Tuesday, June 18, 2013
The craft of rewriting-Analysis-Prologue
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: May 05, 2013
The prologue should work as a way to tell our story from two different points, or to include information which is crucial to the plot that we cannot include in the body of the story.
When revising a prologue, we have to ask a few key questions:
Do we need a prologue?
Unnecessary prologues are a pet peeve of many readers. We don’t want to do something to annoy the reader from the first page, if we can avoid it. The reason for a prologue is that it must be vital to the reader’s understanding of the plot. A quick way to determine if the prologue we’ve written is necessary is to remove it and read the story. Are we missing anything important? Does the absence of the prologue remove information necessary to the rest of the plot? Then we change the prologue to Chapter One and read again, looking for the same details. If it changes nothing, the prologue is not needed. If it does no more than create atmosphere before the reader begins the real story, then delete it or slap a chapter on it and call it a day.
Can the contents of the prologue be doled out within the plot?
Many times, we think we need the prologue to provide back-story necessary to the plot. However, we can include this in small bits over several chapters. Look at the information contained in the prologue. If it can be dispersed or woven (not dumped) into another spot, then do so and eliminate it.
Is it written from the POV of a major player?
Although we stated that this is not a hard and fast rule, it is wise to set the prologue in the POV of a major character because the voice of the prologue should fit in with the genre and storyline of the main text. It can be written in the voice of a non-physical entity as well. If the POV character of the prologue doesn’t appear later, then we must make sure his presence is justified on the timeline.
Does it fulfill its function?
The prologue is the introduction to the story. It should establish setting and provide essential information that is impossible to convey in any other way. If we’ve done this, we go back to the first question and determine if this is information that the reader must have before chapter one. The prologue should not be used to mask a weak opening chapter or to set a better picture than we’ve built in the opening pages. It shouldn’t be an opening into the story itself. It should not be directly connected to the story at all. The prologue should be distinct and the reader should notice the change when moving from prologue to chapter one. If it does any of the “should nots,” odds are it is really a chapter. The place to set the atmosphere is in our prose, not the prologue. If we’ve included information in our prologue that is factual, filling the reader in on certain events or details, then our prologue may actually be a foreword.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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