So, last week we discussed when to end the book. This week it’s how to begin it. Or more importantly, where to begin it.
I’ve heard from several traditionally published authors that most editors despise a prologue. They find them wordy, too backstory-laden, and don’t do much to push the story forward or get readers engaged. They think most prologues are too much tell and not enough show. The editors feel writers should be able to weave all the story details they want to tell before they tell the actual story, into the actual story and not weigh down the beginning with details that could be divulged elsewhere.
There’s something wise about this, I think.
The very first book I had published, SKATER’S WALTZ, had a three page prologue that showed my heroine winning her first Olympic gold medal. I felt it set up her emotional makeup and allowed the readers to know a bit about why she was the way she was when the book opened in chapter one.
My editor ( whom I lovelovelove with all my heart) didn’t agree. For all the reasons I gave above she felt we should nix the prologue and start the story in chapter one. Since this was going to be my first time being published I bowed to her wisdom, bit my lip, and agreed to trash the first 3 pages.
Did I regret it? At the time, yeah. Do I now? No, because she was right. The book started where it needed to start. And I was able to incorporate those winning moments into the story without any problem. Where I placed them actually made sense for the scene, too, so yay for that!
Fifteen books later and I still struggle with wanting to put in a prologue for some on my novels. It still feels right to me and I get all angsty about giving too much info away at the beginning and knowing when to pull back. Or thinking the reader simply needs to know these details now so they’ll understand where the story is going. I think I’d be a better writer if I remembered to simply tell my story the way it should be told – with the reader learning everything she needs to know as she is reading the book and not beforehand. Foreshadowing is a good literary tool when used effectively within the story. But too much is, simply, annoying.
Many famous and well-selling authors use prologues all the time and their readers don’t seem to mind. I certainly don’t. I like a good prologue because to me it sets the story up, let’s me know that something good ( or evil) is coming, and gives me a sense that the past events that happened to these characters is going to mold their story.
I’ll be honest and tell you I haven’t published a book with a prologue yet. Have I written them? You betcha. Published? No.
Maybe one day…..
Let’s see what some of the other authors in the blog hop think about prologues. MFRWAuthorBlogChallenge.
And, when I’m not struggling over whether to include prologues or not in my stories, you can find me here:Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triber// BookMe // Monkey me //Watch me