Saturday, April 10, 2010

PROLOGUES GOOD OR BAD?

Just read a wonderful blog that emphasized getting to know your main character right away, creating empathy with him/her. I was told last year that I had to lose my prologue on a suspense novel because the reader didn't have enough feeling for the main character soon enough, and the critique was spot on. I dropped the prologue and the story came alive much sooner as we learned enough about the main character to care about her.
THAT SAID
How do we know when a prologue is necessary to set up a story or when it is simply taking up space because we, as writers, like what we're saying?
I think immediately of Mary Higgins Clark who often sets up the entire story through a heart-pounding prologue, which may or may not have anything to do with the main character. But she is successful in that the entire story hinges on what happens to someone in the prologue.
What kind of experiences have you, as writers, as readers, had with respects to prologues opening a story? Can you give an example of how a prologue intrigued you enough to have a read? Is it absolutely necessary to have the main character in the opening chapter of the book? On another note, does it make a difference in the genre you are reading? I can see romance needing the main characters right away, but what about suspense, thrillers, or a blend of suspense and romance--thriller and romance. What do you like to see?
Or give us an example of a book that hooked you right away without there being even a mention of the main character in the opening.

4 comments:

  1. I normally skip prologues when I read a book, horrors! Especialy now as I writer, I've written them but then almost always, deleted them to jump into the meat of the book.
    Thank you for your suggestions when I pitch! Not sure if it will be fun though!OL

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  2. I always read the prologue in a purchased book, but to be honest, if it's more than a page and a half, I find myself skimming. When I critique, I often find the author is really telling stuff the reader doesn't need to know yet, or at all, and it delays getting into the story.

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  3. Good questions Linda! I can't even remember the last time I read a prologue. I would think they'd be better in suspenses than romances. I don't usually write them and before I was a writer I never read them.

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  4. Most of the prologues I've read are either unnecessary or would work just as well as a first chapter. And no, I don't think you need to introduce your main character in the first chapter IF the first chapter creates suspense for a story line that will be crucial to the main story. As an example, in Angela Hunt's "The Note," the first chapter (instead of a prologue) introduces you to the scene aboard a plane that is about to crash. It is only in chapter 2 that we meet the protagonist. And it happens to work very well.

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