Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Prologues: Do they add anything? Waste of time? Is this title getting to be too long? Yeah, probably...

I write prologues.

There is some debate between writers (I'm using this term very loosely, meaning I apply it to anyone who comments on my writing forum) about the use of prologues. Some people think they take up space at the beginning of the book and prevent the reader from diving into the story. Others think that they provide information that readers would be unable to discern from the story. Others use them for temporal jumps. Others just throw them in because hey, it's just what you do when you're writing a novel.

Well, I write prologues. Here's why:
1. I watch a shit ton of television. Like, an inhuman amount of television. There are nerds who just spent a ton of time at comic con, and now must return home and watch enough Doctor Who to meet their weekly quota who would downright quake at the amount of television that I watch. There are television producers and screenwriters who don't even know their own television shows as well as I do. (I would like to take this moment to assure the world that I'm a highly functioning individual who still managed to graduate college and find a job despite her addiction to the idiot box.)

Anyway, ANY television show that you've ever watched has at some point shown a flashback, or a snippet that takes place outside the confines of the storyline. Well, as someone who watches television WHILE she reads episode recaps for other shows, I like that. I keep my prologues short and include information that could never be garnered from the confines of my novels.

2. I'm one of those jerks who likes suspense. I watch Pretty Little Liars. I've seen every episode of Lost. I read enough Clue Jr. to develop an addiction to suspense at a really early age. I even watch M. Night Shyamalan movies to discover the twist, even though most of the world just Googles to get their answer. I'm a suspense addict. So, I think prologues provide a great opportunity to build up some suspense or hint at questions that will be answered in the novel.

It's one of those things that they teach you in college. Check out the discussion questions, read the assigned readings with those questions in mind, and you'll understand the content better than you would if you were to simply dive in and start reading. Obviously, this doesn't always work in a novel--I assure you, you don't need a prologue at the beginning of an American Girl novel (while we're on that topic, HOW GOOD was Molly Saves the Day? I read that book so many times when I was a little girl). It works for me.

3. I'm not self-indulgent. At all. I'm extremely self-deprecating. I think I'm lame, and a little weird, and probably pretty boring in real life. As far as I'm concerned, nobody else cares about what's going on in my head. Yeah, that's probably a weird complex for someone who enjoys writing, but like I said before, I'm lame, and a little weird, and probably pretty boring in real life.

Anyway, the prologues that people tend to hate are those that provide a tremendous amount of background information that outlines the oh-so imaginative and wonderful world that the author's genius has created. Well, I never want to be that person--the sort of writer who just throws in background information to highlight the complexity of my literary world. For example, I'm a BIG Babysitter's Club fan. I used to tear through those Karen books like it was nobody's business (except for my parents who had to purchase them for me. Sorry, mom and dad). Anyway, without fail, I simply skipped the second chapter of every single Karen book because I simply did not need to read about how Karen's parents got a divorce and then married new people who had a bunch of kids in this very strange Brady-bunch outward expansion saga. I really did not need to read about all of their pets. Oh yes, Karen's dad was a millionaire. Honestly, I soaked up all that glory the first time a read a Karen book and I didn't need to read about it again. So, I skipped it.

I just don't want to write something that people skip. So, I feel comfortable writing prologues that I know people won't skip because they're just so freaking short. I think they set the tone for things to come, and that's about all I need.

4. I get to use characters who are not my protagonist. Don't get me wrong, I like Helena Linx. I think I put her through a lot of crap and she takes it well. However, within the novel she is in every single scene. Writing prologues gives me the opportunity to write about other characters when Helena isn't there. And frankly, I need a break from that girl every once in a while.

Do you like prologues? Do you hate them? Do you like them? Do you think they're self-indulgent or informative?


P.S. I'm ALMOST DONE with Severance. Stay with me. I WILL be done soon.

1 comment:

  1. A book needs to start (and end) at 'the right place'. If a prologue informs and captivates, then fabulous, I'm all for it. If a prologue turns out to be Chapter 1 in disguise, then I'm not so enthused.

    With The Cordello Quest, we have a prologue which literally sets the stage (sans characters) for the rest of the book. The reader knows a little of what's to come, even though the characters don't. The prologue (and corresponding epilogue) were in the right place (thankfully!)