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Friday, July 13, 2007

Writing Advice #10: Prologues

Avoid prologues. Prologues are backstory and can be dropped in anywhere.

Fairly sound. I can't say whether I've had much opportunity to use this in real life. Short stories shouldn't have a prologue, and most novels I read don't have one.

I don't have a problem with prologues myself. I enjoy reading them, and like writing them. I think the reason most people would put in a prologue is either to set the mood right away or if your story's start isn't zippy enough, you can put in an exciting prologue. Like in Jaws, we have the innocent swimmer going out, and then getting ripped apart by some unknown force. This sets the mood, and has a zippy start. The real start of the story is with Chief Brody tooling around, the town of Amity, tourism, blah blah blah. Not very exciting. So we got that awesome 'pull-you-inner' to start with, and everyone's happy.

You see a lot of prologues in science fiction, mostly because the reader is being forced into a totally unknown universe. People float, catch on fire, defy gravity, and are rarely human (however, there is still a set of rules, but that's another entry). Historical fiction rarely has prologues, and that's because they follow this rule. There's nothing you can say in a prologue that can't be said in text. You can manipulate the story to have the first chapter be zippy enough and set the mood.
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