Tuesday, December 23, 2014

To Prologue? Or Not?

I am one of those readers who is not a big fan of the prologue. I guess most of it has to do with the simple fact that so many authors really have no clue how to use a prologue. Let's begin first with the definition.

The prologue comes from the Greek word, prologos which means "before word". The prologue is generally an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details. (This comes from the online website, literarydevices.net). Essentially, we can consider the prologue as being a teaser or an introduction to the story. It is there to draw the reader in and hook the reader.

The problem, all too often, is that writers simply use it as a back story dump. They just crank out information they needed to understand their own characters, but for the rest of us (the readers) this is information that means nothing to us since we have no context to attach it to. Along the same lines, this early scene really does nothing to hook us and draw us in. Sure, we have questions, but these are not questions of, "Wow! I wonder how that is going to turn out?" but more of "Who on Earth are we talking about?"

I would also add that too often, writers call those opening pages a prologue, when in reality, it should simply be called Chapter 1. The author has simply started into the story and then keeps going. This is not information that comes, as the Greek word implies, before the word just something that happened chronologically.

Another twist to the prologue that I have struggled with often shows up in those suspense and thriller novels. The author takes us into the mind of the villain in the story, and we see the dastardly deeds being crafted. The author uses no name, not location, no setting and attempts to show us what we are going to be facing. Again, the problem here is we have no context to work with. We really don't know who this bad guy is or why they are out to cause problems. We don't even have a hero or heroine who we want to warn.

I guess for me, I would much prefer to get the story going. You can give us that back story information once we get into the main story arc, either through introspection, dialogue or even flashbacks. If you do want to do a prologue, make it truly a prologue and not simply a short chapter 1.

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