A Use for Prologues

I had this idea the other day while messing with different types of beginnings. A lot of the books I’ve read lately, especially in YA, have prologues. And yet, every source of advice either says never to write a prologue, or makes very limited conditions as to when one might be acceptable. Even in that latter case, it’s “acceptable,” not suggested or desirable.

My opinion is not in favour of prologues. I think they tend to be infodumps or poorly written asides that work neither as true beginnings or even the text crawl in Star Wars. But they carry with them a sort of false importance that makes it hard for some (most?) readers to just skip them.

I know that if I had skipped the prologue in Cinders & Sapphires, I would have been hopelessly confused. It contained information vital to understanding one of the main characters’ actions. It was also the most poorly written part of the whole book, and dumped that information like a load of garbage.

But yesterday I had a thought. What if a prologue could be used as a way to get over new project jitters?

Start writing a prologue that you are never going to use. Continue to chapter one. Leave the prologue there for a while, just to give weight to the project. Then, when you’re comfortable getting rid of it, just delete it, or cross out the pages it covered.

You could even keep your garbage prologue around for the editing process so that you can start it with a mass deletion that won’t make you feel anxious. Editing out the dross is hard.  Tricks might make it easier.

I don’t know if this would work for everyone. Certainly people who always or often write prologues would rail against it. Which would make me certain they ought to do it at least once. People who hate prologues… fifty-fifty chance this would help.

Writing tricks always perk me up. I like to try new things.

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