Contemplation

Posted by on May 19, 2011 in General Chaos, Word of the Day | 6 comments

I am currently contemplating The Dreaded Prologue.

I know. I know. Everyone says not to do it, and their arguments make sense. You don’t want to front-load your story with too much history. You don’t want to info-dump. Above all, you don’t want to bore your readers.

The thing is, I think my story might need it. The road to Helheim is paved with that phrase as far as I’m concerned, but hear me out… My were-story currently starts with a business meeting which concludes with my main character getting two assignments. That’s great, right? Well, the assignments he gets are really subplots, and the overarching story is more about him than either of the things he has to do. The subplots get resolved rather quickly, and one of my Alpha readers mentioned that as a potential problem.

Here’s where things get dicey. I have been Dying (yes, with a capital D) to write a short story about how two of the characters in Broods meet. I know what happened, but I haven’t tried to write the text of it yet. I could slip that in as a prologue, and it would go a long way toward explaining Brand’s frame of mind and why the plot is really about him and his choices. At this point, you might be asking yourself why I don’t just make that Chapter 1? Well, it takes place long before any of the action in the story, and I think if I label that as Chapter 1 and then Chapter 2 takes up a hundred years later, readers will probably get confused.

I agree with the conventional wisdom that prologues are evil, but I can’t stop thinking that this might be the best way to go with this story. What do you folks think of prologues? Is it more a general guideline that can be bent or broken with good cause, or is every one irredeemable?

-C

Ryan’s word of the day is pyrrhic, which is a cool word as far as I’m concerned. It has a dual meaning. It can either refer to a Greek war dance, or a metrical foot with two unaccented syllables.

6 Comments

  1. I wrote a prologue in my novel and just posted a blog article about this yesterday.

    http://connordixbooks.blogspot.com/2011/05/hypocracy-of-my-prologue.html

    Not sure if I’d do it again, but I decided to write the prologue, and I feel pretty good about it.

  2. Pyrrhic is also found in the phrase “a Pyrrhic victory,” so named after a King Pyrrhus, used to refer to a victory that cost the victor so much it wasn’t worth it. (I first encountered it during a translation assignment – learning new stuff is one of the things I *love* about translating.)

    I like an engaging prologue. I tend to start them, and if they’re written like a story, I consider them the start of the novel. If they’re written like an infodump or to explain terrain or terminology or the whole history of the kingdom or whatever, I skip them.

    • I had no idea about that connection to King Pyrrhus, interesting!

      Yeah, I’m not adverse to a decent prologue either, but apparently the literary elite hate them. I can understand why, but I think sometimes they are fine and even necessary. Well on second (more like fifth) thought, I guess it could come off as a false start. The reader thinks the story is going one way and it really isn’t. In this case though, I think the prologue start might be the more genuine of the two. I wonder if that means I’ve picked the wrong starting point. Arg.

  3. I’ve had the same problem. You could always do what I’ve done. Write that prologue as a separate story and release it as a Freebie with a link to the full novel. So you’ve explained the connection, and you’ve driven traffic to the novel by way of that one little Freebie story 🙂

    • That’s definitely an option! I went through and roughed the story out. I’ll see what my alphas think and then I’ll reconsider what I want to do.

  4. I was going to suggest what Karen did, although what you’re describing is exactly what a prologue is supposed to do. It’s to set up what’s to come, not for the bad guy to off his first victim (as often happens) or to make a false start. It can also be used to frame the story, too.

    Play with it. See what feels right. And remember, I’m someone who built her audience on free fiction. I can tell you it works (or did for me).

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