I hate prologues. Though this mainly has to do with the unwritten rule that debut novelists should never, ever write a prologue for their work unless they want agents everywhere to immediately tear their submission into a million tiny pieces to be fed to the cat.

It’s all rather unfair, this “NO PROLOGUES” advice. Mainly because if you pick up a random novel right now (go on, run to your bookshelf), then it will likely have one. Try it! Go to the first page. Do you see italics? A “Fifteen years ago…” heading, maybe? See the event which doesn’t feature the novel’s main character at all, but will somehow later mysteriously link in with him and the plot? Likely a murder? Yes? Good! I’m only jealous, as I’m not yet allowed to do it.

So why are prologues frowned upon? Well, probably because agents find that most prologues from new writers are bits of irrelevant, scene-setting bollocks that don’t even succeed in setting the scene. The advice given is something along the lines of “start where your story starts” – big heaps of backstory don’t tend to fit that aim. New writers apparently copy the style of prologues that they see in other books, without thinking about what makes them actually work. To be fair, though, I’ve read prologues in published works that are simply awful.

The reason I’m talking about this is because I’ve got a bit of a problem with my new novel. You see, I’m writing a prologue (the idea is that since I’m going to get an agent for Certainty – ha ha! – I won’t be beholden to the “rules” for the next book), where the main character is introduced and his unique characteristics are revealed. This prologue takes place roughly fifteen years before the events in the first chapter proper. Unfortunately, the plan for that first chapter has the main character hinted at and built up… before he is introduced and his unique characteristics are revealed. Sound familiar? The problem is one of repetition. He can’t be introduced twice with the same impact. I want to do both of these beginnings, as each has its good bits in theory, but only one of them is going to work.

Of course, why I’m even worrying about it at this stage, when I know from personal experience that the start of the novel isn’t likely to survive in whatever form I write it in, is beyond me. Maybe it’s just because I want to hit the ground running. I think I’m going to write both of them and see which one works better.

Besides, I have to at least attempt to write a prologue. It’d be rude not to.


Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Prologues

  1. Write the prologue, but place it after the first act of the main book – Best Of Both Worlds

  2. The Muse

    My first novel I am writing also has a prologue. I’ve tried to remove it but in honesty, it does set the scene for my novel. I could use it as the beginning to my novel as chapter one but it doesn’t really fit in chapter one. It introduces the first chapter and why the main character is returning to Los Angeles.
    Like you, I’m going to say to hell with it and use it.

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