Wednesday, August 12, 2009

To prologue or not to prologue - that is the question!

I've been pondering this question for a while now and then decided who better to poll then my fellow enthusiasts!

My first novel, which I am currently about to finish editing, begins with a flashback. In actuality, it begins with two flashbacks which I consider more of a double prologue. You see the story is told from the POV of a daughter who finds her mother's body after she commits suicide and then follows her along the path of self-discovery as she searches for the reason for her mother's death. It becomes apparent during the course of the novel that her mother and father's relationship was doomed from the beginning and the two flashback sequences - one told from the father's POV and one from the mother's POV- foreshadow this revelation.

I love this beginning (of course, I do since I wrote it!) but have been advised by a few readers (mostly other writers) that I shouldn't begin this way. I realize it breaks many rules: begin with heavy action, keep the same POV throughout etc. But I am reluctant to scrap it because it felt right to me...but am willing to do the old heave-ho if it is truly in the best interest of the work. Mostly I'm afraid that it will turn off the agents I am submitting to if they only read the first chapter or two.

At the moment, I'm thinking of compromising and only including the flashback of the mother. It is shorter more action packed.

Thoughts? Suggestions? I'm desperate to get this right!


  1. Personally, I like prologues. I defended keeping mine for a long time. I ended cutting it because my MC didn't appear until Chapter one and my readers were initally confused as to who the MC was.

  2. That's a tough one, it's so hard to take a step back from your love and look at it objectively. I personally love stories that start out that way, they add a little mystery and get you right into the story. On the other hand, two different POVs right in the beginning and basically two prologues might be a little much. Only you can know though.

  3. toughie, prologue wrong and it fails, prologue right and it adds.
    I'm bad at prologues myslef, I give to much away... so I'll say probably not.
    If it's the same character and POV it can work it all depends.

  4. So this is what I've heard from writers conferences.
    1). Prologues are no longer as popular. If you want one, make sure it's juicy like the rest of the book, and not just information.

    2). Never start the first few pages with backstory, especially page 1.

    As you know, everyone is different, but I removed my prologue and decided to start with a great hook--I know because editors have told me so. I go straight into an active scene.

    That's all I can say.

  5. I don't have a problem with prologues as long as the storytelling is compelling enough. Many published works use this tactic, and I do think it can be done well. As for my advice, I would say that as long as your prologue doesn't represent a change in your voice, that it is a natural extension of the story and is still captivating enough, you should leave it in. If it is lackluster however, you need to either clean it up or dump it. That's harsh perhaps, but sometimes we have to do the hard work ourselves.

  6. I knew you would all be helpful! I guess the general feeling is proceed with caution - if done well, the prologue can add great dimension but if flubbed can ruin the book before it even gets started. I'll re-evaluate with all this in mind!

  7. Catching up after a few weeks so apologies for this being very late.

    I had several brief PsOV for my prologue initially but I narrowed it to one only and made it quite hooky and a little dark. I think it is much improved... and I managed to get the other PsOV in as tiny chapters throughout the book to make it a little more interesting.

    VERY keen to read your work!

  8. Thanks, Kit...I'm leaning toward the same prologue - short but heavy on the heart.

    Hope all is well.