Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prologue or no Prologue, that is the question

Prologues and Zombies, oh my!

ZOMBIE KILLER by *zhuzhu on deviantART

Everyone has an opinion about prologues in stories these days, and lots of confusion surrounding the subject. Many agents are blogging that they don't want to see prologues leading off stories in the slush pile, and yet, books are still being published with prologues on the first page.

I haven't really understood the anti-prologue stance. If done well, they work just fine. That's the problem -- they have to be kick ass, especially if you're going to give up that vital real estate, the all important first page, to them.

Seth Fishman of Sterling Lord Literistic was recently interviewed in the Guide to Literary Agents blog, and he had some of the best advice I've seen yet on the subject.

"This is very personal, as some problems aren’t problems, they are clearly preference. But often a prologue is a problem. It usually means that there is something shoved into the beginning of the novel to add excitement. (Yes, Twilight has a prologue, but you tell me if it adds anything to the book – I’d say sloppy writing, but I suppose this is a perfect example of how subjective the industry is). Letters, people awakening in the first scene, really dramatic flashbacks/flash-forwards are often turnoffs, not because the writing is bad or you can’t do that as a writer, but to me, it is familiar, and feels uninventive. Again, there is nothing wrong with doing anything you want to start a book, but if you do the same thing everyone else is doing, you better make it stand out."
I'd argue his stance that adding excitement by using a prologue is sloppy writing, but I do agree that if you're using a prologue or opening that agents have seen a million times before, it better be the absolute best opening ever, and so crucial to the story you couldn't imagine the book without it.

Also, I was glad to see that he preferred vampires to zombies. What is it with zombie fiction, anyway? I don't like zombies in my movies and I don't like them in books. They are just too yucky. Really. YUCK.

Okay, wait, I do have to say that I like how Laurell K. Hamilton uses zombies in her Anita Blake books, but that's because Anita is a necromancer, so it's raising the dead is her job. But it's just something she does, just one aspect of a world filled with all kinds of supernatural critters.


1 comment:

  1. First off, I agree about zombies. I like gore as much as the next girl (okay, probably MORE than the next girl), but I just don't get the zombie cachet.

    Regarding prologues, I generally dislike them too. Usually skip them, in fact...or skim them, at best. If you need a prologue, you've not done your job as a writer, in my estimation as a READER. Get me to the meat of the book. I don't need a warm-up. Guess that means most prologues I've read have been, well, poorly written!