something crazy. I made a few serious attempts and as I said in my last post, wrote a book in my early 20s that I threw out. But really, it’s only been the last ten years, with breaks in between even, that I’ve taken it seriously.

If you’re like me, than before you do anything, you like to do a lot of research. Naturally, wanting to write, I read everything I could get my hands on about writing.  If you’re not a writer and are wondering to yourself, ‘how many books on how to write could there be?’ the answer is…A METRIC TON, and even that might be lowballing it.

It’s great on the one hand. You can learn a lot in a short time and benefit from the mistakes others have made. I wrote screenplays exclusively for a few years, and although I don’t write them now (although I may write another at some point) I think studying what makes a good screenplay is one of the best things you can do as a writer. It made my writing more concise and succinct. Something like learning to write without the filler takes practice and guidance. This is advice I’d have never found if it had not been for the many maaaaany books on screenwriting I’ve read over the years.

The thing about writing advice, however, is that once you have read tons and tons of books, you’ll start to realize that the book you are reading now is contradicting the last book you read. What’s a gal to do? It’s madness I tell you!

This brings me to the following subject: Prologues!

When I gave my book, “The Vampires of Soldiers Cove” to my friend, Michelle to read before it came out she remarked on how much she liked my prologue, and then followed up with, “I usually never read those.”

My head almost exploded! My friend Tiffany told me that she also does not usually read the prologue. What??  I’ve read many books over the years, lots and lots with prologues and it never ever occurred to me to not read it. Is it just me? A prologue is part of the story and you could be missing valuable information if you don’t.

There is great disagreement among writers/publishers on prologues in general. Some say they are fine, others say they are the mark of a lazy writer, and not to do it. My book has a prologue, and the next one most likely will as well. My book is told in the first person narrative, except for the prologue. I wanted to have the reader be there as Gavin and Rachel have their first encounter, and for them to feel the intensity of that moment for themselves, as opposed to hearing about it later when it gets retold.

I have a friend, Mauro, who is also a writer (a very talented one at that) and I was lamenting to him last week about how my book has a prologue, and that I shouldn’t have done that…wah, wah, wah. Even though it is really and truly one of the parts of the book I love the most.

It’s always good to have another writer to pull you back off the creative ledge, and poor Mauro has had to do this with me numerous times over the last ten years. He cut me off in the middle of my rant and simply said, “Do other successful and published books have prologues?”  I told him that of course they did, to which he simply replied, “so there’s no reason you can’t have one. Just the fact that other books do it, means you can have one too!”

Mauro’s pretty smart. 

As a side note, another person told me that she didn’t plan on buying more books until she had read the ones she already had, but after reading my prologue she ordered it. There’s nothing better than a little prologue validation!
So, boys and girls, please read your prologues! They’ll do you good.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “To Prologue or not to Prologue?

  1. Emily Kathleen

    I’m still torn about prologues myself. I think a lot of the time they don’t serve the story very well, but they ARE a fun part of seeing the characters. Really, it’s all up to the author! I’m the kind of reader to reads EVERYTHING in a book, even the acknowledgements page, so I would never dream of skipping a prologue!

  2. If a book has a prologue I naturally read it. It might explain important details which you need to know when following through the book or it is an interesting entry into the characters or former events that are leading to the actual story. So I won´t skip it if the writer has done a prologue!

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