Where Did I Put My Tiara

The life unglamorous . . .

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Location: Utah, United States

see biography at http://www.marjoriejones.com

Friday, December 02, 2005

On Prologues

I am a member of a large romance writer's group on Yahoo.  Recently, the topic of prologues came up and I have learned there are several strong opinions on the matter.  I had no idea.  I personally like them and write them most of the time. 
Apparently, however, there are several folks who don't even read them when they buy a new book.  This is curious to me.  As one participant mentioned, why would one spend hard-earned cash on a book and not read the whole thing?  I mean, if it's a wall-banger, then sure, don't read it and chalk one up for experience.  But if it's a good book, why not read the whole thing?
It got me to thinking about the rules of writing.   More specifically, the rules for writing romance. (The original subject came up because one of the participants 'heard' that prologues were 'against the rules'.) 
Who came up with these rules?  The readers?  The editors?  Agents?
I have my own theory about this.  I think the rules came from the mill.  The rumor mill. Writer A told Writer B their own ideas about anything from character development, to prologues, to Points of View per scene.  Writer B told Writers C, D, and E.  By the time Writer X hears about it, it's a die-hard rule.  Enter RWA contests and the internet and suddenly, the alphabet of writers affected by said 'rule' is multiplied exponentially. 
What ever happened to entertaining our audience?  I'm speaking about the 'rule' that every word must count and every scene must pull the reader futher to the end of the book.
I'm not saying that every scene doesn't need a purpose.  I'm saying the scenes, the collection of words we write for the benefit of our readers, should serve a variety of purposes.  
A scene, whether it be a prologue or not, can build characters, build tension and suspense, add to the developing love story, or set the stage for something.  It may even simply set the stage.  The important thing is that the scene engage the reader and draw them into the world we've created.   
But what is the MAIN purpose the scenes should serve? 
Simple.  They should entertain.  Period.  If we do that, haven't we done our jobs?
What do you think?  If you're a reader, I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether you read prologues and what you look for a in a great read.  If you're a writer, what is your opinion of 'the rules'?


Blogger oneslackmartian said...

Hey, I’m a screenwriter by trade, so this may miss the mark for the point you are making. The screenwriting concept is to come into the scene and even, to an extent, into the movie at the latest possible moment. No time for much set up in 120 minutes. Americans are probably getting more and more conditioned (through watching film) to having no prologue. Let’s get right to action, and let the viewers figure it out as they go along. It makes them feel like they are “participating” in the film experience.

I’m not saying this is a good thing . . . just the current thing.

My mother-in-law is a big romance reader. I’ll be sure your books are “under the tree” at Christmas.

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Jewell said...

Oh, Marjorie.

I think your "rumor mill" post hits the nail right on the head.

As an author and member of many groups, I've heard so many "rules" that it makes my head spin. And the rules modify if even one person attends a seminar and then spreads the word to her fellows. It's absolutely incredible.

Prologues don't bother me at all. Nor do many of the other things that are labeled as NO-NOs. That is, if the story and the writer's voice is engaging. In fact, before I became and writer and learned of all the taboos, I never even noticed them when reading. I just knew what I liked and didn't like.

True fact. My publisher made me go back in and add the word "was" to my manuscript. Why? Because they said it had a useful function in the English language and shouldn't be entirely wiped from the page.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Jolie Mathis said...

Amen! (says The Choir)

4:15 PM  
Blogger Carrie Lofty said...

I've found that fellow PRO writers are far more strict about "the Rules" than others. Non-PRO haven't finished an MS and are still learning. They spout no wisdom. Pubbed authors are pubbed--they obey the demands of their editor and their readers. But PROs are rule sticklers, and I hate getting them as judges in contests. But then...I'm one too. I think everyone's trying to walk the straight-and-narrow so as not to make any sort of mistake, even if that means eliminating a really good device or something original about their own work, which is sad.

7:50 AM  

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