I printed off the first ten pages of my new opening to ‘The Long Way Home’ and passed it out for critiquing Tuesday evening at the Hamilton Writer’s meeting at Chester’s Beers of the World. I got a few kudos, the usual helpful notes on phrasing and word choice – and a very spirited debate broke out on the subject of prologues.
I’ve never had a prologue in this story, but I won’t deny that it’s a story that could arguably use it in terms of establishing the fictional world, because the Earth of ‘The Long Way Home’ is not Earth as we know it. Not only are there magik spells and royalty and wizards, but the seven royal families are spread fairly evenly about the planet – one to a continent, more or less, except for a bit of reshuffling involving Antarctica which isn’t really important for this book. The main character is a princess of the Royal Family of North America, which is definitely a concept that a lot of people might find surprising. Also, there are talking animals, a race of dinosaur-like people called Saurians, and halfbreed Saurians who still show some reptilian traits but are closer to human than ‘true-blood’ Saurians. The general level of technology is 1950s, (possibly because transistors in this universe can’t be miniaturized beyond a certain point,) and the culture is modern in some ways and Victorian or even older in others. It’s a lot of little changes to pick up as you read, I suppose.
So, as I said, the feelings on the subject of prologues to explain the world/universe of the story were quite vehement, including one gentleman who became passionate in his opinion that prologues are never needed and seldom valuable. (It got a bit awkward because Rob’s piece that he brought for critique was headed as a Prologue, though his was character-centered and action-based and not nearly what people were discussing for my book.) I’m not really clear on whether I want to write a short prologue or not, but I’m convinced that I need to do something better to establish the world of the story at the beginning.
And I’m not sure how that fits in with my other goal for the start of the novel of hooking the reader right away. Is it possible to hook the reader with a prologue that’s about your world instead of about characters? Are they seperate goals that I have to accomplish one after the other, or side by side?
Comments and input gratefully appreciated.
I sort of answered this question in a critque that I gave you on SW. I’m anti-prologue, unless it’s something entirely relevant to the story that captures the reader’s attention.
I’ve been so interested in the pro-prologue/anti-prologue debate. Although I don’t have any problem with prologues myself, it seems like a lot of people do, so with that in mind, I’m trying to stay away from prologues in my novels if I can!