Monday, May 17, 2010

To prologue or not to prologue?

That's my question of the day.

Almost all the "How To" blogs I've seen say prologues are a no-go, that they're just a backstory/info dump, that whatever you need to say can and should be said in the first chapter. In fact, many industry-types think the real start of your story is somewhere around what you currently call chapter 3-4.

But if prologues are dead, and agents/editors/publishers truly don't want to see them, then why do so many recent YA books (and some very popular, mind you) still have them?

Here are a few examples (sorry, I'm too lazy to include the links):
Becca Fitzpatrick--Hush, Hush
Bree Despain--The Dark Divine
Lauren Oliver--Before I Fall
Rachel Hawkins--Hex Hall
Simon Holt--The Devouring
Sara Zarr--Story of a Girl
E.R. Frank--Wrecked
Lisa Mangum--The Hourglass Door
Stephanie Kuehnert--Ballads of Suburbia
And, of course, Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn ... all by some girl no one's ever heard of.

I admit, I have a soft spot for prologues. Always have. But do they add to the story, or are they just a cheap plot device for a story that falls flat in chapter 1?

My personal opinion? Sometimes prologues work, sometimes they don't (immensely helpful, I know). But as for me, I think I'm going to take the advise of someone whose opinion really matters: my 15-year-old cousin-in-law, Jenna (who reads like a crazy person and is way too pretty for her own good).

When I loaned Jenna Hush, Hush (which she loved), I asked her if she thought the prologue was a little weird. She said, "Oh, I don't read prologues. I just skip over them and start with the first chapter. I figure if it's that important or if I get confused or whatever, I can come back to it later."

I don't know about you guys, but that's all the information I need.


storyqueen said...

My name is Storyqueen and I'm a prologue liker. There, I said it.

I agree that it all depends on the story. I had one in a ms....took it out.....put it back in.

If it needs to be there, then it should be there.


MeganRebekah said...

I'm with your cousin. I don't read prologues either. I can't think of any that truly added to the story in a way that couldn't have been otherwise done.

Have you read Fallen? The prologue takes away pretty much all the mystery from the real plot because we know the hero's reasons for being the way he is, and it's annoying to watch the MC be so confused.

Hardygirl said...

I like prologues. It's like a little hint of what's to come (when it's done well), and it gives me something to watch out for as I'm reading the story.


Little Ms J said...

Prologues are fine with me if they're like a hint at something. If they're an information dump I'm out like a trout.

Bobbie said...

I've been thinking of calling the prologue for my WIP "Chapter -1" just to avoid the whole issue.