On Prologues

When is a good time to write a prologue?

I really don’t know how to answer that for you. Using a prologue in your story shouldn’t be something taken lightly though. I know how it is, you sit at your computer and you write the story that comes to your mind, and it’s good. Really, really good. It’s some of the best lines you’ve ever written, and then you realize that your actual story starts much later. So what do you do? You title it PROLOGUE and then go on to where the story begins.

As I mentioned in my post on Friday, for the most part prologues are nothing more than glorified back story. Back story with a title. It also can be seen as lazy writing. Ouch! Truth hurts sometimes, but I didn’t come to this opinion out of ignorance. Nope. I came to it out of experience.

Let’s look at my upcoming release in March 2014 as an example. The beginning of the story actually starts seven years before when Queen Athaliah went on a murderous rampage and had all heirs to the throne destroyed. I could have used it as the inciting incident to get my story going. It has plenty of action and it’s the reason my hero is where he is and meets the heroine. However, that section of the story comprises only about 3% of my word count. 97% of my word count occurs several years later, and that is where I needed to start my story. Of course, I didn’t know that until I had some guidance from my awesome editor. And yes, I had to cut that chapter.

Why would I want to keep the prologue in my story if the reader knows what the story line is from it? My prologue revealed the queen’s rampage, the surviving child king, my hero’s mission to protect the child and introduced my heroine. In less than 2,000 words any smart reader, and I’m guessing most readers are smart, would know exactly how my story would end. So why waste precious time reading the rest of the story?

Instead, I started my story where I should have. I gave the hero and heroine a great beginning and then I slowly reveal secrets that hopefully keep the reader turning the page, which is our job.

Chalk up that awesome writing as getting to know your characters’ goals and motivations. Dump the prologue, unless it is absolutely necessary and sprinkle your back story in strategic places like salt. Not too heavy, not in large doses, but just right.

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