I’ve been wrestling with the idea of a prologue for some time now. Crude Sunlight has one, and though I’ve decided to keep it, the decision sits uneasily with me, and is apt to change depending on how the wind blows. This comes as a result of Elmore Leonard’s advice that prologues should be avoided, since they’re usually just backstory, and can be incorporated into the body of the novel. Not only that, but some agents don’t even want to see the prologue when reading submissions, and many people skip books with prologues altogether.
So imagine my relief when I read this passage from Marie Brennan’s post over at sfnovelists.com:
A prologue should be set off from the rest of the narrative somehow. It takes place some time beforehand, or maybe you’re trying the delicate trick of giving us the end of the book first. Maybe it has a different pov character. It shows something important to the main narrative, something you could give to us later on, but it will be more interesting if we see it happen.
It shows. We see. Because for the love of little fishies, give me an actual scene, give me compelling characters and their conflicts just like you would in the rest of the book, or don’t give me a prologue in the first place.
This exactly describes what I tried to do. I fit the bill, I’m right on the money, I’m sitting on the hot seat! Not that Ms. Brennan is the end all be all of authorities, but she vocalizes what I was trying to do and affirms it perfectly.
So–thanks to you, Ms. Brennan, and onwards with the prologue!