To start out, I ventured into the deep, dark world of 'Prologue vs. No Prologue' and I took a look around the Internet world to see what people are saying concerning the use of a prologue.
Wikipedia gives a good description of a prologue:
A prologue . . . is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information. The Greek prologos included the modern meaning of prologue, but was of wider significance, embracing any kind of preface, like the Latin praefatio. In a book, the prologue is a part of the front matter which is in the voice of one of the book's characters rather than in that of the author.Okay. Nice and to the point.
On Yahoo! Answers I found the following advice:
- If it's over three pages, then people won't bother reading it.
- It's okay if it's short -- anywhere from one paragraph to five pages.
- Prologues aren't necessary; they should be included as backstory in the first chapter.
- There's no point if it's too short.
- Have a little "exposition" moment in the story instead.
- Have a flashback instead.
According to StoryFix.com, a prologue can be like "playing with guns," meaning you have to be very careful about how you approach yours. If you start it off all wrong, then you'll end up sending your readers down the wrong path.
And one last site. According to Writing Forums, here's some answers pertaining to prologues:
- It is a prologue if it is distinct from the rest of the story.
- It either has different characters, is set in a different time, or both.
- You can name your prologue.
- A book is best explained without some massive backstory at the very beginning.
- A prologue is a crutch, especially for first time authors.
- "Experts" say prologues detract from the story.
- Do what is best for your book.
|What to do?|
If you want to add a prologue to your novel, here's a few things to keep in mind: 1) It should take place during a period far removed from the time your full novel is taking place. For instance, perhaps an important scene takes place in your MC's childhood that will spark a chain of events later on in your MC's life. 2) Write it in a different voice than what the reader will find in the majority of your novel, i.e. first person POV if the rest of your novel is in third person, a character whose voice never appears anywhere else in the novel, or an omniscient POV. 3) Agents will not crucify you and send you off to the writing trenches just because you've written a prologue at the beginning of your novel. The whole 'agents-hate-prologues' myth has received more attention than it deserves. If you've written a clean manuscript with a good plot and story, then an agent isn't going to care too much about that prologue by the time he/she gets to the end of your story. They might actually appreciate your work more for adding it.
I did find some good pointers by Marg McAlister on Foremost Press.com:
Before you make a final decision about whether to write a prologue for you book, do this.
Spend some time at the library (or at your bookshelves at home, if they are extensive). Pluck books from the shelves, looking for prologues. Read through at least a dozen. More if you can. The time will be well spent.
Which prologues worked well? Which pulled you into the story? Which cleverly outlined the backstory, getting it out of the way before the story started?
Which dragged? Which didn't need to be there at all? Which were weighed down by the load of the information they had to carry, and bored you? How could they be fixed?
Analysis of published work is an excellent way of deciding what works and what doesn't.
Whatever you decide, if you do choose to use a prologue, use that prologue wisely!
Perhaps you've found yourself struggling with the great prologue debate. Do you avoid the use of prologues at all costs, or do you have a fondness for them, so much so, that one always winds up at the beginning of your current WIP?
♥ Mary Mary
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Happy Valentine's Day!
Go have yourself some chocolate!