Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writer Wednesday: Pro Prologue?

I recently completed the first draft of a middle-grade novel, a ghost story, and I'm now in the process of revising it. So far I'm stuck. On the prologue. I've been endlessly changing it, writing draft after draft. But does the book even need a prologue?

I've always kind of liked prologues. They're the literary equivalent of a glass of wine or warm bath before lovemaking, there to help set the mood. On the net, though, prologues don't have such a good rep. Many people admit to skipping them and diving into Chapter One. Not me. I like to start at the beginning to make sure I'm not missing anything. That said, if the prologue lags, I might put down the book and pick up another.

 I turned to the internet to get the scoop on these literary teasers. Here are some tips I gleaned from my search:

* Think about the purpose of your prologue:

Is it to provide atmosphere and set the scene? If so, be aware that many editors, agents, and writers suggest ditching your prologue if that's all it does. According to these folks, a successful prologue should add something new.

To add backstory that you don't want clogging up the first chapter? Be careful, though, not to overload the prologue. A successful prologue should be dramatic, not an information dump.

To add a character's viewpoint that won't be appearing in the novel itself? This to me seems the most compelling reason and it's the reason why I'm including one in my novel.  

*If you do choose a prologue, keep it short. No one wants to plow through pages and pages before Chapter One even begins.

* Don't overwrite, and keep to the same overall style as the rest of your novel. Yes, it may be more atmospheric, but it should still be similar in style and tone of voice. A prologue written in flowery prose followed by a folksy "aw shucks" voice won't cut it.

For more advice on writing prologues, check out the following sites:

The Prologue: When to Use One, How to Write One
Story Elements: Using a Prologue
Writing Prologues: Do They Work?
Pub Rants: Why Prologues Often Don't Work

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a balanced view on the subject, and links to more information.