Friday, 9 May 2014

To prologue or not to prologue?

I love a good prologue.

These days in literary circles, that single sentence causes all kinds of outrage, but it's true - I love prologues. There! I said it again.

My books Torn and Inviolate both have prologues. What's more, they have epilogues too! Does that make me twice the criminal?

The reason I've raised this point this week is that I've noticed more and more writers and critics are bagging the prologue and epilogue.

In fact a lady who wrote a critique for Torn gave a glowing review of the book but commented that it could have done without the first and last chapters.

Okay, firstly let me say I don't have a problem with people's reviews - everyone's entitled to an opinion. But the problem I had when I read this was that to me, prologues and epilogues are not chapters. According to Dr. Google, a prologue is "a preface" or "a separate introductory section".

Google defines an epilogue as "... a conclusion to what has happened."

I like prologues. I like epilogues. I believe that prologues give you a bit of background information that doesn't necessarily affect the story as a whole but the reader is better off for knowing it.

Same with epilogues - they tie all the lose ends up really nicely.

When I first wrote Torn, I had only a prologue, but my whip-cracker of an editor, the lovely Jane Woodhead, suggested I add an epilogue so the story had a top and tail to it.

Inviolate was written with an epilogue but no prologue because I felt the reader needed the closure at the end but didn't necessarily need the background information at the start. Once again, Jane pulled out her whip and catchaow! I added the prologue - she likes things bundled up all nicely, does Jane.

Ultimately, I think she was right, and in the end I liked the result.

In some arenas, there's a push to do away with the prologue and epilogue. They're seen as passe, a bit of a thing of the past. 

But who makes the rules?

Stephenie Meyer, in her Twilight series, wrote a prologue for each of the books - didn't seem to impact the popularity of the series at all.

At the other end of the spectrum, Shakespeare was rather partial to the odd prologue and epilogue too. The one that springs to my mind is the three witches scene in MacBeth. It was actually written as Act 1, Scene 1 but it's more like a prologue because it only goes for about ten lines and sets the scene just as a prologue would - well I see it as a prologue anyway.

I've just finished reading a light-hearted romance that has a prologue. I quite liked reading it because by the time the story-proper started, I knew what had gone on and lead to the situation our hero found himself in.

It finished off with an epilogue that tied up all the loose ends, and being a stickler for such things, left me feeling satisfied. I had closure on the main characters within the final chapters of the story, but the epilogue gave me closure on the lesser characters and the sub-plots.

So, in summary, I suppose I'd say that some people may avoid prologues and epilogues, while others may staunchly defend them. I find myself firmly among the latter group although I do believe that people should make up their own minds.

And as I said previously, who makes the rules? Is there a rule about this? Not sure, but I do know I'll keep writing prologues and epilogues provided I follow that other, more legit rule: Never put something in your story just because you like it - make sure it adds something to the story.

Oh bye the way, I didn't tell you that I finally got around to reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I'm embarrassed to admit how ignorant about Afghanistan I was. Contrary to what I'd thought, this book, despite its themes and descriptions, was easy to read and, on the whole, an enjoyable one.

If you're looking for something different and you haven't read it already, I'd recommend you get yourself a copy.

The book I'm currently reading is another one I should have read years ago - that great Australian classic The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.  I downloaded it for my Kindle and started reading it on the plane (I'm writing this from downtown Rome, ah che bella!)

I'll tell you what I think of it when I've finished, meanwhile, watch this space - I'll post some nice pics over the coming weeks of one of the most beautiful cities in the world - and certainly, other than Melbourne, Rome's my favourite city in the world.

If you want more pictures, hop on to my Instagram account. You'll find me on KarenTurnerAuthor.

Alrighty then, that brings me to a close, so until next week, ciao tutti!

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