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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Prologues & Other Things

It seems like 3 out of every 4 romance novels you pick up these days have a prologue. Even contemps. My question is, why? I saw one this past week that was written by an author I have read and enjoyed. Her book was a contemporary romantic suspense. The prologue was nothing more than the 1st scene of chapter one. Or at least, that's what it should have been.

So why all the prologues lately? Do authors (or publishers) think they make the books look more cerebral, more literary, more dignified, or what? Personally, I find them annoying, an unnecessary delay that keeps me from the real story. In my opinion, the only time a prologue should ever be used is when it contains or sets up the big conflict that will carry throughout the entire story. Even then, the scene should take place with a significant amount of time passage between it and chapter one. Not fifteen minutes (as was the case in the book I've mentioned but shall not name).

Having said all that, I have to confess that I've just written a prologue onto the beginning of my manuscript. Believe me when I tell you, I didn't want to, but it had to be done. The setup of the central conflict needed to be shown. I wanted it there so that when the reader begins page one of the first chapter, BAM!, the story unfolds and the fireworks begin without the need for a lot of explanation in the form of backstory.

And speaking of backstory... This prologue came about because I hit the wall this past week with my backstory. The incident that sets up the big conflict was too deep to bridge the gap. No way could my hero come out of the story looking heroic or even remotely sympathetic. But I couldn't figure out how to change it because there was another factor involved that's much too complicated to try and explain, but is integral to making the conflict work. If I took away the hero's actions in the past, it killed the conflict and turned it into a big ole misunderstanding. It was one of those damned if I did and damned if I didn't scenarios. I was ready to pull out my hair! Or shelf the story. I was beginning to question my ability to reason out any sort of plot twist at all. Then today, I did it! And right now I'm feeling pretty darned pleased with myself. :o)

Hope all of you had a productive writing day!

Devon

4 comments:

  1. Congratulations on getting past your wall. We're women, we're allowed to change our minds, right?

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  2. I'm glad you got the wip moving again, Devon!

    Good thing prologues exist for times when they're really needed. How do you feel about epilogues?

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  3. Jennifer, yes, thank goodness! I'm happy I'm getting on with the story now. There for a while, I thought all the writing I've done the past couple of months would end up as time wasted.

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  4. Me, too, Magdalena! I was beginning to stress. ;o)

    I actually don't mind epilogues. In fact, I wrote one in the Angel/Rain book. At the end of the story, there were a couple of minor tidbits that I felt needed to be followed up on, so I jumped ahead six months and gave one last tiny peek into the characters lives to show how those two things ended up.

    I really don't mind prologues either, IF they're done correctly. The ones I'm seeing (and griping about) could be taken out and never missed. Or they could be moved to the beginning of the first chapter and work just as well as the first scene.

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