Monday, October 31, 2011

The Great Debate....Prologues

Happy Halloween Everyone. Today is kind of a mish-mashy post, but I will try and keep it together to form a cohesive essay.

Yesterday morning, while listening to "Flashback" on the radio, they played Elton John's Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding. The Monster Child was with me and as we pulled up to my mother's house, I remained in the car. Funeral for a Friend was still playing and I wanted to hear the opening to Love Lies Bleeding so I would have a good song in my head for the rest of the day instead of the stupid deoderant commercial. The Monster ran down to the house, went in, and then came back out two minutes later very upset that I still sat in the car. "I'm going to be late," she yelled. Funeral for a Friend was just ending.

"No, you're not," I replied. "Here's what I've been waiting for." And the opening chords to Loves Lies Bleeding struck. I began singing the song, beating my fingers on the steering wheel, while she just rolled her eyes and ran back down the driveway.

And it got me thinking...

Back in the 70's, rock bands would have these long musical introductions. Some of them were good, some not so good, but you'd have to wait to get to the real "song". Think Lynard Skynard, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull. (I'll bet half of you have never even heard of these bands.)

Any-hoo, it got me thinking...

Those musical introductions were prologues. Depending on the composition, some evolved into the song lyrics, some were of a different nature altogether and didn't make any sense. (Perhaps the composer smoked a little too much gange and thought it would fit, I don't know.)

But it got me thinking...

About the great debate of prologues. Depending on how they're written, they either serve the book well by giving us a piece of the story we wouldn't find in the natural progression of the plot line, or is just something the author wanted to throw in just to keep us guessing.

I had a prologue in THE LADY'S MASQUERADE. It was one page, 263 words total. It was a snippet of the villain's character from his POV that allowed for a bit of intrigue before the story began. I always liked it, I thought it was wicked cool. But then, I took it out because I found while querying, prologues weren't in fashion anymore.

Having gotten back into revisions on MASQUERADE again, I think I'm going to put it back in, because up until page 256 out of 260, we don't see or hear from the villain. We don't know who he is until he makes his very short lived appearance. And you know what, not having to deal with an agent, editor, or publisher, I can do whatever I want.

Tell me -- Do you write prologues? Do they leave your readers guessing, or are they an intregral part of the plot that needs to be told, but not in the story?

And now for your viewing pleasure, as it is Halloween, some pictures I dug around for last weekend. Dressing up on Halloween was not one of my strong suits, but these pictures are proof that I did.

Halloween 1992. Me and Lawrence. My true soul self harking back to 1973 (incidentally the year Good-bye Yellow Brick Road was released).

Halloween 1998. Me and Jed. That, my friends, is a fake tattoo, but the boobs are real.

Have fun and be safe tonight!

Oh, and PS, on my author blog I discuss how I came up with my series if you'd like to take a peek.


Laura Pauling said...

If a prologue creates intrigue or reveals information for later, then it's needed. Go for it!

Anne Gallagher said...

Laura -- I think it's the intrigue more than anything. We get to see him up close and personal for a very short scene, something the characters don't see until the very end of the book.

Linda G. said...

I don't write prologues myself (or rather, haven't yet -- I never say never), but I do enjoy reading a well-written one.

Love the Halloween pics from your past! :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Linda -- This is the first prolougue I'd ever written. It seemed appropriate. Yeah, those pics were from an eternity ago. Wish I knew then what I know now.

Em-Musing said...

Cute photos! And I love a good prologue, but not ones that use it for back story info dump.

DL Hammons said...

I love those classic songs with introductions! The Eagles took one of their classic songs (HOTEL CALIFORNIA) and added an introduction/prologue to it for their live shows. Anyway, I've had this same debate with my own book and I finally changed the first chapter to be a prologue. It just felt right. And thats the most important part.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

If the prologue works for the story, then I have no problem with it (unlike agents). But the thing is I've only seen them work in YA paranormals and not YA contemp. Since I don't read your genre, Anne, I'm not sure what's okay. But I do remember prologues in some of the historic romances I used to read. But they are from 20 + years ago. Rules were different back then. But they certainly worked.

I had feedback from an agent on my wip based on a crit I won. She felt I started the story too late (instead of the usual too early), but she didn't hint where she thought that would be. The only other place I thought it could start would have made the new chapter one really a prologue. All my beta readers said no. I couldn't do that. Fortunately I did come up with something that wasn't a prologue and added to the level of suspense the first chapter was missing (even though there was suspense). :D

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Anne, you rebel!
I had a prologue for my first book, and that was at the request of my publisher. Otherwise, I don't think I have an opinion either way. If it's there, I read it!
And Dream Theater did an awesome rendition a few years back of Love Lies Bleeding. Live!

~Sia McKye~ said...

G'morning Anne. I'm laughing at the pictures. Oh my.

As for prologues, yes, I've used them and I see nothing wrong with them. If they're used for backstory, no, but most of the ones I've seen--suspense, thrillers, paranormal romance--enhance the story.

I like the idea of a villain snippet.

Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

Jennifer Shirk said...

I'm not a fan of prologues in general, but I can definitely name a few books where I thought the prologue did add that little something to the story--especially in suspense writing.

Anne Gallagher said...

Em -- Definitely not back story or info dump. I like the ones that tell a separate story which enhances the main story.

DL -- Oh the Eagles! Don't get me started on music. Good for you for going with a prologue. Expecially if YOU feel it was warranted.

Stina -- You're right, romances from 20+ years ago did have prologues. That was all the rage. I'm glad you found what works for you in your book. It's just so hard these days to know what's "right". Go with your gut, I say.

Alex -- Who me? A rebel? Lol. I love that song. And hey, publisher knows best I guess. And I always read the prologue too.

Sia -- Back when I was young and beautiful. Lol. yeah, the villain scene is really powerful. It shows just how far this guy is willing to go.

Jennifer -- I like prologues in suspense. They always add that little something more.

Bish Denham said...

Although I haven't written any prologues, I've never been bothered by them. And I totally agree with you, now that your doing your own thing, you can do whatever you want! And I say go for it.

LOVE the photos of you. (I'm having a flash-back and I definitely know those bands.)

Creepy Query Girl said...

I think I wrote a prologue for my first book but not since- for the same reason, the agent's view. However, i do enjoy them while reading. Happy Halloween!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Hehe! I adore those pics! I should see if I can find some old ones of me as a kid. As far as prologues go, I've never been a huge fan. I also get irritated by the long intros to songs. But, then again, I also eat the filling out of an oreo first, too. I don't know what this says. Something about getting to the meat of things, I suppose. Your prologue sounds really doable and fun, though. I guess I don't like them when they seem to be skirting around the real point of the story. That's when they're not well done.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Out of 4 books, I've written 2 prologues. One was a sequel and I kind of used it to bring the reader up to date, but in a fun, hooky kind of way. The 2nd I used it to hook the reader - plain and simple. It was short (2 pages), too.

Frankly, I don't know what the fuss is about prologues. I guess as long as they aren't info dumps, they're okay - but that's true with all your writing, correct?

Anne Gallagher said...

Bish -- You know, that's what I like most about self-publishing, I don't have to follow the rules. Well, some anyway.

Katie -- Yeah, agents aren't big on them these days. Happy Halloween.

Michelle -- I like your Oreo analogy. And I agree, ineffectual info dumps don't do it for me either. But I like mine because it's short and creepy.

Anne Gallagher said...

Stacy -- I think depending upon the prologue, it's a good use of space. I mean, short sweet and to the point are best. IF there's going to be 15 pages of blah blah blah, what's the point?

Patti said...

I had a prologue for my book that I loved, but after a lot of tears took it out.

I found it too hard to explain in the query and if the agent only read one chapter they wouldn't really know what the book was about.

Anne Gallagher said...

Patti -- I never sent the prologue with pages to an agent. I always gave them the first 5 with the query or request. Unless they requested a partial, then I would stick the prologue in.

Lydia Kang said...

Sometimes I like prologues and sometimes not. They have to really have a usefulness at the beginning, not be a lazy-writer's way of infodumping.

Laila Knight said...

Hey there, I've seen your face in quite a few blogs for the last few months and thought I'd stop by and follow. Loved the pictures. I don't write prologues anymore. I've heard too often they take away from the story and are considered info dump, so I just start with chapter 1 now. Happy Halloween! :)

VR Barkowski said...

I've nothing against prologues. In fact my my current WIP has a prologue. It's a scene that precedes the present day setting of the story by 70 years.

That said, I'm not a fan of prologues that could easily be woven into the body of the story. I also don't like prologues which preview what's going to happen 3/4 of the way through the book. To me, this smacks of author insecurity. e.g. I'm not sure you'll like the first fifteen chapters, so here's a sample of chapter sixteen to keep you interested until you get there.

Love the Hallowe'en pics!

Cate Masters said...

I'm a big believer in going with your gut. If the prologue feels right, keep it. You can't second guess every reader's reaction.
What would the Stones' Sympathy for the Devil have been without the intro? :)

Michael Offutt said...

I think people that don't like prologues are part of that crowd with severe A.D.D. and they probably won't have the wherewithal to finish the book either, much less a prologue.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Michael, I don't really like prologues. Guess I'm severe A.D.D., as you put it...

Nicki Elson said...

That's right - you do what YOU want. Because I think sometimes a story calls for a prologue, sometimes it doesn't, and if you have the instinct to put it back in, then Lady's Masquerade calls for it.

Nice tartoo...and boobs, hehe.

Happy Halloween!

Liza said...

I don't take a stand on prologues. If they offer suspense and something for me to take along on my reading ride...then good. They just need to snag me in the way any good writing does and I'm a happy girl.

Rula Sinara said...

Love the pics!

For me, it's all about how it's done. I haven't written a prologue yet, but I've read some that were soooo good/well done that they've made me want to try one at some point...if the story needs it.

Angie Paxton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angie Paxton said...

I personally am a fan of prologues both in reading and in my writing. Right now I'm reading Stieg Larsson's 'Girl' trilogy and IMO if it weren't for the prologues those books would have been DOA. The first chapters are really boring and if it weren't for the intrigue introduced by the prologues I probably wouldn't have kept reading. Granted he does deliver on the promise of the prologue which is key. Two of my projects have prologues and in the second one the prologue is the only thing that survived intact once I started editing. I say if you like the prologue leave it in and the market be damned. Oh and PS love the pics of Halloweens past!

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

Hah! Love those pics! And now i wish i was listening to some Free Bird.
I used to write prologues all the time. And i was taken aback when I heard that some people just skipped over them. I mean, what?

But i understand why most prologuees are looked down on. 90% of the time, they are just backstory. Sometimes i'll still write one, but now i typically cut them.
But yeah, i've never had a real problem with prologues.

Francine Howarth: UK said...


Oh, so lurv the pics! :)

Prologues too, get my vote. I have one in which a character dies, so if anyone skips the prologue they've missed a key clue to why he's featured throughout the book: deceased but not forgotten and a cadaver to die for, literally! ;)


L'Aussie said...

Hi Anne!

I love prologues and think they're mostly well done. They're a good entry into the voice and salient points from the story.

Hello Flower Child! I know what you mean about the music. I'd stay in the car too. Now what is gange?


Sarah Pearson said...

I haven't written a prologue for any of my 'real' stories because they haven't called for it, but I have done in the past.

I don't understand people who say they don't like prologues. If it's written well, what's not to like? It's part of the book. As for not reading them, well that would be like skipping chapter one :-)

Melissa Sugar said...

Love the halloween costumes and really loved the trip down musical memory lane (I am 45) so I am very familiar with those band although most of the concerts I attended , I don't really remember, -hey is was the 80's.

I like prologues if they are done right. I have only come across a few that just didn't work. I think they add a bit of suspense or mystery to the story, even if it is not a mystery novel. From what you just detailed, I think you should include the one page prologue. I think it is appropriate and actually good writing for the writer to let us hear from the villain in his POV, especially if he will not make an appearance until much later in the book. Just my opinion, but I like prologues. I do not like 20 page prologues.

Happy Halloween

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A lot of the books I read have prologues. Every one of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonrider books had one. I might skip an introduction, but I always read the prologues.

Theresa Milstein said...

I don't listen to the prologue debate. Some books have 'em and they work, some books have 'em and they don't. I've written them and I haven't - I'm still not getting offers either way. So far.

That Elton John is a perfect analogy!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

My historical fantasies had prologues and epilogues. The meat of the novel took place in 1853. The bookends took place in the New Orleans of the Roaring 20's, told through the eyes of a young William Faulkner. I thought they lent a depth to the main character, much like seeing the Ancient Mariner through another's eyes, then listening to his story. I thought it made Sam McCord feel more real to the reader.

The prologues to LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH and the follow-up, UNDER A VOODOO MOON, both speak to larger issues that resonate for Victor's whole story arc.

My thought is if they work, use them. As always, a thought-provoking post, Roland

Life Unordinary said...

Prologues are so essential...even for a blog post I think. Also called the KICKER/ HOOK, right?

Donna Hole said...

Prologues are not my thing. I almost always feel they disclose info that is repeated several times in the actual text of the novel.

I'm not saying they can't be done well; I'm just saying I've read few that aren't intended to "lead" the reader into what they are supposed to get out of the story. Then, the author will have several sections that refer back to the prologue. I hate redundency.

But, like any writing technique, it can be done well.

I like prologues/intro's in music though.


Susan Fields said...

When I was trying to decide if I should use a prologue in a previous wip, I'd heard they're looked down upon, but when I looked through the recently published books I have lying around the house (which is way, way too many!) I found that a surprising amount of them do use prologues. So I'm not opposed to them in my own writing. If it's there for a good reason, I think it should stay.

Anne Gallagher said...

Lydia -- Yeah, informative with no info dumping.

Laila -- Prologues used to be all the rage, and now they're not. In today's market, some like them, some don't. Depends on what you're trying to achieve.

VR -- I agree with you there. Things that could be easily woven in, shouldn't be in a prologue.

Cate -- Guts are the best thing we have these days as writers. Yes, to the Rolling Stones! There were so many I thought of, I couldn't fit them all in.

Michael -- I think it depends on the reader, A.D.D. notwithstanding. Some people want to jump right in to the book. I know I've skimmed some prologues but then return to them later.

Nicki -- Yes, I agree, some stories do call for a prologue and some don't. And I really like the fact I CAN do what I want now.

Liza -- Yeah, you know, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and if the prologue sucks, then it's pretty much a guarantee the rest of the book will too.

Rula -- I think generally most books don't require one, but that too depends on the book. And the author and what they're trying to achieve by writing one.

Angie -- Yes, it depends on the book. Some books really need one to get you into the rest of the book.

Anne Gallagher said...

Sarah -- I know huh. How can you not read a prologue? It's not like I write them all the time, but in this particular case, I thought it was pretty good. "Fly high, Free Bird, yeah..."

Francine -- Now THAT'S an interesting prologue. Go You!

Denise -- "Good entry into the voice..." Yes. Absolutely. And gange is my way of saying pot.

Sarah -- Absolutely. And if you skip Chapter 1 then what's the point in reading the book.

Melissa -- Yeah, I think my prologue will work because it's short, not-so-sweet and to the point. It's intriguing without being too over the top.

Diane -- I think with a series like McCaffrey's they're important to the reader. Sets the stage, as it were.

Theresa -- You're right. Some work, some don't. I think it's a debate that will rage on and on. It's all a matter of personal taste.

Roland -- Thanks. Funny you should mention epilogues. All my books have them, but only this one has a prologue. I'll have to do another post on epilogues.

Life Unordinary -- I've never heard them called a kicker/hook, but I suspect you may be right.

Donna -- I agree. Anything that could be woven into the story, should not be in a prologue.

Susan -- If it's there for a good reason is key. I know, for something that is so looked down upon, an amazing amount of books have them these days.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Very cute photos!

I currently have a prologue in my WIP, but it's not a prologue probably as much as a first chapter. Chronologically, it leads directly into the rest of the story, so it's not something that came long before or some sort of narrator observation of the story you're about to read (a la Twilight, which could've been cut out w/out affecting the story in the slightest). It just has that prologue feeling as it sets up the whole story. That said, it'll probably just become a first chapter. Ha. I don't know what my point was.

Anne Gallagher said...

Carolina -- It doesn't matter that you couldn't find your point, it only matters that you tried to make one. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

I think prologues can be an effective way to engage the reader. If done poorly, they can also turn them off. The great thing about self publishing is you have the freedom to approach the story any way you please. If your instincts are telling you to keep the prologue, then listen to them. Mine have yet to lead me astray. Good luck with your novel.

Anne Gallagher said...

Andrea -- Thanks so much. Yes, as I've found, instincts are to be trusted.

Jennifer Hillier said...

Prologues don't bother me any more or any less than any other part of the book. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. If they don't, I skim, but I'll do that with any part of the book that isn't working for me.

Love your Halloween pictures! Made me smile.

Anne Gallagher said...

Jennifer -- Skim. Seems to be my modus operandi as well. The pics...a long long time ago.

Jamie Burch said...

Fun pics! I don't mind prologues, especially if they're important to the story. Glad you're putting it back in!