Wednesday, August 14, 2013

prologues

I agree with a lot of the criticisms that exist regarding prologues. They can be lazy. They can be useless. But I would just like to say this: If prologues vanished completely from the world, my heart would be broken.

As a reader (and a bookseller) I adore prologues. I always have. And no, I don’t think this means my taste is compromised. See Chime by Franny Billingsley: There’s a prologue AND the book was a finalist for the NBA in 2011, received six starred reviews, made the Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2011, and was an ALA 2012 Best Fiction pick. I really don’t think it achieved all those things despite the prologue.

A prologue done well (keyword being well) very often determines whether I will read a book or not. It tells me if a story is going to be worth my time. And it’s a little bit sad to me when someone declares all prologues worthless. Just like most things in the publishing world, this is a subjective opinion.

Here are some examples of books I love (and have read multiple times) that begin with prologues:

Chime by Franny Billingsley. Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. Sabriel by Garth Nix. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. (It’s debateable whether or not this contains a prologue, but since the narrative begins before chapter one, I’m including it.) Lament by Maggie Stiefvater. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. (I’m wiling to hazard a guess that Maggie likes prologues too.) I could go on, but I think that's enough.

These books are NYT bestsellers and/or serious award winners. Prologues can and do work.

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