Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Prologues: Yay or Nay?

Ok, firstly, this is not just an excuse for me to use the poll gadget thingie again (although, come on, it is kinda cool!). I would actually like to know what you think :-)

What do I think? 
I really don't like it when the prologue is merely a scene taken out of the action section of the novel and stuck at the front to give me a taste of what's coming. Why would I want to know what's coming? That's why I'm reading the book!
But I think that when it's a short (and important - duh!) scene that has happened prior to where your novel begins, and you want your reader to know the info from the start and not figure it out from backstory later on, then it can work.

What do important people Out There think?
Sherry, an aquisitions editor for a small yet prestigious publisher, says NO to the prologue, feeling that if your novel needs to begin with one then you're basically saying that your writing and your opening chapters aren't strong enough to pull the reader into the story. Click here to see her "few damn good explanations" on why you don't need a prologue.

Author Kristen Lamb blogged on the 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues, and the 2 Virtues (yes, you saw that right, there are only 2 virtues!). I've outlined them below, but you can click here to get more detail.
Sin #1. If your prologue is really just a vehicle for massive information dump...
Sin #2. If your prologue really has nothing to do with the main story...
Sin #3. If your prologue's sole purpose is to "hook" the reader...
Sin #4. If your prologue is overly long...
Sin #5. If your prologue is written in a totally different style...
Sin #6. If your prologue is uber-condensed world-building...
Sin #7. If your prologue is there solely to set the mood...

Nathan Bransford on the prologue: "Typically it is 3-5 pages of introductory material that is written while the author is procrastinating from writing a more difficult section of the book.
Ah, I'm kidding."

Bottom line: in general, agents hate prologues.
BUT, you still see novels getting published with prologues in them.

What do YOU think?

Go ahead... Clicky, clicky...





22 comments:

C. N. Nevets said...

It depends entirely on the prologue and the book. I think genre makes a difference, too. My gut tells me that some genres rely more on pace (e.g., a lot of YA and psychological suspense), whereas other genres can benefit from context or bridges (e.g., epic fantasy or techno-thrillers).

Yes-ing or no-ing across-the-board seems like a bad idea to me.

Claire Gregory said...

Great post, Rachel! Personally, I like prologues. I like being set up and led into the story. Ideally, the best prologues for me as a reader are those that are short and to the point, and they don't answer questions, or raise too many, for that matter. First chapters are for questions, prologues are for setting the mood.

Okay, not always :) But either way- I would never skip a prologue, and I can't think of a single one that has jarred me out of a story. It *is* always interesting to see how universally derided they are by the industry.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

As a reader, prologues are fine with me. As a yet-unpublished writer speaking to other yet-unpublished writers, I say nay, nay, nay. Don't do it. It's hard enough getting an agent into reading your work over the mountains of other possibilities they see each day...don't throw in the possible hurdle of their prologue prejudices.

D. U. Okonkwo said...

Prologues seem to be despised amongst most literary agents and editors - then you go into a bookstore and pick up a row of bestsellers and guess what? There are loads of prologues!

But like previously said, for each individual authro it depends on the book. If a prologue is doen well then like any other part of the book, it adds considerable value.
a

tangynt said...

Is there a way to vote in the middle? I think some prologues work, if they're done right. Should ever story have one? No. Does every story need one? No. Would the ones with the that I enjoy lose anything by getting rid of them? Not really. But hey, different strokes, right?

Ellie said...

Great post! The more I read about Prologues the more I think I need to dump mine!

Misha said...

*cough cough* sparkly vampires *cough hack cough*

;-P

Margo Benson said...

Great post, thank you - I haven't felt the need for a prologue in any piece of mine so far, but I have no problem with them. I recently read a super whodunnit with an excellent and highly appropriate prologue.

Chippy said...

I prefer to read books that don't have prologues - but I'm not totally against them. It does depend on the type of book really.

Donea Lee said...

I see prologues ALL over the place and in some of my favorite books! Yet, as a yet unagented writer, I'm loathe to use them, even though I really want to. I just think it's essential to some of my novels. It's a scene, it's crucial, it's before the meat of the main story... if I can find a way to get away with it, I will! :)

Melissa said...

I'm not a fan of prologues at all. Very few people actually know how to do a prologue well. I've read three that were worth the time. That may be harsh but it's true.

lbdiamond said...

You know, I don't mind prologues...on the other hand, I don't have them in my writing, LOL! I wonder what that means...

Kari Marie said...

I don't mind them, but after reading that lost of sins I'm going to dump mine...

writesbymoonlight said...

Great post. Can't believe the results are so close. Natasha

Jemi Fraser said...

Hm, my post disappeared - hopefully I'm not doing this twice! (sorry if I am!)

I think it depends. Some authors do prologues well. Kay Hooper has a few of her paranormals start with a short, tight scene written from the pov of the villain - often written while he is committing his crime. It's effective :)

Madeleine said...

You need a third option: Sometimes. I have found that occasionally a prologue works well. I put one in my novel and am now wondering whether to leave it out. :O)

Hart Johnson said...

I pretty much agree with how you put it... a much later scene? Not so much. But look at Sorcerer's Stone... that first chapter is TOTALLY prologue, though of course it was called chapter 1... and it was IMPORTANT to the story, but there is a large gap from it to the story and the PoV is different.

Mary Mary said...

I actually wrote about this over at the Sisterhood. I don't understand why there is a great debate about the use of a prologue. You need to hook the reader whether it's with a first chapter or a prologue. Yes, there are specific rules when it comes to using a prologue, but so what? There are tons of rules in writing! If you use a prologue properly then it can really enhance the story. In one of my novels, a small thing that happens in the prologue becomes an ingrained trait in my MC and the reader doesn't find that out until the end, therefore bringing the story around full circle. I like a little mystery in the beginning that is like, Wow, later on in the story. You just need to create a prologue properly for it to work. And I think that's why agents have such an issue with them when it comes to unseasoned writers. They don't know what they're doing sometimes.

Elana Johnson said...

I have to admit I'm a nay. I especially don't like a prologue that is 1-2 pages that comes just before the climax later in the book. Why read the whole book then?

Julie Musil said...

I'm a nay, because usually I feel like it's not needed. I've read good ones in the past, but it's rare. I love that voting tool! Use it all you want, cuz it's fun for us voters to see our results :D

Trisha said...

I've seen a 98 page prologue ;) But that guy could get away with it, he was an established and very successful author. :D

As for my prologue, which is actually chapter 1 but a prologue in disguise, I guess it commits sin #3. But I was going for a really "seize you by the scruff of the neck" beginning, because I'd previously had one that was the exact opposite.

So yes, I'm considering scrapping "chapter 1" (a.k.a. prologue)

Angela Scott said...

Great post. This is an issue I've been debating with my WIP. I have a prologue, but I'm contemplating dumping it. I keep going back and forth though.

Okay, you convinced me. It's outta there. Dumped.