Monday, March 1, 2010

In Which Prologues Are No Longer Welcome

I love prologues. I love to write them and I don't mind reading them.
Recently, though, I came upon the discovery that many many people skip reading prologues all together. Prologues are kind of the "red headed stepchild" of the writing world and are looked down upon by many people.

Though, to be fair, I guess they've got a point when they state that almost all prologues (unless you're doing a frame story) is backstory. And since you never want to start your novel with backstory, you should cut that prologue and cut it quick.

And even though I know this, I still love to write prologues. My prologues almost always revolve around an incident with one of the characters that happened years earlier. It's almost always an inciting incident of some sort (for Foxfire, it revolves around how Fox, the Male MC is abandoned as a child), but not really of the novel itself.

So even though I love it, and I don't think it's really all that much backstory (even though this is just an excuse I tell myself) I know the prologue has to go.


The tough part, though, is to now take all of the necessary info in the prologue (and there is quite a bit of it regarding how the world works, etc) and inject it later into the story. The difficulty about this is I always want to stick it in too early and that is, of course, a bad idea because then I'd just be starting the novel with backstory again.

Hopefully once I draw out scene cards, I'll better be able to see where to stick the prologue bits.

So does anyone else write prologues? And do you keep them, or kill them?

Tomorrow, a bit more on where to start your story.

Also, two weeks ago I received the blogger purrfection award from the lovely Piedmont Writer(check her out if you're not already. I really enjoy her blog)


Aubrie said...

Every time I wrote a prologue my editor has recommended that I cut it altogether.

I love prologues, too! But I guess they are out of vogue.

*sad face, too*

roxy said...

Prologues have been around for hundreds of years. I'm sure they'll return to agent and editor grace one of these days. Literary fads come and go. I also noticed this weekend that many successful YA and adult fiction books currently on the bestseller list still open with prologues. I say, for what it is worth, that we stick to our guns. If the story demands it and if it is done well, keep the prologue. Call me a rebel.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Palindrome said...

Bah! I do what I want!! And no one can tell me different!!

Viva la Prologues!!!

Falen said...

Aubrie - well let's just continue loving them. Maybe we can start a support group!

Roxy - i hope they come back into fashion, but by the time they do, i'm sure it will be a bit too late for me. Or certainly for my WIP

Palindrome - you rebel you! Don't make me contain your rebellion with some sort of show of force...

Tara said...

I wrote a prologue for my 1st wip, then realized it was all backstory that should be woven in later. Then, after reading how they are frowned upon these days, I left it out of the current wip--but it really didn't need one.

Some books do.

In my teens, I would read the prologue in the store and that determined whether I'd buy the book or not. Now, they don't bother me either way--but I always read them if they're there.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I didn't orginially have a prologue for my book, but ended up writing one at the suggestion of my publisher. The incident is referenced many times throughout the book, so the backstory is already woven into the main story. My publisher suggested that the book begin with a bit of a bang, and the prologue definitely does that! The reader is given a bit of a mystery as he tries to figure out who that character was.

And if a book has a prologue, I always read it. I figure the author put it there for a reason.

Teebore said...

@Alex And if a book has a prologue, I always read it. I figure the author put it there for a reason.

Exactly! Me too.

The idea that some people just skip a prologue when reading a book baffles me. I mean, do they also just skip the second chapter, or the fourteenth, or whatever strikes their fancy?

The author wrote that for a reason, and obviously believes it's important to the story. The author may be wrong, but the reader won't know that until the book is read.

I dunno...maybe I'm just a softie because I write novels as well as read them, but I feel like if you commit to read a book, you commit to read the entire book, not just the stuff you think might be important.

As for writing prologues, well, my bias is showing, obviously, but I'm not against them as long as they work. The first chapter of my first book was, once upon a time, a prologue, until I realized it was just the start of the book.

But just because THAT prologue didn't work as such doesn't mean I'll never write one again. It just depends on whether or not the story calls for it.

As for your backstory prologue, Falen, at some point in the story, just have Fox bang is head and get knocked unconscious. Then, bam! Flashback to the events in your (no longer a) prologue before he wakes up. ;)

Dolly said...

I love reading prologues too, and I love writing them too, though I usually don't because of general suggestion of the industry.

But personally for me, if it's a story I enjoy, I want to know everything possible about the people and the world, including back story (assuming it's written well), and I have to admit that prologues included in most of the books I have read, have been interesting.

But then I even read every word of who the book is dedicated to, so I guess I don't want to miss out on any words :P

Mary_not_Martha said...

I'll join the prologue support group. I love them!

Southpaw said...

Prologues are great in sequels when time has passed and the author want to catch us up to the present.

Dominique said...

I don't personally write them, but I always read the prologue if there is one. Clearly the author thought I needed to know that stuff, otherwise it wouldn't be there.

Some genres seem to favor them in my mind. I've seen them often in High Fantasy, and surprisingly often in Historical Romances, often dealing with establishing the relationship between the MCs.

They can be useful, I think, in any construct where the world is super different from this one. It can be a way of letting the reader know the rules right off them bat. One book that did this well, in my opinion, is Crown Duel, by Sherwood Smith.

Piedmont Writer said...

I always write prologues. I feel it's necessary to me. I don't keep them in the book, but like you, sprinkle them throughout.

To me, a prologue is where the book begins. Some people say you need to start with action but I don't. I begin at the beginning. I finish at the end. During revisions is where I start cutting and almost always the prologue is the first to go.

Piedmont Writer said...

Oh and PS, thanks for the shout-out, but I have to say, I want you to share the award with Yvie because, well, I love her Friday words. And I though she might like a little kitty to play with.

Falen said...

It seems the general consensus (and i agree) is that, if there's a prologue in a book, you should read it because it's there for a reason

Alex - i'm glad to hear of a story where a publisher suggested a prologue. Also, those are the prologues that i like to write, the ones that feature an event in the past that is referenced all the time by characters in the story

Teebore - the head hitting thing may actually happen...

Piedmont - i will certainly share the award with Yvie (though i don't think she's ever really seen a kitty, except for when she was in the shelter maybe...)

Tara - yeah that's the general consensus (that i don't always agree with) is that prologues are always backstory

Dolly - exactly. If Harry Potter had a prologue, would people have skipped it on principle alone?

Mary not martha - Yay! One more to the cause!

Southpaw - i actually don't see that very often, but i do agree. Kind of like the "last time, on Supernatural" or whatever show you're watching

Dominique - that's how i used my prologue, to showcase an imporatnt event int he past,a dn also to begin to explain bits of the world

Teebore said...

If Harry Potter had a prologue, would people have skipped it on principle alone?

Sadly yes, probably, but now that you mention it, the first chapter of Harry Potter (one of a few in the entire series that isn't written from Harry's perspective) reads A LOT like a prologue with the second chapter (the first from Harry's perspective) as the first chapter.

I wonder if JK Rowling intended it as a prologue and simply changed it to chapter one when revising it (or was told to change it by an editor/publisher before she got big enough to tell THEM what to do, teehee).

Kristin Rae said...

I love prologues... and one of my books I'm working on does have a little pre-thingie at the beginning... but it's really just a snippet of an intense section that comes much later on that I wanted at the beginning to set the tone. If it didn't occur in the past, but rather the future, is it still a prologue? It's about a page long. What do I call it???

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I never minded prologues. I love those that are from the villain's point of view. I think R.A. Salvatore does that a lot, and often, the prologue is the only time his villain GETS a POV!

Does your story have enough room for you to add some extra scenes of your MC growing up and such, so that your prologue can become your first chapter, sort of like Melanie Rawn does. Chapter one is this guy's life up until now?

Anissa said...

I enjoy reading prologues. They can add so much to a story. That said, I've never written one. Hmmm...maybe I should.

Falen said...

Teebore - that is indeed a good point about HP Chapter One (The Boy Who Lived...SQUEE)

Kristin - i would still think it's a prologue even if it's only a page long. or at least, i can't think of what else to call it...

Barbara - i don't know if it has that kind of flex room. Though i guess i'll find out in revisions

Anissa - i'd say if it's a habit you don't have, then i wouldn't start it because it can be sad to have to cut all those lovely words based on, what more or less comes down to, a trend

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

You know, I think there are times when prologues are necessary. Sometimes, the whole foundation of emotion in a novel is based on what you know as the reader from that prologue--that might make it difficult to connect with the novel until you discover this. This is actually one of the issues I had with one of my mansucripts. Now that said, I know how much prologues are hated, so I reworked it so that my old prologue is now my first chapter (it took some clever rewriting to make sense, but I did it!)--yes, it was that important that it had to stay. But my guess is, if an editor likes it, they will likely expect me to make it a prologue again. Still, what's a girl to do, right? Agents won't even look at it half the time is a prologue is involved.

Ha. I'm so sneaky.

Or stupid.

Well then.

Andrea Allison said...

Prologues are looked down upon? Really? Where have I been? I love prologues. Haven't written one yet but still love them.

Falen said...

Carolina - the sneakiness is sometimes required. Step one, land an agent, step 2 land a 3 book deal, step 3, reintroduce the prologue. Ha! Take that industry!

Andrea - yeah i was pretty sad when i figured that out.

SonshineMusic said...

My NaNo WIP has a prologue, but like Kristin, mine is more a snippet of something that happens almost at the end of the book. It's a thriller and I've seen that used quite often in that genre. I wonder if that's still okay?

Falen said...

Sonshine - yes? i mean, it seems logical to me...

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