To Start or Not to Start

Prologue: This is the part of the book that people love to hate. What is it about the prologue that makes people so upset? The prologue didn’t do anything to them. It just tried so hard to stand out. That master, known as the author, gave the prologue its life. For whatever reason, the master did not want it known as chapter one. It wasn’t part of the main story, it just started the story. But why did everyone hate it? They were jealous, jealous of it’s existence. Jealous that it wasn’t part of the story. Jealous that it was thought of by the master as something ‘better’ than the rest. But, in the end, the prologue was given its spot because the master’s leaders permitted it.

Chapter 1: Why do people hate prologues so much? Nathan Bransford recently did a blog asking people their thoughts on prologues. Someone, who decided to remain nameless said “Can’t stand them. Never read them anymore. If it’s not important enough to be part of the book, why put it in at all? If you have to explain what we’re about to read in the book, or set it up, then your first chapter is probably off.” I hated this opinion. Another person who defined herself as Queen Mab said “I have read a few prologues that worked. My general impression is that the writer had something important about the story, but was otherwise unable to work it into the story–which translates to laziness. Sorry, to be so mean, but it’s how I feel.”

Here’s the first question that comes to mind: Would you tell Van Gogh that there are too many irises in his paintings? Would you tell Beethoven that one of his symphonies could do without its intro? Have you ever looked at other arts and thought: there’s a prologue? Let me give you an example of one: Have you ever listened to the song “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith? If not, go find it and listen to it and then get your butt right back here to this soapbox blog. The first few seconds of that song is totally a prologue. It’s bringing you into the song. It’s not a main part of the song. It’s not that useful to the song. But it gives the song a “sweet” essence that without, would make Sweet Emotion…well…less sweet.

Chapter 2: Writing is an art. The author who has a prologue isn’t lazy. I wrote a prologue for my current WIP. Yep! Was I lazy because I didn’t and don’t intend to weave it into the rest of the story? No! I like, nay, love my prologue. I feel that it is so good and so important that it should stand on its own. I don’t think prologues are bad or are a faux-pas. In all honesty, I’ve thought that some authors were just lazy not to include one in a few of their books. And sometimes, I think that some books should have had a prologue because of what chapter 1 was.

Example 1: Harry Potter. I don’t think a prologue was absolutely necessary in any of Rowling’s works. But she did end book 7 with an epilogue. I think it would have worked had chapter 1 of book 1 been a prologue.

Example 2: The Gypsy Morph (by Terry Brooks, book 3 in The Genesis of Shannara): I hated chapter 1! Why? Because it was a prologue. You’ve been reading this series for two books now. You’ve invested time into all the characters. The first chapter in book 3 had nothing to do with any of those characters. And the character in that chapter appeared one more time in the book: in the last chapter (or a chapter or two before it). That first chapter was off, really off. It just didn’t fit quite right as chapter 1. It should’ve been a prologue. But, at the same time, I’m not Terry Brooks. I didn’t restart the Fantasy genre. Regardless, I feel it would’ve been better as a prologue, but since I don’t see Mr. Brooks using any prologues, I think he kinda doesn’t like them. If he’d called that first chapter a prologue, you couldn’t dare call him lazy. Why? Because there was absolutely no way you could get that chapter anywhere else into the rest of the story. Not any of the rest of the characters even got near that one character. It was well-written and very necessary to the story.

Chapter 3: Sometimes a prologue is used to just dip your foot into the water of the story. Sadly, my long-term memory is eroding and so I can only come up with one book that does this. It’s called On Second Thought by Robison Wells. His prologue starts with a moment that takes place after the bulk of the story. His main character then jumps back to how he arrived at this situation. (I’m still reading it, but I’ll get there eventually.) It wasn’t laziness. It didn’t need to be chapter 1. It was Rob’s artistic way of showing you something important to take note of. (And yes, it’s appropriate to end sentences with a preposition! Booyah!)

Chapter 4: In the end, authors should be able to choose this. It seems that some authors are anti-prologue or hate prologues. *cough*Terry Brooks*cough*. James Dashner doesn’t seem to like them either as chapter 1 in the first two 13th Reality books could easily have been called a prologue. But he chose (or his editors, don’t really know) not to call them that. It does make them seem a little out of place. But again, it’s his artistic license.

Chapter 5: If my prologue ends up on the proverbial editing room floor, it will be posted on my website, whenever I get one. I will not really weave it into the rest of the book. I don’t write prologues because of their necessity. I write them because I like them. My prologue takes place 15 years before the rest of the story. Tamara Heiner (who I’ll be naming more and more as her book “Perilous” comes closer to publication) had a prologue for her story White as Snow that she had brought with her to our boot camp. And you know what, I loved it. The information in the prologue was important enough for her. Even after what she told the rest of the group about her book. One of the other women in our group, Deirdre Coppel, asked if the information in her first chapter would serve better as a prologue. Because of what she was going for, it wasn’t going to work to us.

Epilogue: Prologues can be done, if they’re done right. And the same goes for epilogues.

FYI, I’m still a Laker fan and don’t consider the Celtics a Cinderella team. (We are referring to the team that won the NBA title 2 years ago, right?)

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.


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