The word before the word

Short one today, just to add a link about prologues that I think is cool from Nathan Bransford’s blog.


One thought on “The word before the word

  1. Well, I went and looked and I have to say that while I was itching to comment, it would have been pointless… adding my thoughts to 157 other people who are thinking aloud or talking to externally validate their POV just seems silly.

    Amazing that he has so many people reading his blog. I have to wonder why.

    Nathan says at one point, that a prologue makes a reader start the story twice and I was like, “AH HA! And that’s exactly what’s wrong with the world in a nut shell. No one is looking to immerse themselves in a book anymore. Like watching a Hollywood movie, people want it all to happen NOW if not sooner, and BIGGER if not huge.” I’m not saying that writing like Anne Rice, the current Queen of Useless Description, should be the norm, but crafting a story and allowing it to grow organically should be the rule, not the exception.

    A friend is reading Pynchon’s latest, _Against the Day_, but only a chapter at a time. He wants to make it last as long as possible. THAT’S good writing. Becoming a member of the immediate sphere surrounding the hero or heroine in a novel, THAT’S good writing. When you think about the story, analyze every detail until you can walk the hero’s world without risking bumping into things, then you hang onto that author, prologue or no.

    Because a prologue not only sets the mood, it prepares you for what’s to come. Details that are important *right away*–but don’t intersect the hero’s immediate needs–go here. Sure they might be repeated in a different form later, but if the reader needs to know something before the action starts, then the prologue is an author’s best friend.

    When I wrote my first *serious* novel, it began with a prologue. Those people who have been kind enough to read it agree that it was absolutely necessary. The fashion in writing at the time, however, was that prologues were frowned upon.

    “If you have to keep it, make it chapter one.”

    “Why,” I wonder here in cyberspace, “would I include _in the story_ characters that never appear again?”

    “Add an epilogue,” they suggest.

    “Oh, I see,” says I. “Migrate that opening bit to the end of the story and suddenly resurrect a character that got a fleeting mention in chapter one and then mysteriously vanished. Riiiight. Good plan. I’ll get right on that.”

    Prologues are a useful tool and should never suffer the vagaries of fashion in the same way that readers should be drawn into a writer’s well crafted realm.

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