To Prologue or Not to Prologue . . .

Back when I first started going semi-public with my writing, I joined an online crit group. Nice ladies, good writers. I had no idea what I was doing. Their critiques were like a new language: stop using gerunds, stick with one POV, what’s the hero’s GMC? (For days, I thought they were talking about a pick-up truck.)

I learned a lot from them. But one of the observations has kind of bothered me ever since, and I want someone to give me a definite answer. The reader said she liked my story, but I needed to lose the prologue, cause “editors hate prologues.”

Now, I am an avid fan of regencies, as y’all know. And I can tell you from extensive reading that prologues are thick on the ground in the genre. In general, I like them. They give you a little intriguing bit to start with, and you know you’ll get to figure it all out as you read the rest. At least, when they are done well they do.

So my question, which I really want an answer on, is this: Is a prologue a problem? I know I am assuming that I will do it well, which is always a risk. But do people (particularly agents and editors) just dislike prologues on principal?

My WIP right now is an historical with some paranormal elements. The story involves a medieval witch and her effect on her descendents centuries later. It is a cliché to say “the story cried out for a prologue,” but really, it did. It was the only way that made sense. Otherwise, I had the descendents sitting around doing the “let’s talk about stuff we already know so the reader can get the backstory” scene. Now, that seemed to be the kind of thing that would annoy an editor – or any reader.

So I am going with the prologue. Any editors or agents out there that I ever send it to, I apologize in advance. And you know something else? Sometimes, I’m gonna use a gerund. If that kills my writing for you, that’s bad. But to use awkward, artificial constructs because you “have to” write in a certain way seems worse than the things the rules prohibit. (BTW, I’ve got a book where a very-well known, NYT-list author hops into three heads in a single paragraph. Even I won’t go that far.)

And speaking of historicals, get some popcorn and let’s watch a movie . . .

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3 responses to “To Prologue or Not to Prologue . . .

  1. Like I told ya, a prologue is necessary for this story. Like you said, you don’t want your people sitting around talking about the past and how they got where they are now. AND when the past is not their own and occured hundreds of years ago, how ya gonna reminisce? Prologue it and then when you submit, tell the editor/agent you’re amenable to dropping it if the story works without it.

  2. by the way, read that second entry that was generated. Think it applies here.

  3. What second entry where? Huh? I’m so confused . . .

    But thank you for the advice. I am thinking it does have to have the prologue. But I will tell the editor we can do anything short of naming the hero “Hugh Grant” if they will give me a contract. (Heck, I could even live with a hero named Hugh.)

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