Rule Number Two for Writing a Modern Novel

February 22, 2013 at 6:48 am

Avoid Prologues

This one I haven’t broken yet, although I am considering it with my latest novel. I honestly think it will work better with a prologue.

The dictionary defines a prologue as a ‘separate introductory section of literary or musical work’. Basically, it’s a (usually) brief section that establishes the setting of the story. Some have also been teasers of what will happen later in the novel. Perhaps it could be argued that writers do that to try and keep the reader’s interest through a boring beginning, but I’m not sure that could be applied in every case.

I recently started writing a manuscript that is being written for the Christian market. However, it’s difficult to tell in the first two chapters, which are told from the point of view of a man who does not exactly keep to Christian values. So do I need a prologue to introduce my other protagonist, who is the Christian who butts heads with this man? My own read-throughs have given me the impression that it would be a good idea to do this, if only to reassure my conservative audience.

So why would this list of rules for modern novels make a blanket statement saying that prologues should be avoided? I know that some readers don’t read the prologue, so that may well be the reason why, but perhaps that’s just a good reason for keeping it brief. I don’t think they should be more than a few paragraphs – a page or two at the most. I guess if it’s just mood setting for the story it’s not a bad thing if people skip it, but it probably depends on the story. Certainly, if your prologue is as long as chapter one, perhaps it would be better to make the prologue into chapter one and go from there!

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