Pity the poor prologue, the Rodney Dangerfield of the literary world.
Some folks say they won’t read prologues; some agents say they won’t consider a submission which has a prologue. And then there are writers like me, who can’t seem to write a novel without a prologue. (Ok, there was that once….)
I suspect one reason some view the prologue with a jaundiced eye is that some writers use the prologue to dump a mass of boring information (boring to readers, enormously fascinating to the writer himself) about the setting, characters, situation and stakes the reader will encounter in the story. I don’t like those info dump prologues, either.
But, what if a book’s prologue depicts an event (and possibly a riveting one) which is not part of the story arc, but which either sets up the story arc or has a strong influence on its development? Such an event doesn’t belong in the first chapter, in my opinion, and would lose its importance if doled out in bits and pieces in back story, its significance possibly being overlooked or greatly diminished. I think, in such cases, a prologue fits nicely.
It could be that I became a prologuer because I’ve watched too many television dramas which open with a prologue to hook the viewer, and the structure of those shows has formed the way my mind produces stories: a crime takes place, then we have the opening theme and credits, then the “story proper” begins. That’s pretty much how I write my novels, and it’s not, for the most part, a conscious decision…that’s just how a story develops in my mind.
Hmmm. So. I’m wondering: should I continue writing as I do and be an outcast among writers? Or should I find a local group of PA (Prologuers Anonymous) and work to overcome my addiction to these little literary hooks? Nah. I like prologues, and I think I’ll keep them. As long as they’re well-behaved, of course.
Tommie Lyn writes short stories and novels in a variety of genres. Five of her novels are currently available on Amazon.com. Visit her website, Tommie Lyn Writes, to read three chapter excerpts from four of her novels: …and night falls; On Berryhill Road; Scribbles; Tugger’s Down. An excerpt from her latest release, High on a Mountain, will soon be available.