In episode 9, Jeni and Melissa talk about prologues while testing out a fun new format: video!
To watch the video, click the image below.
Or listen to the audio podcast here: EPISODE 9 Prologues.
Welcome to the Indie Chicks show! I’m Melissa Koberlein, an author and professor of publishing, and she’s Jeni Chappelle, a freelance novel editor.
Indie Chicks celebrates and supports independent women in publishing. We’re a place for writers at all stages of the publishing process. So, whether you’re on the traditional route to publication or self-publishing, you’ve come to the right place for advice.
On this episode:
We’re talking about prologues
End with an author tip of the week
Here's the Q&A
Spill, what do you really feel about prologues? Like ‘em? Don’t like ‘em?
Jeni: Like a lot of things in writing, I like it when it works and don’t like it when it doesn’t work. Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of prologues that don’t work, and that has made me feel more skeptical about prologues as a rule. The good thing about that though is that when I see one that works, it gets me very excited about the rest of the book.
Melissa: According to Merriam-Webster: a prologue is an introductory or preceding event or development. I feel like it should be that. In Greek dramas a single actor would typically come on stage for a prologue to set the scene for the audience.
Let’s talk about some “cheesy” prologue tropes, ie, what not to do in a prologue. What do you take into consideration when you’re writing your prologues?
M: An entire scene that takes place before the book begins that has nothing to do with the plot. Worldbuilding/info dumps are also not what I see as a worthy prologue. For me, I like to engage or catch the reader’s attention with a prologue. Typically, I’ll have the main character or an important character(s) play a part in the prologue.
J: Another problem I see sometimes is a prologue that really pulls in the reader, followed by a slow, boring Chapter One. You want a prologue that will give your readers a promise of what's to come, but then the next chapter has to deliver.
How long should prologues be? Any essential components that need to be there?
J: Like chapters, there isn’t one specific set length for what works. The general consensus is a prologue should be “short.” I’ve seen a lot of advice that says this means it should be shorter than your average chapter length. For me personally, I’ve rarely seen one longer than 2-3 pages that works well.
Writers seem to love to write prologues and sometimes say it feels “restrictive” not to write them. If a prologue isn’t working, how can a writer get that information into the story in a different way?
M: That’s a tough one. I see prologues as the ‘before.’ So, for me, it would have to be in backstory. I prefer the prologue, but if it isn’t working, maybe it’s because it’s too long? A good prologue should set the mood/tone of the novel.
J: Agree with all of that. If you find your prologue doesn’t work, I usually suggest looking at the information to decide if it needs to be “shown” or “told.” More often than not, it needs to be told through short snippets of exposition instead of a whole scene. I call this “breadcrumbs”--leading your reader down the path with small bites of information instead of a whole scene just to get that information into the story.
Tip of the week: If you’re planning to query a story with a prologue, research how the agent feels about prologues. Some agents prefer not to see them in query packages and would only want to know once you send additional materials.
On our next podcast, we will have another video and talk to agent Kelly Peterson about pitching at conferences. We will also have another Tip of the Week. And don’t forget where to find us! Find our podcast at indiechicks.net or follow us on Spotify or subscribe to Indie Chicks on iTunes. Please rate us! You can follow us on Twitter @Indie_Chicks or Facebook.com/TheIndieChicks. And now you can subscribe to our YouTube channel too!
So, remember, we’re all part of a publishing community, be kind and review your fellow authors’ books. Thanks for listening!
Indie Chicks out.