Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Don't Judge a Book By Its Prologue

I wasn't going to write more about prologues, but here goes.

As a critic (unprofessional) and self-proclaimed rhetorical guru, I know a bad prologue.  I've read my fair share.

The worst was probably a self-published book I picked up in Belize.  Between the prologue and the epilogue, nothing really happened in the book.  The drug bust, hurricane, and murders all took place in the frames. The middle portion wasn't very interesting, but I can't say that I bought the book for the plot.  Mostly, I bought it for the creole language and to support the slim art community in Belize.

Other examples of bad prologues are out there.

However, when I sit down to read a mystery or science fiction book or other "beach book," I recognize prologues for what they are.  In classic literature, prologues are going to be good, framing devices.

And generally speaking, I enjoy reading prologues.  They draw me in.  They are cliff-hangers.  They introduce the crux of the plot.

As a critic and a writer, I see the negatives of writing prologues.  I carefully avoid them.

As a reader, I generally enjoy them--even if I can see the hands of the puppeteer a bit.  I know what the writer is doing, and I'm okay with it.

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. "The worst was probably a self-published book I picked up in Belize." HA! How often do I read this?!

    I love how you distinguished between writer and reader on the art of the prologue. Very well said. Regarding the writer's perspective, I remember being told by someone (I don't remember who) that a prologue is a "cheat". I can see how it could be used as such, but I rarely have -read- a prologue that left me with such a feeling. Maybe if I were to read with a more critical eye?

    I'm one who thinks writing in first person is kinda cheating. But, because I want to keep my friends (and still have them for years to come), I'm going to retract what I said about writing in first person is kinda cheating...!