Interesting writing prompt for this week’s blog challenge, a really relevant one for me. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly become a better writer than I already am, (just kiddin’ 🙂 ), I discovered the beauty of a prologue (not kiddin’ about that), and highly recommend using them to writers who have not tried it. (Not kiddin’ about that either).
Seriously, though… prologues?… no. Up until recently, I never used one in any of my works, not in the true sense of one. Then I did in my last novel I finished this month, from the experience I realised it’s a game changer for the story, reader and me as a writer…. yes, it improved all three elements of the latter.
When I published the first book I ever completed, the publisher at the time really encouraged prologues in books, but what I have learned since then is that how they encouraged their use, was not really a prologue in its true form. It was more like a copy and paste of an existing part of the book, to ‘grab the reader’ , I was told at the time. So I went with it, it really made no difference to me, the story I don’t think or even the reader. As they re-read the same thing later in the book. From research, from what I understand and correct me if I’m wrong, a prologue is an introduction or scene setting and not something that appears again later down the line.
In my most recent works Sacrifices a romantic suspense, with a hint of history to it, once it went through a round of editing, my editor pointed out ‘Kim, this really needs something here.’ I walked away like ‘hmm, okay so I need to add a new scene to ‘introduce’ the story.’ This is largely as, if you have seen the film Pulp Fiction, I have
‘stolen’ ‘been inspired’ the talented movie director Quentin Tarantino’s, excellent story telling technique. I start my story twenty-five years ago, but not twenty-five years ago from the present day…from the 1960s! Which makes the opening scene the mid- late 1980s…then tell the story ‘back to front’ if you like, to end up in the present day, while moving through different points and key events from 1960s- 1980s in different countries, and then the present day!
I know I’m nuts, right!? Imagine how much fact checking and challenge it was, to give birth to a story like that. Thankfully, and very proudly it works, it came together finally. So anyway, once I got that feedback I reflected, then decided I do need a prologue in the present day, before we head back and move forward. I really researched into what the general feel is on prologues, and the use of them as I never worked with one, or used one before properly. I’ve simply never needed to. A lot of what I read, stated that ‘you should be able to tell the story without a prologue or a epilogue.’ I reflected, I saw this point of view and understood it, as that’s how felt before, I wrote Sacrifices.
I also read a lot of articles that advised romance writers to ‘stay away from them’! One very popular romance author wrote a very interesting article advocating using one, also stating that in her experience ‘readers loved them’, especially epilogues. Yes…I used an epilogue also, but this was already there due to the nature of the story, and ending.
So in all honesty, I believe that as a writer, experimenting with a prologue has actually made me a bit of a stronger writer. It feel it has also added an extra layer of ‘wow, that’s a cool story, and not a rehash of current romance themes’ to my current work. I also feel that readers will be able to keep up with the pace, and connect with the story, due to the technique I used to write it with the addition of the prologue.
Now, I’m a strong supporter from this experience, and I’ve learned what a true prologue is, not a copy and past to ‘grab someone’. It’s a whole new scene, setting, part of the story or peel of the onion to unwrap, to draw a reader in. It’s also very very helpful when writing from a historical perspective, where you are not always in the present day.
Yeah…I think I’ve convinced myself that I am a prologue lover, as well as a epilogue lover and I would do it all over again, if the story called for it with no hesitation. I’m always one to happily break rules to…so as a romance writer, I won’t ‘stay away’ from them as generally in the genre it’s not something that is used often or supported, so they say. I’ll do what the story is calling me to, and allow myself to become better and write stronger stories by not being bound to rules! So in response to this week’s writing prompt for romance writers ‘ prologues helpful, or hurtful?‘…. Helpful 100%. I recommend you all do too, look at your last or current works, regardless of what you write or your genre. Do you need a prologue, what about an epilogue? It might just help, and change the game.