Before I actually tell you a story, let me tell you a little pre-story.
I hate prologues. I don’t mind reading them, but honestly, I feel that they are a writer’s lazy way out–a way to get backstory to the reader without having to use the skill required to embed the backstory within the story.
But sometimes they’re necessary.
I’m in the throes of revising my Regency-set historical, Lessons In Love, and the idea of adding a prologue was gently suggested to me. I felt like a hypocrite, but I wrote one. And then I wrote one for the hero. So not only did I have a prologue, I had a DOUBLE prologue.
Then I came to and removed the hero’s prologue. I think I can get his essential backstory into the story itself.
And now comes the reader participation part: Below, I’ve posted my prologue. Do you like it (I will not be offended at all if you don’t–this is not fishing for compliments time)? Would you want to read the story that follows? Do you think it’s a lazy way out? What do you think about prologues? (btw, if anyone insists on an epilogue, I will have to take a stand. No cutesy post-baby scenes for me, thank you.) Which authors (cough*Loretta Chase*cough) have written effective prologues?
Thanks for the help!
Lessons In Love: Prologue
The first time her husband hit her, he almost had Athena convinced she deserved it.
The second time, she knew she didn’t.
By the time her husband died, she’d lost count of how many times it had happened. The day of Lord Carlyle’s funeral was the happiest of her life, because she was free. Free of anyone who would have control over her, whose temper ruled her every waking moment.
How many times had she cursed his charm, his easy good looks, his title, his flatteringly intent focus on her? If he hadn’t been so damned persuasive, she would still be in Greece, in the warm sunshine, not in England where even the sunny days had an edge of damp.
She could barely remember her first impressions of him. And how wrong they had been. They had met when he was in Athens excavating for treasures to add to his extensive collection. Her father, a Greek statuary expert, had worked for him on site. She was 16 years old and thought she was terribly sophisticated. She had paraded in front of the English lord, thirty years her senior, hoping to make him notice her. He had. And she had paid for it ever since.
Her father had been equally naïve, not realizing his employer’s gruff bonhomie disguised a ruthless arrogance that brooked no argument. He’d even let her go without any kind of settlement money. Nor did he realize the last sight he would have of his daughter was when she sailed off with her new husband. Athena was married on board that day and had grown up forever that night.
Eventually, they’d achieved a peace of sorts; Lord Carlyle only hit her about once a month, and he allowed her to pursue her interests, as long as she never left the estate. She’d read all the works deemed necessary to a classic English education, practiced fencing until she was winning half the matches with her instructor, and rode for hours at a time.
And now he was dead. And Athena was free with a modest widow’s portion, a pleasant Dower house, and the opportunity to do whatever she wanted. She couldn’t wait to leave, to travel, to live on her own schedule.
What she would never do again was allow herself to be seduced by a handsome, charming man whose pleasant exterior hid a burning passionate temper.
Jason Lewis, pictured above, is the way I imagine my hero looking. I thought you might want to have something nice to look at while you read my writing.
I like it. Although it doesn’t feel like a prologue to me. Draws you right in, by the way.
Since I’ve never written a prologue before, maybe I haven’t here, either; how does it not feel like a prologue?
Very well written prologue!
Megan, I guess when I think of a prologue, I think of it as taking place in a completely separate time. When I’m reading your prologue, I feel as though you could move right into the story – like she might be leaving his funeral at that moment. It feels more like inner dialogue to me. But whatever it is, I like it!
I just re-read your entire post and realized there were other questions – I was so excited to read your prologue that I sort of forgot about the other stuff. I have a prologue in my MS and at first I really didn’t want to include it, but it makes sense to do so in this instance, I think. So while I don’t mind prologues or epilogues (as long as there are no cutesy baby glowing moments), I really think we have to look long and hard at the story to see if it really needs them.
I agree with Arlene. I like it but it doesn’t feel like a prologue per se, but a the beginning of the novel. To me the prologue would be the very first time he hit her, or something else in the past. But it’s very effective, and sucks you right into the story. You immediately want to know what’s going to happen to Athena.
Very nice! Sets it up well.
I think I agree (mostly) with everyone else–feels more like a beginning than a prologue. A prologue would focus on one scene that captured all, most, or some of this–whatever you feel the essence is: that she’s a survivor? Ready for luuuurve?
But I’d say let it alone.
We don’t know what it really is, but it’s obviously not broke, so you don’t need to fix it. Or not until later.
A me too comment–I hate those. Really well written!!
If it’s what the story needs, then call it what you will, but it feels like a first chapter, although it would need some action, I guess, like leaving the funeral (I’m thinking of a Lawrence of Arabia scene).
If you still needed that backstory thing, you could have a scene of him hitting her for the tenth time, and then having think back to, “Well, I guess he only hits me once a month,” and “Gee, I thought he was so dashing and my father was so naive when…”
Early in the book you can reintroduce her as a recent widow, newly free, and assured of her safety as long as she never trusts a dashing, emotional man again.
But I like books that jump around through time from chapter to chapter, so I may be reacting mosre strongly than most.
On the other hand, if I picked up a romance and read this as the prologue, I wouldn’t scratch my head and wonder what in the world was going on, either.
One thing I noticed, thanks to what Suisan noticed, was that she isn’t in any particular place or time. But, honestly, it didn’t bother me except on a theoretical basis, ie SHOULD it be set in a certain place at a certain time? I don’t know the answer.
I’m not opposed to Prologues at all, having used one in The Mysterious Miss M to show the first meeting between the hero and heroine. A Prologue to me means something that happens before the story really starts.
I could see your story jumping time to a year from then and she’s in Paris or Greece or somewhere, or it could go into the very next day. It does give me sympathy for her and admiration that she retained a strong sense of who she was during her ordeal. I do want to know what happens and I desperately want her to find true love.
But I’m cringing a little, because I have put “happy baby” epilogues in some of my books. Not sure I understand the objection to them–another blog topic, perhaps!
It didn’t read like a prologue, but like the start of the story. Some stories need a prologue and some don’t.
A prologue can give an easy reference to what is coming. If your story started out with her rebuffing a handsome, dashing gentleman who was clearly interested, I would wonder what in the world is wrong with her. Your “prologue” lets me into her inner workings right away, and I’d know exactly why she told him to go to the devil.
To be honest, I like the cutesy baby moments. I’ll never have children of my own, and I get to live vicariously. That isn’t to say that every story should have it, but it is appropriate sometimes.
BTW thanks for the eye candy. *wink*
~~ Judy T
Thanks to everyone for their comments! I had an epiphany a few hours after posting this, and yanked the whole thing out, distilling it into one paragraph of internal monologue.
Diane, no offense meant to your epilogue! They just bother me, but I know that’s my own thing. I look forward to engaging in a lively discussion about them here, though.
Oh, man, I’m too late on my comment, but I would have just echoed everyone else — a prologue, to me, is more of a scene, but this does feel like a beginning, or internal monologue that takes place a page or two into the book.
On just an aesthetic level, I liked it a lot — the voice is engaging, and it took me right in. If it had been internal monologue in the first pages, I wouldn’t have had that “gah! infodump!” reaction that might have come with anything less smoothly written.
I like it! 🙂 On another blog someone mentioned prologues, and I think I said something like, yeah, I like them. . . but I think of prologues as something that shows a significant event or such in the past of the hero/ine that we really need to know. I don’t think you can always do it in the main story, but then I never wrote anything like that, so who knows. LOL But if it’s a two page prologue for something that happens the day before, it’s definitely unnecessary.
I like it. Now where’s the rest of the book???
Before I actually tell you a story, let me tell you a little pre-story.
I thought that was a very nice way to begin a post about prologues. 🙂