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Monday, April 13, 2009

Writing Question: Thoughts on Prologues

I've been toying around with adding a prologue to my YA manuscript. But have wondered whether it was really necessary.

Here are a few links I've found about prologues.

Nathan Bransford has a recent post about prologues

Scott Westerfeld's take on prologues.

Suite 101: When Does a Novel Need a Prologue or Epilogue?

What do you all think? Do you like prologues in books? Or not? 

Of course, I've probably wasted enough time thinking about this when I should be finishing up my manuscript, but, hey, anything for the sake of research. I've put up a poll on my sidebar and would love to get your opinion. Thank you!


Calliope said...

Good question. I struggle with this and use it to put in backstory that I think is important for the reader to know, without taking away from the main story.

Thanks for the links. I'm off to read these with great interest. I can't wait to see how people vote on this.

Calliope said...

After reading over my comment, I'm realizing my prologue is all information dump. Maybe not the best use of space. Hmm.

beckylevine said...

I go back & forth on this one. And whenever I answer it, I sounds sort of...duh! But what the heck. :)

I think a prologue has to be REALLY necessary, not just a fallback because we haven't quite figured out how to weave the info into the main story. I get very frustrated when I think the author sort of "cheated" with the prologue. On the other hand, there are times...well, like I said, you can see I don't have a solid answer!

beth said...

I find prologues boring. Typically, I think they're a cheap way to add backstory or foreshadow. I especially have a prejudice against prologues in fantasy stories--it's ALWAYS the evil villian plotting or the prophet making a prophecies or something cliched.

That said, some are good. I like the prologues in the Twilight series, and in HP. I guess as long as they are short and not typical and actually add some new layer to the story, I'm good.

PJ Hoover said...

I like prologues. I like reading them and writing them. So much in fact, I've just added one to my WIP. Of course it could be a really short first chapter in this case, too.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Prologues are tricky. Most editors and agents will flat out say not to use them. But while attending the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop a couple years ago, I was told by the genius Nancy Lamb (www.nancylamb.com - author of my new bible, the Writer's Guide to Crafting Children's Stories) that I needed to start with my inciting incident and then flashback. (Thank god her book has an entire chapter on how to structure that!)

Then when I went to the NYC SCBWI conference and attended the critique groups, both the editor and the agent who read it liked it. And when other writers asked about whether or not to use prologues they said, "Generally, don't do it, but in this case, it works."

My point being, if you're going to do it. Do it well!

Vivian said...

Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer. How wonderful to get the feedback that it works for your book! Now to figure out whether mine works...

Can't wait to read yours!

You're right, a lot of them tend to fall into a pattern.

I hear you. I go back and forth, too. Sigh.

Glad you've found this helpful. Best of luck!

Solvang Sherrie said...

A friend of mine has a prologue at the beginning of her novel that totally pulls you into the story. An agent (who never read it) told her children's books should not have prologues. But one of my favorites, City of Ember, starts with a prologue. So while it's not common, if it's well done and it sets the stage for the action, I say go for it!

Heather Zundel said...

I agree (mostly) with Beth. Prologues, as a general rule, seem to be a way to get extra information in without "really" being the first chapter. If you do have a prologue, consider it the first chapter. That said, I have seen some really good prologues. Just make sure you are not doing it out of laziness. If there is direct purpose to it in the story, by all means, full steam ahead. :)

Beth Kephart said...

You have me thinking here, Vivian. I'm rather not a fan of a prologue in fiction (sometimes they are necessary for nonfiction). Very very rarely, epilogues work.

Vivian said...

You guys all rock with your wise insight. I go back and forth on whether I like prologues or not.

Thank you for your comments!