Friday, September 7, 2012

The Prolog ... Proluge ... Prologue

A lot of writers will tell you that a prologue isn't the best way to start a novel. In their context, the prologue is an "extra" chapter at the start of the book. It might be directly related the hero we get to meet in Chapter One, or it might be something that establishes the stakes.

If you turn the handle back on the time machine, you'll see that same bit of real estate used to establish the story via "Once upon a Time" or the Greek Chorus.  Today, we call these two techniques infodumping or bad exposition. ... or irony.

Modern readers want a through line. They want Point A to Point B without any scenic drives or major detours. And we writers are told that every line has to carry as much weight as it can to pull the story through, expose the inner workings of the world/culture and provide symbolism. (We're also not supposed to start a sentence with a conjunction.)

It's like we're modern illusionists. We stand on the shoulders of giants, but our sophisticated audiences won't let us pull a rabbit out of a hat (or mash up our metaphors.)

Yet our readers assume our stories are written as they find them. Efficient sentences fill of motion and depth. If you nailed the story like that, why do you need a prologue?

In truth, the final draft is like a graduate marching to the stage for her diploma. She might be polished and ready for ivy school or still rough around the edges. Either way, the kid started out as a messy toddler flinging hot dogs and dropping Cheerios on the floor.

Things like theme and symbolism come several drafts later, if at all. Whole reams of world building gets parsed down to sentences slipped in here and there. And the story grew past its cut and dry ending, evolving into a different, richer climax that you never saw coming.

So what the F#%^ has that got to do with the Writer's Bright Cave?!?

Well, this blog is my own messy start at tackling the fiction business -- so as my first and only warning.

Until the ball gets really rolling, you might find this more of a prologue. This is where I set up the "where I came from" and "where I want to go." I'll also toss out my ideas of what's happening in this now crazy-time of publishing.

So please accept my invitation to join me in this trip. There will be  afew detours and maybe a "Once Upon a Time" or two, but that's part of the fun -- seeing where this all goes.

I promise to leave out the Greek Chorus, though, until I get this YouTube thing down.

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