Sunday, March 1, 2009


I've written about prologues before. I happen to like them. It's like being let in on some great, important, inner-circle secret. Of course, the prologue needs to make sense. It needs to belong right where it is. Before the beginning, so to speak.

It appears however, that prologue readers (let alone "likers") are in the minority.

Personally, I think the people who skip prologues are the same people who jump ahead and read the last page. So much is lost. Why bother reading? (Okay, full disclosure: I have skimmed the last few pages to make sure I see a certain name with quotation marks by it, or the name of a dog doing something in the present tense. But that's it. I promise.)

When a multi-pubbed author critiqued my first few pages, I thought I'd be clever and call the prologue chapter one. When I got it back, she referred to my "prologue." I decided that meant it made sense, it belonged, and so I've kept it.

Now I'm not so sure.

Chris Roerden devotes an entire chapter about the bias against prologues in her book, Don't Murder Your Mystery. In fact, she calls the chapter "Perilous Prologues." Doesn't bode well, does it?

Because there's not an issue of time in my prologue, I'll be taking a good look (after I've finished the first draft) and will see if it makes sense for it to either become my second chapter, or a second scene in the first chapter.

Do you like prologues? Do your manuscripts have them? Why?

If prologue is backstory, blast it out if you can weave the information throughout the NOW-story. Roerden suggest than an alternative is to rename it to scene one of chapter one.

It's important that the reader form a quick and sure bond with your protagonist. If the prologue is about someone else, or something not directly connected with chapter one, or worse . . . it makes the reader care about someone they assume is the protag, and before the know it, that character bites the dust. Their trust has been shattered and it's going to be that much more difficult for them to like the real protag who shows up in chapter one. No telling what might happen. . . .

Make sense?

My prologue shows the antagonist. The old body-on-page-one trick. So the reader doesn't meet my co-protags until chapter one. Hmmm . . . multiple problems for the manuscript of an unpublished writer.

When I'm ready, I'll toss a few things around. For now? It's a prologue.

Can anyone explain the following quote to me? I like it, but I don't know why.

Writers, like teeth, are divided into incisors and grinders. ~WALTER BAGEHOT

Just finished: The Ghost by Robert Harris

It's all better with friends.

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