Friday, March 21, 2014

To Prologue Or Not To Prologue - Answering The Question

with guest Winnie Griggs

Before we get started, I always like to make sure everyone is on the same page, so let’s define what a prologue is.  One definition I found puts it this way:  


A Prologue is the section of a novel, ranging from a few paragraphs to several pages, that comes before the true beginning of the story.

In other words, it is a passage of your work that is disconnected from your main story by either time or viewpoint, and, that is used to provide a key bit of information the writer wants the reader to know before diving in to the story proper.






So now that we have the WHAT out of the way, let’s talk about whether prologues bring any value to the table or not.  A lot of folks out there, including many agents, editors and readers, will tell you absolutely not.  And, while I don’t agree that prologues are absolutely NEVER of any value, I understand why this sentiment exists.  Prologues, when done poorly, can do much more harm than good for a story. 

There are two types of issues with Prologues.

1.  Prologues are often poorly constructed.  Examples of this can include:

It is a thinly disguised Information Dump:


Many eager but inexperienced writers will try to cram an inordinate amount of backstory and/or world building into the prologue in order to properly ’set the stage’ for their story.  The problem is, an info dump is an info dump, no matter where it appears.  Even though you as the writer have spent countless hours working to develop a rich, highly detailed backstory for your character and/or your story world, it would be a real mistake to try to just force feed it all to your reader, especially at the opening of your story when you are trying to convince said reader that your book is one worth diving in to.  Face it, if the first page of your book doesn’t intrigue the reader enough to make her want to go on, it doesn’t matter how fabulous the rest of the story is, you’ve already lost the game.

It misleads the reader:


This can happen in one of two ways - it either doesn’t reflect the tone of the rest of the book or the action and/or characters seem totally disconnected from the rest of the book.  No matter how well written, if the reader is jarred when they move from the prologue to chapter one, they may give up on the story entirely.

It lacking a hook or a sense of what’s at stake:



If the writer fails to capture the reader’s interest and/or fails to give her a reason to care about the character or world from the get-go,  then again, he risks having the reader put the book down and never pick it up again.  You’ve got to give her something of substance, something that makes her want to keep turning the page.

2.  Another common problem is that Prologues are often written for the wrong reason.  Examples of wrong reasons can include

To hook the reader:  


This may seem counter-intuitive because of course you want to hook the reader.  But if you’re writing the prologue because you fear your Chapter One opening is not strong enough and this nifty prologue will really wow and draw your reader in - ditch it.  Instead, work on strengthening or completely revamping your Chapter One opening.  Because even with a prologue, your first chapter opening needs to provide a strong hook of its very own.

To set the stage.


Unless it is absolutely, positively essential that the reader know this bit of backstory or world building in order to understand your story before it even begins, don’t put it in a prologue.  The problem with this type of prologue is the reader hasn’t met your characters or entered your world yet so has no reason to care about its history.  They want the story, not the set-up for the story.   If this necessary bit of info can be woven in some other way without hindering the reader experience, then that is a better choice.

To provide a ‘taste of things to come’


This is my own personal least favorite type of prologue.  The writer takes a highly charged passage from later in the book and puts it in a prologue as a sort of teaser, hoping it will then make the reader eager to dive in and see how things got to this point.  Again, this is likely a sign that the actual opening of the story lacks a strong enough hook to pull the reader in and the writer is hoping the reader will stick with him based on the promise of the prologue.  The fix for this, again, is to work on strengthening your Chapter One opening. 


What all of this boils down to is this - if the only reason you are writing the prologue is because you want to convey something to the reader about how your characters or world arrived at this point, than we (and our readers) are better served by finding another way to weave the information into the fabric of your story. 

One exception to this is when you want to provide a brief, thumbnail sketch of massive amounts of history that are relevant to your story - think of the scrolling text opening of the original Star Wars movie or the voiceover narration of the first Lord Of The Rings movie.

Otherwise, the only other valid reason to include a prologue is if it can pass this test: 
By providing this information to your reader at the very outset, it will in some way up the tension in your story.  Because story tension, after all, is what makes for a page turner.

Okay, so if you decide after reading all of the above, that you do indeed need a prologue, here are a few tips to help you make it really sing.

  • Pare your information down to the bare essentials of what needs to be revealed so that you can get to the true opening of your story as quickly as possible.
  •  Make the prologue vivid and involving in its own right, a mini-story of sorts.
  • Construct it in such a way that it raises story questions for the reader that propels her farther into the story to find the answer.
  •  Remember, the opening of chapter one must also have a strong hook of its own.  Your story will in effect have two starting points and you will need to develop two very strong opening hooks to draw your reader in. 

I’ve written prologues for several of my books, but only one ever made it past the cutting room floor (and I’m the one who cut them, not my editor).  The one that survived is from one of my earlier books that is now long out of print.  The prologue for that particular book is what came to me first, what drove me to write that story, and it had a visceral impact on me as I wrote it. 

I’ve studied it a bit since I’ve gained some distance from it, and if I was writing it today, I would definitely tighten it a bit, but I don’t think I’d cut it all together.  Not only because I have an admittedly sentimental attachment to it, but also because it does serve a very important function.  In this case it is a traumatic scene from the hero’s childhood and it is designed to show him in a very sympathetic light.  That’s important because when we first meet him as an adult he takes some actions that make him seem a less than sympathetic character.  


Hopefully, having read the prologue, the reader will give him the benefit of the doubt until we get a little deeper into the story.

If you’d like to take a peek at that prologue, you can see it at this link:  http://winniegriggs.com/SM-prologue.html.  I’d love to get your comments on whether you think it should be kept or cut, using the criteria of whether it would propel you forward and make you want to dive into the story, or if it is something you would skip over so you could get to the ‘real story’.

So let’s talk about how you feel about prologues - Love ‘em?  Hate ‘em?  Could care less?  Any pet peeves about them or thoughts on what makes for a good prologue that I didn’t mention here?





Winnie Griggs is a multi-published author who writes for Love Inspired Historical.  Her writing has garnered enthusiastic reviews and numerous awards, including a recent RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. 

 Winnie spent her childhood in an undeveloped area her friends thought of as the very back of beyond.  She and her two younger siblings spent many an hour exploring the overgrown land around her home, cutting jungle trails, building forts and frontier camps, and looking for pirate ships on the nearby bayou.  Once she ‘grew up’ she found other outlets for dealing with all those wonderful, adventurous imaginary friends by filling notebooks with their stories.   

 Eventually she found her own Prince Charming, a rancher whose white steed is disguised as a tractor and whose kingdom is nestled in a small rural community she happily calls home.  Together they’ve built their own storybook happily-ever-after,  including four now grown children who share Winnie’s vivid imagination and her husband’s steadier influences and who are now out in the world pursuing their own adventures.

 You can learn more about Winnie and her books at www.winniegriggs.com or connect with her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author



Today Winnie is generously giving one commenter their choice of any book from her backlist  (check here) or a raincheck for her upcoming release Lone Star Heiress. Leave a comment for a chance to win. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


You can preorder her June release, Lone Star Heiress now.

 Rescuer Turned Husband?

Plucky Ivy Feagan is headed to Turnabout, Texas, to claim an inheritance, not a widower's heart. That all changes when strapping schoolteacher Mitch Parker rescues her in the wilderness. Straightlaced Mitch has never met a woman like Ivy—beautiful, adventurous and good-hearted—but he already lost love once and doesn't dare try again.

When Turnabout's gossips target Mitch and Ivy's friendship, he proposes to save her reputation. But Ivy doesn't want to marry for honor, and she doesn't need to marry for money. Ivy will only agree to a proposal made for love's sake—but will Mitch make his heart part of the marriage offer?

Texas Grooms: In search of their brides…

 

And remember to share your Speedbo daily victories or ...problems..for a chance at a critique or two $25 Amazon gift cards.  Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

88 comments:

Helen Gray said...

A well stated case!! Thanks, Winnie.

Coffee's on.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I know, Helen, this is really excellent.

I must confess..I rarely read prologues, except in suspense books.

Bad reader.

Tina Radcliffe said...

HOWEVER..that said, I just went and read Winnie's prologue. THAT WAS EXCELLENT.

Winnie Griggs said...

Hi Helen - glad you enjoyed the post. And I'm headed for bed in the next hour or so, so I'll skip the coffee for now , but I'll share my stash of chocolate chip cookies if you're up for a midnight snack (it's midnight where I am)

Winnie Griggs said...

Hi Tina - LOL on skipping prologues. Thanks for taking the time to check mine out :)

Marianne Barkman said...

I agree, Winnie...but then, not many of the books I read have a prologue , and those that do, are like yours. Thanks

Olivia said...

Like the idea that the prologue should be a story on its own. I agree that the teaser aspect of a prologue is a turn off for me too.
Happy Friday and please put me into the drawing for a choice of your wonderful books.

Annie Rains said...

I'm not usually a big fan of prologues, but I read one recently that just made the entire book for me. It was set in childhood between the hero and heroine and showed their first kiss and the hero's reaction, and it just set the pace for the entire romance. I loved it, and honestly, the book wouldn't have been anywhere near as good without that prologue.

Thank you for a wonderful post!

And Happy Friday, Seekerville!!!

DebH said...

i've never considered prologues, but i recognize the different types you presented. i think i'll avoid them unless i can have one pack the punch your example did. my heart hurts for the hero after reading that. now i feel a compulsive need to read Something More just so i can see a little boy's HEA. (which would be my book of choice should i be fortunate to have my name picked for a winner...)

don't use prologues to cover/prop weak writing. persevere and make the core story stronger. - that's my take away.

great food for thought. thanks Winnie!!!

Connie Queen said...

I don't mind reading prologues, although my first when I see it, "Oh no, they're not suppose to use these."

I use prologues on 2 of my historicals that is on an editor's desk right now. I simply changed "prologue" to "Chapter one" and moved on. I don't know if they'll ask me to changed, but if they do, I'll weave it in.

The next book, I REALLY don't want to take it out. I think it makes the story ten times better. It's similar to yours--it shows the heroine as a little girl being abandoned. When the story picks back up she's an adult and a little "nutty." Without the prologue there would be so much more to explain and I think it would take away from the story.

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Winnie! Love having you in Seekerville! Thanks for the insightful post on prologues.

Interesting that you wrote your prologue so readers would have sympathy for the hero. I have a story with a wounded, angry hero who clashes with the heroine in a dark way. I didn't write a prologue to explain his reaction to her, but have him save a ragamuffin child's life, then gives him money for food, hoping the reader would see the kind side of him. Hmm, much to ponder.

Janet

Connie Queen said...

One of the first romances I read (I was about 30 years old!) contained a prologue and I didn't know what that was. I thought it was like a dedication page or something so I skipped it. I read the book and absolutely loved it. Then I was skimming back through it and finally read the prologue. Ah. A slap on the forehead. Things would have made so much more sense if I had read that first.

Mary Hicks said...

Winnie, I have to know!! Why didn't anyone want Caleb? Poor little thing! Is the story about how Caleb was affected later in life by this conversation he'd overheard?

Need I say more? I loved the prologue! I got a tear at the end and I'm gonna' read that story one way or another! :-)

I always enjoy your posts. I'd love to win a copy, but I'll but one if I don't.:-D

Dee LeRoye said...

H-m-m. Now I'm going to have to study some on whether a prologue would be helpful in my latest works-in-progress. There are only four or so resting, waiting for my attention when my Speedbo "Take A Chance" is finished.
Question....does everybody but me stay up until the wee hours to write?

Tina Radcliffe said...

The prologue I will never forget is Debra Dixon's. A set of children who are twins are held ransom and one twin is killed, which is the sympathetic motivation for the heroine (who was the twin who lived) to become a government hit woman.

So powerful I still remember it.

Walt Mussell said...

In one of my Japan-based stories, I use a prologue for the purpose of misdirection. The prologue is central to what happens later in the story. However, the reader is supposed to think one thing when Chpater One opens and the truth is very different. I vacillate between leaving it in and getting rid of it. The prologue has impact. My issue is the impact is lessened if I have to explain it later.

CatMom said...

Good morning Winnie!
Thanks for this informative post--I've written epilogues, but never a prologue for any of my manuscripts (so I really appreciate your knowledge).

It was wonderful meeting you (and getting a quick photo) last summer at RWA in "my" Atlanta *smile*. You are an author I truly admire.

Please put me in your drawing, and blessings on your weekend.
Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

lizzie starr said...

I don't mind a prologue if it's short. When one runs on for pages and pages that's way too much and should probably be the first chapter.

My first book could have started with a prologue of the hero's past, but I turned it into a dream instead. Eh, I know...a dream? But I suppose it worked okay. :)

Speedbo check in--going slow, but steady. I'll have to speed it up a bit these last few days to get everything done. Procrastination--thy name is *lizzie.

Wilani Wahl said...

Winnie,

Loved your post. Now I am wondering if what I have written as a prologue should be an Introduction. it is only a paragraph. I guess after I get it written and start the editing process i will know more.

I am now up to 13,000 words so I am still plugging along.

This morning I am traveling by Greyhound to Winston-Salem to attend the alumni banquet and luncheon for Piedmont Bible College. I am looking forward to seeing friends.

It amazes me that there is Wifi and electricity on the bus. i hope to still get some writing done.

I would love a copy of your book.

Crystal Ridgway said...

Usually I avoid writing prologues, because it does seem like a back story dump. That said, I don't mind reading them. Sometimes they make the story eons better.

Winnie, this is a wonderful post! Very thought provoking. But I'm with Mary H. Why didn't anyone want little Caleb? I need to know!

Speedbo progress, 0 words since last Sunday. BUT... I've been packing and cleaning my house in preparation for a move. No time to write. (Can't wait for this to be over. The moving, not the speedbo).

Crystal Ridgway said...

Oops, forgot to add: please put my name in the drawing! I'm always up for good books, especially in my favorite genre.

Myra Johnson said...

Welcome, Winnie! Very insightful take on using prologues, and I agree--I've read a few that didn't really work.

I think I've used a prologue twice in my published books. Both times, it went several years back in time to dramatically portray an event that would eventually have a huge impact on the main character's life, especially as the main story takes off.

As for reading prologues, if the author put them there, I will read them. I wouldn't want to miss any vital information I need for understanding the story. However, there have been more than a few that I felt could have been handled better or inserted somewhere else in the book.

Mary Connealy said...

I've never (or almost never) done prologues or epilogues. I often write in series and an epilogue can mess that up if the new book is going to start right away.
But you know, I think I should explore both. I've personally liked both if they're well done.

And undiscovered country for me.

Thanks for being on, Winnie.

Jennifer Smith said...

Thanks for these great tips, Winnie! I wrote a prologue for my WIP, but I decided to cut it a few months ago. I liked it, but I knew I could fit the info into the story later. Your post serves as a reinforcement of that decision. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Winnie, you are such a delightful teacher, and I always learn from your posts. Thanks for addressing the prologue issue. At times, they're needed, IMHO, most other times they can be a distraction.

BTW, early on, I always included a prologue. Of course, those books didn't sell.

Although...my current release, THE AGENT'S SECRET PAST, starts with a prologue that I think works. Evidently my editor thought so too! LOL!

Winnie Griggs said...

Hi Marianne - glad you enjoyed the post.

Olivia - Yes, if you're going to include a prologue, the being a mini-story of it's own to me is the one aspect that should be there

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Winnie, Great to have you back in Seekerville. Hope you enjoy the day. And thanks for the info.

Winnie Griggs said...

Hi Annie! That prologue obviously made an impact on you and, more importantly delivered on its promise for the rest of the story. That's the mark of a well-written and necessary prologue.

Winnie Griggs said...

DebH - Thanks for your kind words about my sample prologue! And LOL on wanting to read Something More - sadly it is now out of print. I'm considering reissuing it myself at some point, once my current contract commitments are met

Winnie Griggs said...

Connie Queen - Deciding whether or not to use a prologue is one I struggle with myself. I have to keep going back to that test of whether it is 1. ESSENTIAL info for the reader to have before diving into the actual story and 2) does it add to the overall story tension and make the reader eager to turn the page.

Winnie Griggs said...

Janet - Ah, you have a 'save the cat' moment - a very effective way to show your character in a sympathetic light. And in your case I'm guessing you don't want the reader to know the backstory right away - a very valid and effective approach.

Winnie Griggs said...

ConnieQueen - LOL about your 'slap on the forehead' moment. I've always obediently read books from cover to cover so never considered skipping the prologue. But that being said, that also means I've read some poorly constructed or unnecessary prologues.

Jana Vanderslice said...

MERCY! I read your prologue for "Something More”, & I’m actually worried about Caleb! I’ve got to get that book. I think he will Love Texas!! :)
Thanks for the great article on prologues. I always read them.

*Do we need to say that we would like to be in the drawing every day or are our comments enough to join the drawing?

Linda, Helen, Jenny- praying for yall today!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Winnie,

Great points! As I reader, I don't love Prologues unless they are really well done and short.

Funny enough, my first book coming out this August has a prologue. I included it to hopefully let the reader understand why the heroine does the thing that she does. It shows her at a desperate moment only a few days before the book actually starts. I think it worked well, but we'll see in August!

I'd love to be in the draw!

Cheers,
Sue

Winnie Griggs said...

Mary H. - LOL, glad you enjoyed the prologue and it had the effect I was going for :) The story is actually about Caleb as an adult 'inheriting' a group of orphan children and taking some extreme measures to make certain they aren't 'divyed up' and separated, but are kept together as a family unit.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Winnie!!!!!! Always such a pleasure to have you here, I brought some fried fish-n-chips, a delicious Friday repaste in Lent in upstate NY!!!!!

I stopped by earlier but got interrupted.... 'Sup wi' dat?????

I needed "WINNIE TIME!!!!!

So prologues..... I'm one of the weird people who LOVE them especially in suspense, they set a whole new mood of wonder and suspicion, especially if done in the villain's mind.....

I love that innate sense of impending doom, of someone plotting demise and then being TWARTED!!!!!

And I loved how in FROZEN the sisters didn't need to be saved!!!!!

Girl Power!!!! God made us tough for a reason!

Okay, off my soapbox, I brought along some delicious frosted brownies, too, they're chocolate fudge brownies with broiled icing...

Oh.

Oh.

Oh.

This is like a candy bar, only so much better!!!! If you're a coconut lover (and I can eat an entire one of Tina's coconut cakes BY MYSELF) you will love this brilliant coupling of chocolate/fudge/coconut/pecan....

To die for.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

TINA!!!! WE JUST AGREED ON SOMETHING IN PUBLIC AND I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT UNTIL I POSTED!!!!

Prologues in suspense work great!!!!!

I've also noted in some historicals, to set the tone, they can be handy but that's where the need vs. info dump comes in...

Julie Lessman said...

Goodness, I've gotta say that the blogs so far during Speedbo have been some the BEST I have ever seen in Seekerville, and Winnie, this is right up there at the top, my friend. WOW!!

I will be the first to admit that I absolutely HATED prologues as a reader. I mean, seriously, I would open a book, see it had a prologue, and decide right then and there I didn't want to read it if it didn't capture me in the very first line or paragraph. Now, I honestly would not do that with a chapter one because I know that you usually have to at least read the first few pages to get into a story. But for some reason I am MUCH tougher on a prologue because they put me off. So your comment that we "risk having the reader put the book down and never pick it up again" is certainly dead-on ... at least for me.

Consequently, I made up my mind right off the bat that I would NEVER do a prologue because I flat-out didn't like them.

Talk about eating my words!!

You see I have done a prologue for three of my ten books now, but I didn't write them until AFTER each of the books were written because in my gut, something was missing, so I felt COMPELLED to sit down and write a prologue. For me, I think writing a prologue last is the way to go because in each case, I was able to inject into the story that one tenuous thread that sewed it all together.

Case in point: in my very first prologue, which was in my second book -- A Passion Redeemed -- I knew that the heroine was hated by all of my readers right out the gate because she was such a vixen in the first book. So much so, that both my agent and editor were pretty worried I wouldn't be able to "redeem" her enough for the readers to like her.

Also, I had one big regret when I was finished with the book, and that was that I had no closure for the close relationship between the hero and the heroine's father, both of which had not seen each other since the onset of the war. So it suddenly came to me one day (a Holy Spirit moment for sure) that I could kill a lot of birds with one prologue.

As a result, I wrote a somewhat humorous prologue that reintroduced a close-knit family that all of my readers seemed to love, plus reunited the hero and heroine's father while setting up the entire book. Consequently, it also put the vixen heroine in a softer light simply because a wonderful family loved her, so there had to be something in her to love, right?

Sorry for rambling on, but for me, this is truly an interesting subject.

Hugs,
Julie

Tina Radcliffe said...

I'm also guilty of writing prologues for everything early in my writing journey. It only takes one slasher contest judge to cure you of that mistake.

But as Winnie said, it was simply set up because I didn't know how to weave in backstory.

Winnie Griggs said...

Dee, be careful when considering a prologue, because if you're like me the temptation to include one is strong. I always have to be ruthless with myself and decide just how necessary is it for the information to be imparted up front to the reader, that's why I've only ever kept the one.

Winnie Griggs said...

Walt - what a unique approach to a prologue. I've never seen one used in quite this way before but I can see how it would be a powerful tool if done properly.

Liz Flaherty said...

I love prologues, but you've made me realize the reason I love them, and that's that I occasionally miss some things in the story itself. I'm always all about the writing and less about the story (write the copy well on the Charmin package and I'll read every word!), so a prologue often gives me a baseline to not get lost.

Winnie Griggs said...

PattiJo - Hi! I enjoyed meeting you as well! So glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for this kind words about my writing.

Cara Lynn James said...

Thanks for the information, Winnie! I've never written a prologue on my own, but once my editor asked me to write one because the material was too important to just weave in. She was right.

Winnie Griggs said...

Hi Lizzie - yes, absolutely - one of the cardinal rules for writing a prologue is to keep it tight!

Wilani - length is not necessarily an indication of whether or not a prologue is valid. Rather than second guessing yourself now, I'd suggest you leave it until you're done with your first draft and then reevaluate it t that point.

Winnie Griggs said...

Crystal - if a prologue comes across as an info dump than it is not done properly or not needed. As for poor little Caleb, he just ended up being the one left over after the kids were divided up, sort of a wallflower that didn't catch anyone's eye. It did shape the man he became.

And don't worry, everyone who leaves a comment is in the drawing!

DebH said...

AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGHHHHHHHHH!!!
Caleb's story is out of print? Now what am I going to do? Hmmmm, I sense a Library search coming on. I really must read Caleb's HEA.

**blast those well written prologues for books I can't get my hands on to read**

Walt Mussell said...

Winnie, thank you. It's a manuscript that hasn't even seen a contest yet but will.

Winnie Griggs said...

Hi Myra - thanks for the welcome! And I like the way you think - if the author puts ina prologue, I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and read it! Whether it proves to have been a good choice or not is another story.

Winnie Griggs said...

Mary - LOL on it being an undiscovered country for you. Knowing how well you write, I'm betting that if you ever decide to use one it will be both well done and entertaining!

Jennifer - you're quite welcome. And I've also wrote a number of prologues that I ended up cutting before submitting to my editor. They just need to be able to carry their weight to stay, and frankly, many don't.

Winnie Griggs said...

Debby - awww, thanks for that nice welcome. I always love visiting here at Seekerville.

Hi Sandra - I'm very glad to be here and ALWAYS have a great time when I visit here.

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Good insights here.

I'm not a prologue person either. Just get on with the story already, right?!

But you've given me things to consider that will translate into other aspects of the books. Thank you so much!

Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Winnie! I usually like prologues. The one time I read one that I disliked was when you could tell it was for shock value. It didn't fit the tone of the rest of the story at all. It felt like a sales gimmick.

I loved your prologue. I think you were right in keeping it.

Chill N said...

Oh, Winnie! As a Texan, when I read these lines in your prologue I broke out laughing: "She lives in Texas. That'd be like sending Caleb into exile."

As a rule, I don't like prologues, and I really don't like the 'teaser' ones. Years ago, though, I read a Linda Lael Miller book about twin brothers who were separated when they were young ... and that background was necessary to know from the get-go of the first chapter when they met in the first paragraph. Most of the time, though, what I've seen in prologues could be sprinkled through the rest of the story as backstory.

And yes, in your book's situation, that prologue seemed necessary to me.

Looking forward to Lone Star Heiress!

Nancy C

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Winnie! Good stuff here. I actually really enjoy prologues, if they are done well. I liked Clive Custler's prologues in his early Dirk Pitt novels….some of them were really long, a story in and of themselves, but they were always essential to the story. If you've seen the movie Sahara, one of the prologues in the book it is based on (yes, he has two prologues!) is about the Civil War-era ship that is later found in the desert. I believe the prologue is from the ship's captain's point of view, as the ship escapes Washington DC, and gets lost at sea. If you've seen the movie or read the book, you know that a gold coin the ship leaves behind is what starts the whole story, and eventually, reappears in the climax a hundred years later.

Most of us don't write prologues like that! But it was sure enjoyable, and essential to the story.

Have a wonderful day, and a great weekend!

Winnie Griggs said...

Jana - Happy to hear you enjoyed the prologue. That scene actually came to me whole cloth before I had any idea what the rest of the and is what spurred that entire book.

Hi Susan - Good luck with your debut book - it's such an exciting time for an author!!

Winnie Griggs said...

Hi Ruth - always fun to be able to visit with you. Fish and chips sound good - brownies even better. :) And yes, I LOVE coconut, but I'm kinda not so fond of pecans...

Sally said...

I love prologues. I always read them.

The most memorable for me is the one in Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love. It starts with Sarah as an eight-year-old girl, waiting for her dad to visit her mom--and it just goes horribly downhill from there.

I'd gotten the book as a Christmas gift and decided to read the prologue only and go to bed. I got to the end of the prologue and couldn't stop because I couldn't leave that little girl in that situation!

Winnie Griggs said...

Julie - writing the prologue AFTER you've finished the book sounds like a good way to decide if it's really necessary. So fascinating to hear the thought process you went through with A Passion Redeemed (great book! BTW)

Tina Radcliffe said...

And since Sally and Walt have made an appearance...congrats to the winners and runners up of the Great Expectations Contest. Inspy Category.And WOOT TO NATALIE AS WELL!

INSPIRATIONAL
RAELA SCHOENHERR, Fiction Acquisitions, Bethany House

First: Kept by Sally Bradley
Second: The Elephant's Secret by Walt Mussell
Third: Heart of Valor by Natalie Monk
Honorable Mention: A Twisted Trail by Betty Woods


Also Villager Tanya Agler was a runner up in the Contemp category.

CONTEMPORARY SERIES

MEGAN LONG, Associate Editor, Harlequin Publishing

First: *Small Town Nurse, Surprise Pregnancy by Jill Kay Quincy

Second: **A Pinch of Cinnamon by Tanya Agler

Third: Mistress of the Manor by Jen Arnold

Honorable Mention: All I Need Is The Girl by Joanne Dannon

Honorable Mention: Blackmailing the Country Music Star by Jessica Davidson

LoRee Peery said...

Lots of things ran through my mind when I read this great post:
"never say never." "each project is different" "is something missing?" "follow your gut."
I don't think I had an opinion of prologues as a reader. sometimes they worked, sometimes I went "huh?"
I've tried them, so far none have been published. But who knows?

Susan Johnson said...

As a reader, not a writer, I usually don't mind prologues. I like when it gives a little bit of back story where I can dive into the story when I hit chapter 1.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Hi Susan Johnson and welcome to Seekerville. Where in the world are you from?

Pass the hummus and pitas please.

Jackie said...

I love to read prologues and epilogues.

I had four days this week where I wrote over 1000 words. Highest day of the month was 3055 words.

I've made it past the black moment into Act 3. I work all weekend and 12 hours on Monday. BUT I might finish by the 31. So glad I'm doing Speedbo.

Dianna Shuford said...

Hi, Winnie! I have to say I really like prologues, but like you, only if they are done correctly. I really dislike long running narratives that give nothing but backstory. They are boring and my interest is gone before I get to chapter one.

I wrote a prologue to go with my paranormal/speculative story that I really loved, and even had a contest judge tell me she/he usually hated them but I had used mine just right. I was greatly encouraged by that comment. Now, to finish that story...

Ruth- you said you love a prologue done in the villain's POV. I did that with my very first book, and no matter where I submitted- whether contest or editor or agent- I was dinged every single time because the first scene of the book should not be the villian. The reader should get emotionally vested in the h/h before introducing the villian. I don't particularly agree with that, but when you're wanting to get your work out there, you don't have much choice, right?

Great post, Winnie!

Winnie Griggs said...

Liz, glad you got something out of today's post. Ana LOL about even reading a Charmins package if it's well written

Hi Cara. Glad you liked the post and thanks for the little note about your editor - it just goes to show that they are not as anti-prologue as many new writers assume.

Winnie Griggs said...

DebH - Shhh, don't tell anyone but it just so happens I have a few author copies left. If you happen to win the drawing that can be the one you pick :)


And Walt - you're quite welcome. Good luck with your manuscript

Winnie Griggs said...

May - Glad the post gave you some points to ponder :)

Missy, Thanks for the kind words! And yes, the gimmicky ones don't work for me either.

Winnie Griggs said...

Chill N - LOL, since I LOVE Texas that was written very tongue in cheek. Ah-ha, the fact that you still fondly remember that prologue from the LLM book just proves that they provide value when done properly and for the right reasons :)

Pam Hillman said...

I wrote a prologue for Claiming Mariah but cut it myself before the book went to print. It was the letter that brought Slade to the Lazy M.

Hmmm, I might share that with readers..., hmmmm

And I wrote a prologue from the viewpoint of a hero as a child. That book still isn't in print but I love the prologue.

Generally prologues don't pull me in but sometimes they fit perfectly.

Pam Hillman said...

And like Caleb's prologue, the one I wrote came first then I built the story around it. I'm still not sure the story is the right one....in tone and depth... For that prologue.

I love that prologue and judges in contests always loved it.

Natalie Monk said...

Saving this post for book #2!

When I entered it in First Impressions, judges said there wasn't enough information about the backstory situation given. Then again they only had five pages. I've been thinking it needs a prologue that would ratchet tension, though.

I have always loved reading prologues in novels. In fact, when I started writing and heard that prologues were for the most part taboo, I was shocked! I'd always enjoyed them so much, getting that preview to glimpse into the character's previous life.





Ruth Logan Herne said...

Dianna, you made a great point. That kind of prologue might now make it in a romance series, but it works in a single title.

Now I think it can work just fine in a category romance to up the ante, but I'm not the editor!!! For suspense, I want to be challenged to wonder/see how it will all work out, why it should work out.... and I like the depth of the villain's pov.

But I've read a bunch I love without that, too, so it's not a given.

I opened Safely Home with a subplot page, similar to a prologue but done as a teaser of a reflective story. I've gotten lots of mail and reviews saying folks love that difference, that it set them on edge, trying to figure out what that was all about...

And then being satisfied when it tied in, so that was good to see. It worked in my head, but sometimes what works for me mentally doesn't come through the same for readers!!!

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Wonderful post, Winnie! Wow, that is everything a writer needs to know about prologues! And I love why you kept the one you did. That makes perfect sense!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Winnie, I made some brownies with broiled frosting WITHOUT pecans, just for you!!!!

Hey.

We're looking out for you!!!

Elaine Manders said...

It seems to be a common theme to put prologues in our first manuscripts. My first, the one that exists only in hard copy, is the only one of mine with a prologue and now that I think about it, I still think it's needed because the whole plot rests on what happened during the prologue.

Thanks for reminding us prologues are sometimes necessary.

Winnie Griggs said...

Stephanie and Sally - ah, a couple of prologue lovers - there aren't many of us around. Thanks for stopping in!

LoRee - glad the post gave you something to mull over :)

Winnie Griggs said...

Hi Susan - the reader experience is, of course, key here. Glad you're willing to give them a chance before diving in to Chapter 1.

Jackie, woo-hoo, sounds like you've had some productive writing sessions - wish I could say the same :)

Tanya Agler said...

Thank you Tina for the mention of my receiving 2nd place in the Great Expectations contest.

Thank you Winnie for the discussion of prologues. I had never given them much thought until a speaker at a conference brought up the subject. While I'm wary to write a prologue, I think if used judiciously and sparingly, a prologue may be beneficial, more so in a romantic suspense than other romance genres.

Day 21 of Speedbo and I just scraped by with my word count with a little over an hour to spare. Hooray. Hope everyone has a great weekend, and if it includes writing like mine will, at least I'm in good company.

Winnie Griggs said...

Hi Dianna, congratulations - sounds like you've gotten some strong affirmation for your prologue on the paranormal. If it's not working for your other story, why don't you see if there is some way to make it tighter and more compelling.

Winnie Griggs said...

Pam, it's a good sign that you put your prologues under such scrutiny - it means when you do actually keep one, it's for a good reason.

Natalie, good luck with your work in progress. The decision on whether or not to include a prologue can be a tricky one. I hope this post gave you some guidelines you can use.

Winnie Griggs said...

Eva - Hi! Glad you enjoyed the post!

Ruth - you're a doll! Those will be great with a big ice cold glass of milk for a late night snack. :)

Winnie Griggs said...

Elaine - You're quite welcome. I think that prologues got such a bad rep in the past because so many of them were superfluous or written poorly. But there is a right time to do one, and when you identify that it truly is needed, go for it!

Tanya - congratulations on your placement in the Great Expectations! And you're quite welcome for the post. Hope you can find some snips of value to use in your writing.

Winnie Griggs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Neyer said...

Winnie! Such a good post. I haven't put a prologue in my WIP but I never really saw a need for one. I haven't really ever seen a prologue that I didn't feel was unnecessary. But then most of the ones I have seen have set something up that becomes important later. Although, after reading this post I may look at the prologues I do read a little more critically now.

Ruth--I loved Frozen for the same reason. I loved that the sister's helped each other instead of the man coming in. And the best line was "You can't marry a man you just met!". Funny thing...watching Frozen now with my sister and her kids!

Winnie Griggs said...

Hi Emily! So glad you enjoyed the post! And I haven't seen frozen yet - sounds like I need to put it on my Netflix list!

Mary Preston said...

As a reader I don't need a prologue, indeed some don't seem to add to the story, or just feel disconnected.

Edwina said...

Excellent information! Thanks for sharing, Winnie!