Tuesday, January 19, 2016

To Prologue On Not?

When it comes to prologues and epilogues, writers tend to be pretty clear on their stance. Their either like them or hate them. I often find very few authors who will change their attitude about these little devices. For myself, I am certainly not someone who is against a prologue in a story, but I will have o say that too often, writers inserted pages that simply were not necessary. Of course, the end result is that it took me longer to get to the story, and often, the prologue turned me off.

I am not alone in this. From the website How to Start Your Novel, here is what other agents say:

“I’m not a fan of prologues, preferring to find myself in the midst of a moving plot on page one rather than being kept outside of it, or eased into it.”
– Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary
“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”
– Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency
“Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!”
– Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

According to the website "Literary Devices" a prologue is: " a sort of introduction to a story that usually sets the tone for the story and acts as a bit of a backgrounder or a 'sneak peek' into the story." I think it is this definition that really tells us why the agents are hating the use of prologues by so many authors out there. In simple terms, authors are using these as information dumps.

I think the thing to be aware of is that the prologue has to serve a purpose. Editors and agents are constantly screaming about getting us directly involved with the story. Dumping us in the middle of the villain (who is often unnamed) just confuses us. Unloading the back story you needed to understand your character and the motive is simply not going to work either.

I do have to say, one of my Greyhaus authors has done a great job with a prologue. Bronwyn Scott's series, RAKES ON TOUR used essentially the same prologue for all 4 of the books. Each times, we began with the same scene of the 4 guys getting ready to head off on their Grand Tour. But here was the twist. Each one was told from their individual points of view. When readers read the opening pages, they were revisiting the scene that started out this grand journey for each of them.

The prologue must really serve a purpose. It might be great as a set up for when the characters were younger and the break up they had that has kept them apart for so long.

Or, if you want to think of setting the tone for a story, think of the beginning of Phantom of the Opera. The story starts so many years after the accident. We see where people ended up and want to know who we got there.

If you think of a prologue, you have to think of it as a teaser. Draw us into the story but don't confuse us.

For me, I will, about 99% of the time, steer away from prologues. I will tend to side with Laurie's comment above, "Damn the prologue! Full steam ahead!"

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