For those who live in the States HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY
This week my Quibble is called:
THAT DIRTY WORD
No, no, not that word. I’m talking about
Some readers hate ’em [or say they do].
My dictionary defines prologue as "the preface or introduction to a literary work." Does that mean that if/when I write a prologue I’ve written a literary work? Cool.
Another definition is: "An introductory or preceding event or development."
And that, my friends, is what I believe a good prologue should be . . . and most of the time they are. But, somehow, the prologue has gotten a bad rap. It’s a dirty word.
What I hear – a lot:
"I skip prologues."
"I don’t think you need ’em."
"Why can’t it be Chapter One?"
"I read a prologue that had nothing to do with the book."
That last quote is valid, IF a prologue has "nothing to do with the book." But I can’t believe a professional author sets out to write a prologue that has nothing to do with his/her book [or a book that has nothing to do with his/her prologue]. So WHY does the prologue have a bad rep?
I pulled a few books – at random and I didn’t cheat – from my bookshelf.
John Grisham’s The Firm doesn’t have a prologue.
Clive Cussler’s Raise TheTitanic has one, except he calls it a "Prelude."
Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides has a Prologue that ends thusly:
I will tell you my story.
Nothing is missing.
I promise you.
Tess Geritsen’s Body Double has a Prologue. Skip it and you’ve missed an important part of the book.
Harlan Coben’s Tell No One has no prologue. But it’s not Chapter One, either (that starts on page 11). The prologue that isn’t a prologue isn’t headed by any title. Clever Harlan.
And last but not least, Gordon Aalborg’s The Specialist. No Prologue, but Chapter One has a subtitle that reads:
[Where there be devils]
Once upon a fairly long time ago, I wrote a Prologue for FOOTPRINTS IN THE BUTTER. The Prologue took place at a high school reunion dance. Shortly thereafter, one of the reunionites gets thunked over the head with a miniature reproduction of "The Thinker." Chapter Two has Ingrid [my sleuth] discussing the murder with her friend Cee-Cee [who at age 60+ is still sleeping with her ex-husband, a cop – that way I can bring the cops in without bringing the cops in :::grin:::]. Ingrid talks about the people at the reunion dance and their motives and Cee-Cee responds. My agent asked if Cee-Cee "knew these people." My answer: "She does if she read my prologue."
The Prologue became Chapter Three — what I fondly called my "flashback Chapter." And yes, I had to rewrite the Ingrid/Cee-Cee scene. [To your left is the large-print edition – Trade paperback in the US, hardcover in the UK,]
Today I’m schizy about putting Prologues in my books. As a mid-list author, I can’t afford to lose one potential reader, so I tend to write my prologues under the guise of an introduction.
Here’s a [short] intro to my next book, THE LANDLORD’S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER, a "paranormal history-mystery romance."
6, April, 1766
Seated beside the open coffin, the watchers waited. They waited
to see whether Barbara Wyndham’s body moved. They watched intently while
mourners trailed past. Blind belief said that if Barbara’s body began to
bleed, ‘twould identify her murderer.
There was some question as to whether Barbara had suffered a
seizure of the heart and fallen and hit her head on a rock. Or had she been
struck by some unknown hand?
Seven-year-old Elizabeth Wyndham watched with the watchers, but
her mother remained motionless.
"Mama," Elizabeth whispered, "are ye sleeping?"
"Your mother sleeps evermore, my Bess," said Lawrence Wyndham,
lifting his daughter up into his arms.
Elizabeth pressed her tear-streaked face against his shoulder.
At the same time she wondered with a twinge of fear how it would feel to
Is that a prologue? Sure it is. It’s a "preceding event" — a thread that runs throughout the book. But I "cheat" by heading it with a date [rather than "that dirty word"].
The other day I found an interesting prologue. It’s on my pillow. It says: "Do not remove tag under penalty of law."
It’s a very successful prologue because I want to know more. Like, why?
Over and Out,