Reply To: Student: Brenda Davis Homework Thread

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Linnea Sinclair

Does anyone in class write prologues? I used to. I loved them for adding danger/adventure before the everyday scenes. They’d be set years before the NOW or in space, rather than down on the mundane planet so you’d know it was sf, not realistic fiction. Sigh. All the advice said to get rid of them, so I ended up deleting them or incorporating them into the story. I expect you’ll tell me to make my openings better and I won’t need those prologues.

1. There are some genres that chug along very well with prologues. Again: know thy genre.

2. There are some writerly “voices” that work well with prologues. If you have an established voice and style and you’ve done prologues, keep your reader happy.

3. Other than that, they are SOMEWHAT out of fashion the past decade or two, and I suspect it’s because we live in a I WANT IT NOW society. My husband–an avid mystery reader–always skips prologues. I yell at him. He doesn’t listen. He says stories start with Chapter 1 and he’s not going to waste his time on a prologue. A lot of readers feel the same way (and editors and reviewers…).

4. My agent dislikes prologues (intensely). Yet she loves my GAMES OF COMMAND which has a prologue and sold same to Bantam for decent $. My point here is that you CAN win over a prologue-hater but not a prologue-avoider, because the latter won’t even try.

So you have to make a hard decision to just call the thing Chapter 1 and push Chapter 1 back to Chapter 2, or to fold the thing INTO Chapter 1 somehow. Or cut it all together.

The only reason I called the first chapter of GAMES a prologue was because of the time span  (several months, if memory serves me) between it and the events in chapter 1. Looking back now, it really doesn’t make a difference. I probably could have just called it chapter 1 and then created some kind of transition at the end of it and/or the beginning of the old chapter 1/new chapter 2.

Cutting it, however, wasn’t an option and it was never suggested to me to do so. The events in the prologue are important to the set-up and understanding of the story and the MCs. The event in the prologue launches Tasha Sebastian, then a captain with the United Coalition, into her assignment with the former enemy, the Triad. I also incorporated (which I think is a useful method) little subheadings, riffing off the “captain’s log, stardate…” Trek stuff, because I figured my readers were likely also Trekkers and would resonate to that.

So, tip #1: Know thy genre. (Wait, have I said that before?) If the genre/readership resonates to things like chapter sub-headings, you can use that to entice them into reading the prologue and it also gives more legitimacy to a prologue. IMHO and IMHE.

The whole mystery/spy genre often uses them. IE: Manchester, England, December 29, 1942… then (next chapter), Washington, DC, January 15, 1965…

Would this be BACKSTORY? I hope not. I hope that it was realistically the kind of story that is more complex and wider in scope, and rather than having the focal character do some clumsy dialogue to “tell” the reader where and when, you can just plop it under the chapter heading like a newspaper headline…

But only IF this truly crafts well.

Yes, no, make sense?

//Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//


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