November 4, 2013

"What's past is Prologue" - W. Shakespeare

Dear M,

My novel begins with a one-page prologue.

In its first draft form, there was no prologue, the story began from Chapter 1. Of course, in that form, it was as bare and empty as a skeleton. It took about a year (or more?) to get it into some shape. When I began expanding the story, I figured that a bit of backstory would be ideal. So I inserted it into the prologue. It looked good to me, and whatever looks good at first sight makes me suspicious. So I began to read up more on prologues.

The first advice I read was, Do not use prologues. So I closed the article and did not read any more. Because, try as I may, I could not find a way to remove my prologue. It could not be worked into the story. It could not be made Chapter 1. It could not be deleted. The novel could survive without any prologue, but it seemed clearer with a little light thrown into it at the start.

(Read up on the title of this post here.)

Now, after polishing the novel to its final gleam, I revisited the prologue. This time I was more open to reading about them and assessing their necessity. I knew I wasn't going to remove it from my story, but it was time to understand its purpose better.

This time I saw that the advice I had read and closed was not complete, there was more to it. It said, Do not use prologues for certain reasons. Here is one article that explains the purpose of the Prologue.

Do not use a prologue if it can be worked into the story, or if it is not needed, or if it can be renamed as Chapter 1. Most of all, do not use an excerpt from the novel as the Prologue.

I also Googled a bit on whether it is a good idea to send the Prologue to the publisher or agent when we query. Though there were several opinions for and against, most of the writers seemed to agree that it was better to send the prologue with the sample chapters. I agree, the Prologue is our first chapter, in a sense. It is the first thing that the reader reads. If the publisher or the agent finds it redundant, we could just drop it.

Write with the assumption that our story does not need a Prologue. But if something comes up that cannot fit in anywhere else, probably it could become the Prologue.


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