Monday, September 17, 2012

Do You Prologue?

By Steve Weddle

Found some interesting discussions around the web (olde tyme) about whether to included a prologue in your query when searching for an agent.

When sending out queries, I have noted that most agents ask for, in addition (of course) to a great query letter, a synopsis and the first chapter (or more) to get a sense of the writers ability, etc. What do you do with the prologue? The novel I am working on has a short (3 page) prologue. My reason for putting this in is to generate several questions that I hope will make the reader want to read the whole story. The prologue is actually about what happens as the end of the story, without giving away the final outcome. Since it is completely out of sequence with the beginning of the story, I can't see making it a separate scene of chapter 1. So, can it be sent along with the requested chapter 1? Or should I just make it the opening scene and not worry about the fact that it is not in sequence with the rest of the chapter?
Prologue in queries?
Query Shark deals with a submitter who sends five pages, all prologue. She says that none of the characters mentioned in the query show up in the prologue, so it seems like another book. And she says, "That's one of the (many) problems with prologues. When you query with pages, start with chapter one, page one. Leave OUT the prologue." from edittorent

I'd suggest never, ever writing a prologue. You'll be safe then.

But if you're writing a thriller about an artifact and you need to show that the Antikythera mechanism is a powerful piece of ancient tech that will allow Dr. Nastyballz to overtake the planet's water supply, do you include that prologue?

You know, the top of the page says something like

Alexandria, 142 BC

all in italics and all.

Blah, blah, blah. Old spooky crap.

Then, the scene ends all dramatic and shit.

Then, BAM, you're into Chapter One in which our hero, the brilliant but troubled Dr. Huffenpuggle, is trapped in a museum, running for his life and being chased by guards or assassins or his angry ex-wife with whom he keeps an on/off relationship (but he secretly loves her and she loves him but will they ever be able to set aside whatever it was and get back together?) and there he goes running.

So, do you query starting with PROLOGUE or with CHAPTER ONE?

I'm thinking go with Chapter One. It's a better hook.


Nick said...

Depends on the book, I imagine.
And on who it was you're querying.
Some agents just want a sample don't they?

Don Lafferty said...

No prologue.

Anonymous said...

If the prologue is short who cares

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I get a little annoyed with the anti-prologue bias, considering that some very good writers have used them as teasers. If it's such a crutch, why does, say, Sean Chercover use one? I'd argue his is a better novel for it.

EA said...

I would caution against mutilating a book or writing style to fit queries. They can be like strait-jackets for fresh stories. Good work, good reviews and a reputation are all a writer needs to land a deal. A query doesn't even need to come into play.

Jack Badelaire said...

Even though I'm not farming my books out to publishers, I've run into this before, with Amazon previews. My first novel is, essentially, the origin story of a vigilante turned killer-for-hire. The first chapter (it's really too long to be a prologue) takes place "now", while the rest of the book takes places a decade before. Plenty of people say that the setup works, so I don't think I'm screwing up by doing it this way, but at the same time, If you read the description on Amazon and then try the sample, you might not get what the deal is. Thankfully Amazon's sample spills into Chapter Two, which immediately sets you straight, but things could still be confusing.

In my second novel, I use another prologue that actually says "Prologue" and all that jazz. It's a year before the start of the real adventure, it introduces the main character, and it's not terribly long. I think it fits the standard conventions of a prologue better, but I'd still want someone to read at lest Chapter One as well.

Decisions decisions...