Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Start this way! No this way!

Meets 1st Wed of Month
Yes, I'm confused. That is why I take part in the  Insecure Writers Support Group hosted by the popular blogmaster ninja, Alex!

Here is my problem this month...

Dear Fellow Writers,
     I've been saving this dilemma to ask you all with your infinite writerly wisdom!

How do you feel about prologues?

     What I've learned from the majority so far is:
  • the MC should be introduced right away and
  • start with action or intrigue
     These are important tips, necessary to hook readers (and potential agents)
     The problem I have is that my first chapter (which could be a prologue) is an incident showing the root of the problem in the book and the character dies (not the MC). My MC doesn't show up until chapter 2, two years later on a regular day that introduces him with his mysterious client showing up at the end of the chapter. My questions to you:
  1. Should the incident be a prologue or is it okay to be chapter one?
  2. When someone asks for pages (and for query submission guidelines) do you send the prologue?
     Does it even matter? Am I stressing over nothing?
     Thanks in advance for your answers, you are always so helpful!
                                                         Stressy Bessy

And to ease some of my stress, I haiku. I present Sensational Haiku Wednesday on Nature - getting back to haiku roots (hee hee)


Ambling vines stretch
Up dilapidated wall
Kudzu will outlive

After destruction
Green emerges through concrete
Weeds overtake earth

Thinking, reasoning,
Imagining, Exploring
Human nature blooms


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Always a tough call, because some really like and some really despise prologues.
What you described above is how my first book begins. The prologue shows someone dying and then the first chapter introduces the two main characters, both of whom will be affected by that event. And ironically, the prologue was at the request of my publisher!

carol l mckenna said...

Hear 'nature' calling in your haiku ~ well done ~ thanks ~~ namaste, carol (A Creative Harbor) linked SHW

Unknown said...

It's hard to know without reading it, but it sounds like a prologue. And from what I've heard from agents, you don't send it with the query. You start with chapter one. But I'm sure this is subjective like everything else.

Miranda Hardy said...

It's subjective. Some like them, some don't. I don't have an opinion either way. I've enjoyed some prologues I've read.


Most interesting issue here.

From a fellow poet.


Jennifer Joyce said...

I don't mind a prologue, as long as it's necessary to have it and it isn't simply chapter one with a different title.

anthonynorth said...

Ah, writing about nature always eases those writing stresses. Nice one.

Kyra Lennon said...

The start of your book sounds more like a prologue, but I am not an expert! Just my opinion. :D

Charity Bradford said...

Prologues! They will drive you crazy if you let them. My advice is to do what feels right for your story.

I went back and forth for a year with mine and in the end I realized only I could decide if it was right for my novel. In the end, I started with a prologue. It's about the beginning of one of my minor character's journey but it starts 300 years before the present. It was the only way to do it and have it make sense. Now when he appears again in chapter 6 the reader has that "wait, wasn't he the guy in the prologue? he's 300 years old?" moment. I kind of like it. :)

Good luck!

Karen said...

Nature is the best medicine, lovely haiku!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Love that haiku!

You know, I've been reading "Hooked" and I don't know if I should wipe out my first slow moving chapter, or change it or what. I understand your dilemma, but I'm afraid I don't have the answer. Supposedly we need to hook our audience with action, intrigue, suspense, and our MC all on the first page, but I know I've read recently published books that started with prologues, and a short build up to action. . .hope someone here has better advice for you.

Kathy Reed said...

Vines, weeds, blooms...I think you've got it...well I know you do!

Cassie Mae said...

You know what I do? I make my cps decide, lol.

I write a prologue and send it to one of them. Then send just chapter one to another. I don't tell them either.

You know what? I didn't need the prologue. Both cps got the same out of the book with and without it. So it went bye bye!

Shallee said...

I agree with what others have said-- prologues are hard to judge! Some work well, some seem just like fluff. If you and your critique partners feel like it works for your book, then maybe it does! I wouldn't stress too much.

Anonymous said...

seems to me that common sense dictates here. If the reader needs some background info. to the story, it would need a pro log. Just as long as it catches their interest at the same time.

Anonymous said...

oops, misspelled prologue. ha-ha

Samantha May said...

For me it always depends on how long the prologue is. I generally like to get to the point, but I'm not against having some background information beforehand as long as it isn't several pages long.


As the song say"I am what I am.


G-Man said...

Tara Tyler...
There are many forms of stress relief!!!
Haikus? It certainly works for you!
Great job...:-)

Laura said...

I don't mind a prologue, as long as it isn't a lazy way of getting around a potentially cool/gritty bit of story that should be a part of the main events... Lx

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

Kudzu is prologue to ultimate destruction!

Blossom by Blossom

M Pax said...

Some prologues are great and relevant, some aren't. Some agents won't read them or consider them. I rewrote my first novel to get rid of the prologue.

It depends though. Great answer, huh? It's hard to know without reading.

Gwen Gardner said...

I don't really care for prologues. When I start a book I want to move forward, not backward. If it's relatively short, though, I don't mind too much. Also, I love Haiku!!! Yours is great:)

Kelley Lynn said...

It does sound like a prologue, but I'm with Cassie. I let my CPs decide. :)

MISH said...

Love your creative nature haiku trio!!
Wrt prologues - not too sure about this...

Heather M. Gardner said...

Stressy Bessy,
I think you should leave it as Chapter 1. If the 'incident' that you mention is an action scene (which I believe it is) and it sets up the whole premise of the story, I think it can stay as Chapter 1.
When your story gets picked up by an agent, and they want to change it to a prologue, so be it.
Just my humble opinion.

Tara Tyler said...

thanks for all your advice! i love the varied opinions! you give me perspectives i didnt think of!

Annalisa Crawford said...

I've never used prologues myself, but I don't mind if I'm reading a book with them. The need has just never come up for me. I plunge into the action and use flashbacks. In fact, I probably use flashbacks more than some people would like me to. If it feels right, use it.

Rena said...

Prologues are tricky business. I've read a few really great prologues, and I've read a few really crummy ones. The problem is that you have to start a novel twice. If a prologue is really short, but sets up the MC, then that's perfect (think of books like Once a Witch, that's a great prologue).

But here's the problem with prologues: people skip them. If the information is utterly vital to your story, then you shouldn't put it in a place that people might skip.

Have you considered finding a way to transfer the information in your current, MC free, first chapter to scraps or flash backs, or notes in other parts of the book. It's hard to start without your MC on stage, but I know how vital information can be. So yeah, it's a hard place. Good luck.

Tonja said...

I would do whatever you think works best to lure in the readers and keep them reading. (Terrible answer. I just don't know.)

Christine Rains said...

Lovely haiku. As for prologues, I try to avoid them when writing. I prefer to start with action. Yet sometimes, especially in fantasy, a little introduction to the world is needed. Prologues help with that.

Cherie Reich said...

Wonderful haiku!

And I'm with you about the prologue confusion. I have the same problem with my first novel. Whether I call it "prologue" or "chapter 1" it has to be in there. Personally, I'd keep calling it "chapter 1" and sending it to agents. Some don't like prologues and once it is accepted for publication, then no one really cares what it is called. Although how does your novel read without that chapter? If nothing is lost, then the prologue/chapter 1 might not even be necessary. It's a hard decision. Good luck!

Suzy said...

Great Haiku. loved the last verse.

Jenn said...

Hey, hey. I think it's a mixed bag when it comes to Prologues. I think they should hint at story but do not necessarily need to introduce the main character but events that those within the piece will have to deal with.

Best example I can think of off the top of my head is "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

I have heard that some agents are very anti-prologue, so I wonder if it can be left out of submissions if the beginning of the piece gets the ball rolling. The prologue attracts intrigue but if the main character and events will take time to build a reader may be waiting in anticipation. Either way I think one has to do what they feel is best for their piece and not necessarily worry about what the industry thinks.

If the piece will work sans prologue go for it!

Jenn @ Youknow...that Blog? said...

Nature is a force to be reckoned with, indeed! Nicely done!

I agree with the majority; the MC should be introduced right away, and in a way that resonates with the reader. Nothing I like better than a book I can't put down, and always there is a meaty character that has me hooked from the get-go.

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