The great prologue debate....
I have revisited this post and revamped it after more research and added my final decision towards the bottom of this post. Enjoy!
So finally, the muse is back and I'm working on the sequel to Winter's Captive, tentatively called Blended.
The first dilema I came across was, do I write a prologue or not. There are so many sites on line discussing this subject and none of them agree. I did a lot of on line research on this subject and this is what I found.
Here is the "DON'T use a prologue" reasons list:
1. Can be boring to the reader and lead them away from the actual story if not done right.
2. Decide if it is really necessary, can you fit it into Chapter 1?
3. Newbies use them because they don't know how to backstory in Chapter 1 with set-up information.
4. More than five pages is too long, write a chapter.
5. Under five pages is too short, not necessary.
6. Agents hate them.
Here's the "YES, use a prologue" reasons list.
1. Too much backstory in Chapter 1 is boring and takes the reader away from the actual story, use a prologue.
2. If the timeline is earlier than Chapter 1, use a prologue.
3. If you need to move into the sequel, referencing some details from the first book, use a prologue because
the sequel should stand alone without repeating too much information from the first book.
This was all very confusing to me and in the end I decided to use a prologue because the timeline is later than the original story but earlier than the beginning of the sequel. After much debate with myself, I decided a prologue was necessary to set up the start of the sequel without conflicting timelines and too much backstory in Chapter 1, which could bog down the story and bore the reader.
Once I decided on using a prologue, I engaged in more on line research on how to write a prologue and became even more confused.
Here is some of what I found:
1. A prologue should not be more than one and half pages.
2. A prologue should be at least five pages or it is too short and redundant.
3. A prologue can be as long as you need it to be to do its job.
4. Just call it "Prologue".
5. Don't call it anything.
6. You can give it a name if you wish.
7. Length and to name or not to name is up to the author (and ultimately, the agent or publisher).
What did I do?
I opted to use a prologue but didn't call it anything. I don't really like the sound of the word "prologue" and I think it was more dramatic to start the piece right at the first sentence and italicize the whole thing.
My prologue is eight and half pages long, what I felt it took to set up my storyline for the sequel.
Then I decided to go straight to the readers and see what they think of prologues. Okay, so most hate them, most skip over them. Sometimes if the book grabs hold of them, they will go back and read it. Most like them short. I thought eight pages was short, but some think that is long. My husband just started a new book with a prologue that is one and half pages. He loved it. Short, sweet, and to the point. I can't see my prologue edited down to two pages. There is too much going on there. So...
Alright, so I have rethought my position and decided to scrap the prologue and start the sequel at Chapter 1 at a later date than the original book. Perhaps the prologue will be rewritten into another chapter further on in a different light. Perhaps it will be scrapped altogether and will become an exercise in writing.
I'm happy with the outcome but I must say, this writing business is exhausting. But now that I have solved my dilema of to prologue or not to prologue I can get on with the sequel.
What did I learn most from all of this? It keeps coming back to the same old thing - you are the author, do what feels right for the story and what you are happy with. If that means breaking "the rules", go ahead and break them. Feels good.
Now its your turn. Do you like prologues or not? Would you use one? What about backstory in a chapter? What do you think the ideal length of a prologue should be?
Have a great writing week and keep on keeping on writing.