Before the Beginning

Various books open to the prologue page
Susanna here.

When I was first published, in 1994, everyone I talked to—agents and editors—had an opinion on prologues. Essentially, all the opinions came down to: “Don’t write them.”

The late Elmore Leonard even placed it second on his famous “10 Rules of Writing” list: “Avoid Prologues”.

Your readers don’t need two beginnings, I was told. Any backstory that’s important can be worked into the main part of the novel. Just get in there and start with the main characters in mid-action—don’t clutter things with prefaces and prologues. It’s old-fashioned.

And yet…


The cover of Catherine Gaskin's book A Falcon for A QueenAs with all things in writing, fashions tend to flow in cycles. And some features, like the prologue, serve a literary function that’s not easily replaceable.

Sometimes, you want to set a mood. Sometimes, you want to set the reader in the centre of your world in a succinct and sudden way, or foreshadow a coming threat. Sometimes, it’s just the best tool you have in your toolbox for the job.

One of my favourite prologues of all time remains the one that opens Catherine Gaskin’s book, A Falcon For A Queen. For years, that book sat on my bookshelf and I’d take it down and read that prologue—just the prologue—with anticipation, waiting for the proper rainy day to come when I’d be able to curl up with no distractions and just sink into that story, because I was certain it would be amazing, just from this beginning:

There are places in the valley where I will never go again; there are paths up its glens where I will never direct my pony’s steps. The faces, the voices, the names meet me there, and they do not go away. Regularly, of course, I must cross the path through the graveyard to the kirk, where those names are chiseled into the stone. But the spirits do not lie there; for me, they do not lie there. They are the restless ghosts—those who loved—wrongly, wilfully, with passion, without reason. They all wait for me, everywhere in that valley, but especially in some places, to which I do not go. Ballochtorra begins to crumble on its height; the rains and the snows take their toll of the roof, the ice creeps in to break chinks in the walls. The ivy is taking possession; very soon it will need the knowing eye to distinguish what was newly built, in the pride of wealth and ambition, from the very old. The rooks gather in the ivy-grown trees and on the battlements. And forever, ceaselessly, my eyes search the skies for the sight of a falcon.

That was all. Just a small, perfect prologue. And yet it completely entranced me.

Sadly, when I finally got around to reading the book, it didn’t live up to my expectations, although Catherine Gaskin’s The File on Devlin more than makes up for it, in my view, and I still adore this prologue on its own.


The cover of Susanna Kearsley's book The Rose GardenFor my own part, of the thirteen books I’ve written so far, six have prologues, although only two of those are titled “Prologue”. Two (in Every Secret Thing and Bellewether) I titled more creatively (or sneakily, depending on your view), as “Beforehand” and “Portal”, while the other two (in Named of the Dragon and The Rose Garden) pretend to be ordinary first chapters, but were actually written as—and function as—prologues.

I doubt they’ll be my last. I like the form, no matter what the fashion of the day might be, and as a writer I am stubborn enough to let every book decide what shape it wants to take, and what devices it sees fit to use (with my apologies to Elmore Leonard).

What are your thoughts on prologues? Do you read them or skip them? Love them or hate them? Or have any favourites to share?

150 thoughts on “Before the Beginning”

  1. I read prologues, Susanna. I also read dedications and author’s notes and footnotes!
    I can’t think of any favorite prologues at the moment, but if I do, I’ll return.

    Reply
  2. I read prologues, Susanna. I also read dedications and author’s notes and footnotes!
    I can’t think of any favorite prologues at the moment, but if I do, I’ll return.

    Reply
  3. I read prologues, Susanna. I also read dedications and author’s notes and footnotes!
    I can’t think of any favorite prologues at the moment, but if I do, I’ll return.

    Reply
  4. I read prologues, Susanna. I also read dedications and author’s notes and footnotes!
    I can’t think of any favorite prologues at the moment, but if I do, I’ll return.

    Reply
  5. I read prologues, Susanna. I also read dedications and author’s notes and footnotes!
    I can’t think of any favorite prologues at the moment, but if I do, I’ll return.

    Reply
  6. I have no problem with prologues. And I too enjoy reading authors notes, especially if they have fudged a little on historical facts or offer interesting insights into the times they are writing about.
    I also enjoy epilogues. I know that they are not necessary, but (especially in romance novels) I like the happy snapshot they present at the end.
    Interesting post Susanna.

    Reply
  7. I have no problem with prologues. And I too enjoy reading authors notes, especially if they have fudged a little on historical facts or offer interesting insights into the times they are writing about.
    I also enjoy epilogues. I know that they are not necessary, but (especially in romance novels) I like the happy snapshot they present at the end.
    Interesting post Susanna.

    Reply
  8. I have no problem with prologues. And I too enjoy reading authors notes, especially if they have fudged a little on historical facts or offer interesting insights into the times they are writing about.
    I also enjoy epilogues. I know that they are not necessary, but (especially in romance novels) I like the happy snapshot they present at the end.
    Interesting post Susanna.

    Reply
  9. I have no problem with prologues. And I too enjoy reading authors notes, especially if they have fudged a little on historical facts or offer interesting insights into the times they are writing about.
    I also enjoy epilogues. I know that they are not necessary, but (especially in romance novels) I like the happy snapshot they present at the end.
    Interesting post Susanna.

    Reply
  10. I have no problem with prologues. And I too enjoy reading authors notes, especially if they have fudged a little on historical facts or offer interesting insights into the times they are writing about.
    I also enjoy epilogues. I know that they are not necessary, but (especially in romance novels) I like the happy snapshot they present at the end.
    Interesting post Susanna.

    Reply
  11. I’m a prologue person too, Susanna — not always, but sometimes there’s a moment or an event that happens long before the start of the story that is crucial to the story — perhaps a small thing that in some way sets the story in motion, but not yet (if that makes sense.) So the choice is to deal with it as a backstory revelation or an “in-the-moment” scene. I choose the one which will be most powerful for the story.

    Reply
  12. I’m a prologue person too, Susanna — not always, but sometimes there’s a moment or an event that happens long before the start of the story that is crucial to the story — perhaps a small thing that in some way sets the story in motion, but not yet (if that makes sense.) So the choice is to deal with it as a backstory revelation or an “in-the-moment” scene. I choose the one which will be most powerful for the story.

    Reply
  13. I’m a prologue person too, Susanna — not always, but sometimes there’s a moment or an event that happens long before the start of the story that is crucial to the story — perhaps a small thing that in some way sets the story in motion, but not yet (if that makes sense.) So the choice is to deal with it as a backstory revelation or an “in-the-moment” scene. I choose the one which will be most powerful for the story.

    Reply
  14. I’m a prologue person too, Susanna — not always, but sometimes there’s a moment or an event that happens long before the start of the story that is crucial to the story — perhaps a small thing that in some way sets the story in motion, but not yet (if that makes sense.) So the choice is to deal with it as a backstory revelation or an “in-the-moment” scene. I choose the one which will be most powerful for the story.

    Reply
  15. I’m a prologue person too, Susanna — not always, but sometimes there’s a moment or an event that happens long before the start of the story that is crucial to the story — perhaps a small thing that in some way sets the story in motion, but not yet (if that makes sense.) So the choice is to deal with it as a backstory revelation or an “in-the-moment” scene. I choose the one which will be most powerful for the story.

    Reply
  16. Anne …. “sometimes there’s a moment or an event that happens long before the start of the story that is crucial to the story — perhaps a small thing that in some way sets the story in motion, but not yet.”
    I do like prologues that set the scene and my expectations in this way. Mary Stuart does it well in ‘The Crystal Cave’ and I remember Andrea’s spine chilling start to ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane’
    Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules reminded me a little of an arm chair philosopher advising an artist on how to implement a vision. Reducing the creative process to a set of rules may help the beginner but I think that an established artist/writer needs the freedom to ignore ‘rules’ and follow the creative instinct.
    Thanks for a very stimulating post.

    Reply
  17. Anne …. “sometimes there’s a moment or an event that happens long before the start of the story that is crucial to the story — perhaps a small thing that in some way sets the story in motion, but not yet.”
    I do like prologues that set the scene and my expectations in this way. Mary Stuart does it well in ‘The Crystal Cave’ and I remember Andrea’s spine chilling start to ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane’
    Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules reminded me a little of an arm chair philosopher advising an artist on how to implement a vision. Reducing the creative process to a set of rules may help the beginner but I think that an established artist/writer needs the freedom to ignore ‘rules’ and follow the creative instinct.
    Thanks for a very stimulating post.

    Reply
  18. Anne …. “sometimes there’s a moment or an event that happens long before the start of the story that is crucial to the story — perhaps a small thing that in some way sets the story in motion, but not yet.”
    I do like prologues that set the scene and my expectations in this way. Mary Stuart does it well in ‘The Crystal Cave’ and I remember Andrea’s spine chilling start to ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane’
    Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules reminded me a little of an arm chair philosopher advising an artist on how to implement a vision. Reducing the creative process to a set of rules may help the beginner but I think that an established artist/writer needs the freedom to ignore ‘rules’ and follow the creative instinct.
    Thanks for a very stimulating post.

    Reply
  19. Anne …. “sometimes there’s a moment or an event that happens long before the start of the story that is crucial to the story — perhaps a small thing that in some way sets the story in motion, but not yet.”
    I do like prologues that set the scene and my expectations in this way. Mary Stuart does it well in ‘The Crystal Cave’ and I remember Andrea’s spine chilling start to ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane’
    Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules reminded me a little of an arm chair philosopher advising an artist on how to implement a vision. Reducing the creative process to a set of rules may help the beginner but I think that an established artist/writer needs the freedom to ignore ‘rules’ and follow the creative instinct.
    Thanks for a very stimulating post.

    Reply
  20. Anne …. “sometimes there’s a moment or an event that happens long before the start of the story that is crucial to the story — perhaps a small thing that in some way sets the story in motion, but not yet.”
    I do like prologues that set the scene and my expectations in this way. Mary Stuart does it well in ‘The Crystal Cave’ and I remember Andrea’s spine chilling start to ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane’
    Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules reminded me a little of an arm chair philosopher advising an artist on how to implement a vision. Reducing the creative process to a set of rules may help the beginner but I think that an established artist/writer needs the freedom to ignore ‘rules’ and follow the creative instinct.
    Thanks for a very stimulating post.

    Reply
  21. As someone who always reads prologues (but often skips or skims Forewords or Introductions, which are mostly in non fiction anyway) I totally agree with your comments. Elmore Leonard is a good writer but his rules should be taken with a large pinch of salt (except maybe for number 5 on exclamation points, though 3 and 4 are pretty much self contradictory). This goes for any set of writing rules that are promulgated: it’s worth an author thinking why a rule might apply – if it is not just an attempt to impose the rule writer’s taste on other authors – before learning how or when to break it.

    Reply
  22. As someone who always reads prologues (but often skips or skims Forewords or Introductions, which are mostly in non fiction anyway) I totally agree with your comments. Elmore Leonard is a good writer but his rules should be taken with a large pinch of salt (except maybe for number 5 on exclamation points, though 3 and 4 are pretty much self contradictory). This goes for any set of writing rules that are promulgated: it’s worth an author thinking why a rule might apply – if it is not just an attempt to impose the rule writer’s taste on other authors – before learning how or when to break it.

    Reply
  23. As someone who always reads prologues (but often skips or skims Forewords or Introductions, which are mostly in non fiction anyway) I totally agree with your comments. Elmore Leonard is a good writer but his rules should be taken with a large pinch of salt (except maybe for number 5 on exclamation points, though 3 and 4 are pretty much self contradictory). This goes for any set of writing rules that are promulgated: it’s worth an author thinking why a rule might apply – if it is not just an attempt to impose the rule writer’s taste on other authors – before learning how or when to break it.

    Reply
  24. As someone who always reads prologues (but often skips or skims Forewords or Introductions, which are mostly in non fiction anyway) I totally agree with your comments. Elmore Leonard is a good writer but his rules should be taken with a large pinch of salt (except maybe for number 5 on exclamation points, though 3 and 4 are pretty much self contradictory). This goes for any set of writing rules that are promulgated: it’s worth an author thinking why a rule might apply – if it is not just an attempt to impose the rule writer’s taste on other authors – before learning how or when to break it.

    Reply
  25. As someone who always reads prologues (but often skips or skims Forewords or Introductions, which are mostly in non fiction anyway) I totally agree with your comments. Elmore Leonard is a good writer but his rules should be taken with a large pinch of salt (except maybe for number 5 on exclamation points, though 3 and 4 are pretty much self contradictory). This goes for any set of writing rules that are promulgated: it’s worth an author thinking why a rule might apply – if it is not just an attempt to impose the rule writer’s taste on other authors – before learning how or when to break it.

    Reply
  26. I read prologues, epilogues, readers notes, everything!!! Especially if you really love a book these are just great editions.

    Reply
  27. I read prologues, epilogues, readers notes, everything!!! Especially if you really love a book these are just great editions.

    Reply
  28. I read prologues, epilogues, readers notes, everything!!! Especially if you really love a book these are just great editions.

    Reply
  29. I read prologues, epilogues, readers notes, everything!!! Especially if you really love a book these are just great editions.

    Reply
  30. I read prologues, epilogues, readers notes, everything!!! Especially if you really love a book these are just great editions.

    Reply
  31. “Avoid prologues” has always struck me as one of those silly rules like “Avoid the passive” or “Don’t use adverbs.” Some prologues work wonderfully, and some are nothing but padding.
    Rules are made to be broken (note the passive). The only question that needs to be asked is, “Does it work?”

    Reply
  32. “Avoid prologues” has always struck me as one of those silly rules like “Avoid the passive” or “Don’t use adverbs.” Some prologues work wonderfully, and some are nothing but padding.
    Rules are made to be broken (note the passive). The only question that needs to be asked is, “Does it work?”

    Reply
  33. “Avoid prologues” has always struck me as one of those silly rules like “Avoid the passive” or “Don’t use adverbs.” Some prologues work wonderfully, and some are nothing but padding.
    Rules are made to be broken (note the passive). The only question that needs to be asked is, “Does it work?”

    Reply
  34. “Avoid prologues” has always struck me as one of those silly rules like “Avoid the passive” or “Don’t use adverbs.” Some prologues work wonderfully, and some are nothing but padding.
    Rules are made to be broken (note the passive). The only question that needs to be asked is, “Does it work?”

    Reply
  35. “Avoid prologues” has always struck me as one of those silly rules like “Avoid the passive” or “Don’t use adverbs.” Some prologues work wonderfully, and some are nothing but padding.
    Rules are made to be broken (note the passive). The only question that needs to be asked is, “Does it work?”

    Reply
  36. This is an easy question, Susanna: people who sneer at prologues are Just Plain Wrong. *G* It depends on the story, but as has been said by others, sometimes a vivid, real-time prologue is essential in creating a character or planting the heart of a story. I’m written my share of them. Probably more than my share!

    Reply
  37. This is an easy question, Susanna: people who sneer at prologues are Just Plain Wrong. *G* It depends on the story, but as has been said by others, sometimes a vivid, real-time prologue is essential in creating a character or planting the heart of a story. I’m written my share of them. Probably more than my share!

    Reply
  38. This is an easy question, Susanna: people who sneer at prologues are Just Plain Wrong. *G* It depends on the story, but as has been said by others, sometimes a vivid, real-time prologue is essential in creating a character or planting the heart of a story. I’m written my share of them. Probably more than my share!

    Reply
  39. This is an easy question, Susanna: people who sneer at prologues are Just Plain Wrong. *G* It depends on the story, but as has been said by others, sometimes a vivid, real-time prologue is essential in creating a character or planting the heart of a story. I’m written my share of them. Probably more than my share!

    Reply
  40. This is an easy question, Susanna: people who sneer at prologues are Just Plain Wrong. *G* It depends on the story, but as has been said by others, sometimes a vivid, real-time prologue is essential in creating a character or planting the heart of a story. I’m written my share of them. Probably more than my share!

    Reply
  41. Yes, Mary! I love epilogues. I was always frustrated by, And they lived happily ever after… I wanted to see HOW they lived! What made it happy as good intentions and love don’t always make you happy.
    I love Prologues and I love Epilogues. And I love author notes and dedications. All of them spike my imagination and make books so magical. I want to relax and enter the author’s world. Some I enter tentatively as with first time reading of a new for me author. And other’s I settle down happily, secure in the knowledge that no matter how harrowing the journey, I’ll meet that happy ending with the mixed feelings of satisfaction of getting there finally and mourning that it’s over! I adore series that meet up with previous characters again later on in their journeys. It’s like an extra long book with lots of chapters and epilogues for other characters.

    Reply
  42. Yes, Mary! I love epilogues. I was always frustrated by, And they lived happily ever after… I wanted to see HOW they lived! What made it happy as good intentions and love don’t always make you happy.
    I love Prologues and I love Epilogues. And I love author notes and dedications. All of them spike my imagination and make books so magical. I want to relax and enter the author’s world. Some I enter tentatively as with first time reading of a new for me author. And other’s I settle down happily, secure in the knowledge that no matter how harrowing the journey, I’ll meet that happy ending with the mixed feelings of satisfaction of getting there finally and mourning that it’s over! I adore series that meet up with previous characters again later on in their journeys. It’s like an extra long book with lots of chapters and epilogues for other characters.

    Reply
  43. Yes, Mary! I love epilogues. I was always frustrated by, And they lived happily ever after… I wanted to see HOW they lived! What made it happy as good intentions and love don’t always make you happy.
    I love Prologues and I love Epilogues. And I love author notes and dedications. All of them spike my imagination and make books so magical. I want to relax and enter the author’s world. Some I enter tentatively as with first time reading of a new for me author. And other’s I settle down happily, secure in the knowledge that no matter how harrowing the journey, I’ll meet that happy ending with the mixed feelings of satisfaction of getting there finally and mourning that it’s over! I adore series that meet up with previous characters again later on in their journeys. It’s like an extra long book with lots of chapters and epilogues for other characters.

    Reply
  44. Yes, Mary! I love epilogues. I was always frustrated by, And they lived happily ever after… I wanted to see HOW they lived! What made it happy as good intentions and love don’t always make you happy.
    I love Prologues and I love Epilogues. And I love author notes and dedications. All of them spike my imagination and make books so magical. I want to relax and enter the author’s world. Some I enter tentatively as with first time reading of a new for me author. And other’s I settle down happily, secure in the knowledge that no matter how harrowing the journey, I’ll meet that happy ending with the mixed feelings of satisfaction of getting there finally and mourning that it’s over! I adore series that meet up with previous characters again later on in their journeys. It’s like an extra long book with lots of chapters and epilogues for other characters.

    Reply
  45. Yes, Mary! I love epilogues. I was always frustrated by, And they lived happily ever after… I wanted to see HOW they lived! What made it happy as good intentions and love don’t always make you happy.
    I love Prologues and I love Epilogues. And I love author notes and dedications. All of them spike my imagination and make books so magical. I want to relax and enter the author’s world. Some I enter tentatively as with first time reading of a new for me author. And other’s I settle down happily, secure in the knowledge that no matter how harrowing the journey, I’ll meet that happy ending with the mixed feelings of satisfaction of getting there finally and mourning that it’s over! I adore series that meet up with previous characters again later on in their journeys. It’s like an extra long book with lots of chapters and epilogues for other characters.

    Reply
  46. It’s amazing the things people will get up in arms about. Prologues, and probably epilogues, too. Sex in romances, no sex in romances, first person POV–whatever there is in a book, someone will take issue. If everyone hated prologues or these other things, there wouldn’t be any, but all these are still with us, so they do serve a function. You can’t take what the noisiest people say as what most people want. And, at the end of the day, it’s your book. You do what you want, and the people who don’t like prologues or the others can go elsewhere.

    Reply
  47. It’s amazing the things people will get up in arms about. Prologues, and probably epilogues, too. Sex in romances, no sex in romances, first person POV–whatever there is in a book, someone will take issue. If everyone hated prologues or these other things, there wouldn’t be any, but all these are still with us, so they do serve a function. You can’t take what the noisiest people say as what most people want. And, at the end of the day, it’s your book. You do what you want, and the people who don’t like prologues or the others can go elsewhere.

    Reply
  48. It’s amazing the things people will get up in arms about. Prologues, and probably epilogues, too. Sex in romances, no sex in romances, first person POV–whatever there is in a book, someone will take issue. If everyone hated prologues or these other things, there wouldn’t be any, but all these are still with us, so they do serve a function. You can’t take what the noisiest people say as what most people want. And, at the end of the day, it’s your book. You do what you want, and the people who don’t like prologues or the others can go elsewhere.

    Reply
  49. It’s amazing the things people will get up in arms about. Prologues, and probably epilogues, too. Sex in romances, no sex in romances, first person POV–whatever there is in a book, someone will take issue. If everyone hated prologues or these other things, there wouldn’t be any, but all these are still with us, so they do serve a function. You can’t take what the noisiest people say as what most people want. And, at the end of the day, it’s your book. You do what you want, and the people who don’t like prologues or the others can go elsewhere.

    Reply
  50. It’s amazing the things people will get up in arms about. Prologues, and probably epilogues, too. Sex in romances, no sex in romances, first person POV–whatever there is in a book, someone will take issue. If everyone hated prologues or these other things, there wouldn’t be any, but all these are still with us, so they do serve a function. You can’t take what the noisiest people say as what most people want. And, at the end of the day, it’s your book. You do what you want, and the people who don’t like prologues or the others can go elsewhere.

    Reply
  51. No one can tell a writer what will fit a particular story. Only the author knows what feels right.
    I enjoy prologues. It gives me the emotional setup to enfold myself into the story.
    No rules need apply to this or to epilogues.

    Reply
  52. No one can tell a writer what will fit a particular story. Only the author knows what feels right.
    I enjoy prologues. It gives me the emotional setup to enfold myself into the story.
    No rules need apply to this or to epilogues.

    Reply
  53. No one can tell a writer what will fit a particular story. Only the author knows what feels right.
    I enjoy prologues. It gives me the emotional setup to enfold myself into the story.
    No rules need apply to this or to epilogues.

    Reply
  54. No one can tell a writer what will fit a particular story. Only the author knows what feels right.
    I enjoy prologues. It gives me the emotional setup to enfold myself into the story.
    No rules need apply to this or to epilogues.

    Reply
  55. No one can tell a writer what will fit a particular story. Only the author knows what feels right.
    I enjoy prologues. It gives me the emotional setup to enfold myself into the story.
    No rules need apply to this or to epilogues.

    Reply
  56. I agree with everyone here. I never mind finding a book with a prolog. (Or the epilog that many responders have noted.)
    As long as it fits the author’s work (and I don’t remember a jarring one) the prologue belongs in a book.)

    Reply
  57. I agree with everyone here. I never mind finding a book with a prolog. (Or the epilog that many responders have noted.)
    As long as it fits the author’s work (and I don’t remember a jarring one) the prologue belongs in a book.)

    Reply
  58. I agree with everyone here. I never mind finding a book with a prolog. (Or the epilog that many responders have noted.)
    As long as it fits the author’s work (and I don’t remember a jarring one) the prologue belongs in a book.)

    Reply
  59. I agree with everyone here. I never mind finding a book with a prolog. (Or the epilog that many responders have noted.)
    As long as it fits the author’s work (and I don’t remember a jarring one) the prologue belongs in a book.)

    Reply
  60. I agree with everyone here. I never mind finding a book with a prolog. (Or the epilog that many responders have noted.)
    As long as it fits the author’s work (and I don’t remember a jarring one) the prologue belongs in a book.)

    Reply
  61. I don’t mind prologues. What’s the big deal? It orients me to the story, it’s in the right place, it tells me that whatever happened in the prologue had consequences which will play out in the main story. That is useful information. It’s so … civilized.
    I was watching an ep of Jessica Jones Series 2 last night. It had flashback material in it. It took me a while to realize that it *was* flashback material, since the sort of events and styles in that part weren’t all that different from the “now” parts. It was very stylish and all, but it wound up confusing me until I caught up. I expect that a flip back and forth is easier to do in prose than on film, but if not handled well, it can be a jarring interruption.
    Epilogues are another thing. I don’t like them usually because in romances too often they are used to cotton-candy the world. I don’t need to be told that ten years on the couple still have hot sex, or how many children them have and what their names are and how perfect each one is, or any of that. It’s a romance. I *assume* a happy ending — which, to me, is that the couple stick together ever after no matter what.
    As for Elmore Leonard and his rules (or anybody with their rules about writing), I read them with interest but take them with a huge grain of salt. Leonard can only tell us what works for him both in what he reads and what he writes — he can’t predict how it will work for me or you.
    When I have something to write, I could dither all day about how to do it or what is the best way or what will my friends say or whatever. But in the end the only way to do it is to do it. That’s my rule 🙂

    Reply
  62. I don’t mind prologues. What’s the big deal? It orients me to the story, it’s in the right place, it tells me that whatever happened in the prologue had consequences which will play out in the main story. That is useful information. It’s so … civilized.
    I was watching an ep of Jessica Jones Series 2 last night. It had flashback material in it. It took me a while to realize that it *was* flashback material, since the sort of events and styles in that part weren’t all that different from the “now” parts. It was very stylish and all, but it wound up confusing me until I caught up. I expect that a flip back and forth is easier to do in prose than on film, but if not handled well, it can be a jarring interruption.
    Epilogues are another thing. I don’t like them usually because in romances too often they are used to cotton-candy the world. I don’t need to be told that ten years on the couple still have hot sex, or how many children them have and what their names are and how perfect each one is, or any of that. It’s a romance. I *assume* a happy ending — which, to me, is that the couple stick together ever after no matter what.
    As for Elmore Leonard and his rules (or anybody with their rules about writing), I read them with interest but take them with a huge grain of salt. Leonard can only tell us what works for him both in what he reads and what he writes — he can’t predict how it will work for me or you.
    When I have something to write, I could dither all day about how to do it or what is the best way or what will my friends say or whatever. But in the end the only way to do it is to do it. That’s my rule 🙂

    Reply
  63. I don’t mind prologues. What’s the big deal? It orients me to the story, it’s in the right place, it tells me that whatever happened in the prologue had consequences which will play out in the main story. That is useful information. It’s so … civilized.
    I was watching an ep of Jessica Jones Series 2 last night. It had flashback material in it. It took me a while to realize that it *was* flashback material, since the sort of events and styles in that part weren’t all that different from the “now” parts. It was very stylish and all, but it wound up confusing me until I caught up. I expect that a flip back and forth is easier to do in prose than on film, but if not handled well, it can be a jarring interruption.
    Epilogues are another thing. I don’t like them usually because in romances too often they are used to cotton-candy the world. I don’t need to be told that ten years on the couple still have hot sex, or how many children them have and what their names are and how perfect each one is, or any of that. It’s a romance. I *assume* a happy ending — which, to me, is that the couple stick together ever after no matter what.
    As for Elmore Leonard and his rules (or anybody with their rules about writing), I read them with interest but take them with a huge grain of salt. Leonard can only tell us what works for him both in what he reads and what he writes — he can’t predict how it will work for me or you.
    When I have something to write, I could dither all day about how to do it or what is the best way or what will my friends say or whatever. But in the end the only way to do it is to do it. That’s my rule 🙂

    Reply
  64. I don’t mind prologues. What’s the big deal? It orients me to the story, it’s in the right place, it tells me that whatever happened in the prologue had consequences which will play out in the main story. That is useful information. It’s so … civilized.
    I was watching an ep of Jessica Jones Series 2 last night. It had flashback material in it. It took me a while to realize that it *was* flashback material, since the sort of events and styles in that part weren’t all that different from the “now” parts. It was very stylish and all, but it wound up confusing me until I caught up. I expect that a flip back and forth is easier to do in prose than on film, but if not handled well, it can be a jarring interruption.
    Epilogues are another thing. I don’t like them usually because in romances too often they are used to cotton-candy the world. I don’t need to be told that ten years on the couple still have hot sex, or how many children them have and what their names are and how perfect each one is, or any of that. It’s a romance. I *assume* a happy ending — which, to me, is that the couple stick together ever after no matter what.
    As for Elmore Leonard and his rules (or anybody with their rules about writing), I read them with interest but take them with a huge grain of salt. Leonard can only tell us what works for him both in what he reads and what he writes — he can’t predict how it will work for me or you.
    When I have something to write, I could dither all day about how to do it or what is the best way or what will my friends say or whatever. But in the end the only way to do it is to do it. That’s my rule 🙂

    Reply
  65. I don’t mind prologues. What’s the big deal? It orients me to the story, it’s in the right place, it tells me that whatever happened in the prologue had consequences which will play out in the main story. That is useful information. It’s so … civilized.
    I was watching an ep of Jessica Jones Series 2 last night. It had flashback material in it. It took me a while to realize that it *was* flashback material, since the sort of events and styles in that part weren’t all that different from the “now” parts. It was very stylish and all, but it wound up confusing me until I caught up. I expect that a flip back and forth is easier to do in prose than on film, but if not handled well, it can be a jarring interruption.
    Epilogues are another thing. I don’t like them usually because in romances too often they are used to cotton-candy the world. I don’t need to be told that ten years on the couple still have hot sex, or how many children them have and what their names are and how perfect each one is, or any of that. It’s a romance. I *assume* a happy ending — which, to me, is that the couple stick together ever after no matter what.
    As for Elmore Leonard and his rules (or anybody with their rules about writing), I read them with interest but take them with a huge grain of salt. Leonard can only tell us what works for him both in what he reads and what he writes — he can’t predict how it will work for me or you.
    When I have something to write, I could dither all day about how to do it or what is the best way or what will my friends say or whatever. But in the end the only way to do it is to do it. That’s my rule 🙂

    Reply
  66. Thank you Quantum! I think “prologues,” or whatever one chooses to call them can be a very important element in getting a reader into a story. As you point out, a small thing from the past can be the trigger for whatever the main story revolves around.
    The bottom line is, I’m always open to however an author wants to draw me into a story. If it’s done well, I’ll happily go along with it.

    Reply
  67. Thank you Quantum! I think “prologues,” or whatever one chooses to call them can be a very important element in getting a reader into a story. As you point out, a small thing from the past can be the trigger for whatever the main story revolves around.
    The bottom line is, I’m always open to however an author wants to draw me into a story. If it’s done well, I’ll happily go along with it.

    Reply
  68. Thank you Quantum! I think “prologues,” or whatever one chooses to call them can be a very important element in getting a reader into a story. As you point out, a small thing from the past can be the trigger for whatever the main story revolves around.
    The bottom line is, I’m always open to however an author wants to draw me into a story. If it’s done well, I’ll happily go along with it.

    Reply
  69. Thank you Quantum! I think “prologues,” or whatever one chooses to call them can be a very important element in getting a reader into a story. As you point out, a small thing from the past can be the trigger for whatever the main story revolves around.
    The bottom line is, I’m always open to however an author wants to draw me into a story. If it’s done well, I’ll happily go along with it.

    Reply
  70. Thank you Quantum! I think “prologues,” or whatever one chooses to call them can be a very important element in getting a reader into a story. As you point out, a small thing from the past can be the trigger for whatever the main story revolves around.
    The bottom line is, I’m always open to however an author wants to draw me into a story. If it’s done well, I’ll happily go along with it.

    Reply
  71. When I see the book I’m reading is coming to the end of the H & h’s overcoming all the obstacles and headed to their HEA, BUT there’s a fair percentage left on the Kindle I start asking myself ‘hey, what about that guy?’and ‘wait, what happened to her?’ The list could go on, and I’m distracting myself from this romantic sigh-worthy moment. That’s my defense of epilogues. But that’s not what you asked.
    The best prologues I can think of have me jumping right into the middle of a vivid and telling scene, and yet, it retains its mystery until later revealed. I like your grab-your-attention kind of prologues, but don’t end up being a spoiler.

    Reply
  72. When I see the book I’m reading is coming to the end of the H & h’s overcoming all the obstacles and headed to their HEA, BUT there’s a fair percentage left on the Kindle I start asking myself ‘hey, what about that guy?’and ‘wait, what happened to her?’ The list could go on, and I’m distracting myself from this romantic sigh-worthy moment. That’s my defense of epilogues. But that’s not what you asked.
    The best prologues I can think of have me jumping right into the middle of a vivid and telling scene, and yet, it retains its mystery until later revealed. I like your grab-your-attention kind of prologues, but don’t end up being a spoiler.

    Reply
  73. When I see the book I’m reading is coming to the end of the H & h’s overcoming all the obstacles and headed to their HEA, BUT there’s a fair percentage left on the Kindle I start asking myself ‘hey, what about that guy?’and ‘wait, what happened to her?’ The list could go on, and I’m distracting myself from this romantic sigh-worthy moment. That’s my defense of epilogues. But that’s not what you asked.
    The best prologues I can think of have me jumping right into the middle of a vivid and telling scene, and yet, it retains its mystery until later revealed. I like your grab-your-attention kind of prologues, but don’t end up being a spoiler.

    Reply
  74. When I see the book I’m reading is coming to the end of the H & h’s overcoming all the obstacles and headed to their HEA, BUT there’s a fair percentage left on the Kindle I start asking myself ‘hey, what about that guy?’and ‘wait, what happened to her?’ The list could go on, and I’m distracting myself from this romantic sigh-worthy moment. That’s my defense of epilogues. But that’s not what you asked.
    The best prologues I can think of have me jumping right into the middle of a vivid and telling scene, and yet, it retains its mystery until later revealed. I like your grab-your-attention kind of prologues, but don’t end up being a spoiler.

    Reply
  75. When I see the book I’m reading is coming to the end of the H & h’s overcoming all the obstacles and headed to their HEA, BUT there’s a fair percentage left on the Kindle I start asking myself ‘hey, what about that guy?’and ‘wait, what happened to her?’ The list could go on, and I’m distracting myself from this romantic sigh-worthy moment. That’s my defense of epilogues. But that’s not what you asked.
    The best prologues I can think of have me jumping right into the middle of a vivid and telling scene, and yet, it retains its mystery until later revealed. I like your grab-your-attention kind of prologues, but don’t end up being a spoiler.

    Reply
  76. Susanna sends her apologies. She’s had a bit of an emergency and can’t comment on the blog right now. But it looks like y’all are doing just fine!
    I decided long ago that prologues depend on the kind of story I’m writing. My saga-ish stories demanded prologues. But in my lighter stories, I need to dive right into the action, because that’s where the mood is.
    One will notice which kind Leonard writes.

    Reply
  77. Susanna sends her apologies. She’s had a bit of an emergency and can’t comment on the blog right now. But it looks like y’all are doing just fine!
    I decided long ago that prologues depend on the kind of story I’m writing. My saga-ish stories demanded prologues. But in my lighter stories, I need to dive right into the action, because that’s where the mood is.
    One will notice which kind Leonard writes.

    Reply
  78. Susanna sends her apologies. She’s had a bit of an emergency and can’t comment on the blog right now. But it looks like y’all are doing just fine!
    I decided long ago that prologues depend on the kind of story I’m writing. My saga-ish stories demanded prologues. But in my lighter stories, I need to dive right into the action, because that’s where the mood is.
    One will notice which kind Leonard writes.

    Reply
  79. Susanna sends her apologies. She’s had a bit of an emergency and can’t comment on the blog right now. But it looks like y’all are doing just fine!
    I decided long ago that prologues depend on the kind of story I’m writing. My saga-ish stories demanded prologues. But in my lighter stories, I need to dive right into the action, because that’s where the mood is.
    One will notice which kind Leonard writes.

    Reply
  80. Susanna sends her apologies. She’s had a bit of an emergency and can’t comment on the blog right now. But it looks like y’all are doing just fine!
    I decided long ago that prologues depend on the kind of story I’m writing. My saga-ish stories demanded prologues. But in my lighter stories, I need to dive right into the action, because that’s where the mood is.
    One will notice which kind Leonard writes.

    Reply
  81. Quantum, I agree with you about writing “rules” — usually they start as advice for beginners, but then the more they’re repeated, the more they tend to harden into “rules.” And that can be a limitation.
    I tell my writing students to learn the rules and consider what effect they’re trying to achieve, to understand why writing conventions exist, and then to do what needs to be done to make your writing the strongest it can be. If you need to break the so-called rules, know why you’re doing it.
    Mary Stewart nearly always starts a book wonderfully, whether it’s a prologue or not. And you’re right about Andrea’s ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane.’

    Reply
  82. Quantum, I agree with you about writing “rules” — usually they start as advice for beginners, but then the more they’re repeated, the more they tend to harden into “rules.” And that can be a limitation.
    I tell my writing students to learn the rules and consider what effect they’re trying to achieve, to understand why writing conventions exist, and then to do what needs to be done to make your writing the strongest it can be. If you need to break the so-called rules, know why you’re doing it.
    Mary Stewart nearly always starts a book wonderfully, whether it’s a prologue or not. And you’re right about Andrea’s ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane.’

    Reply
  83. Quantum, I agree with you about writing “rules” — usually they start as advice for beginners, but then the more they’re repeated, the more they tend to harden into “rules.” And that can be a limitation.
    I tell my writing students to learn the rules and consider what effect they’re trying to achieve, to understand why writing conventions exist, and then to do what needs to be done to make your writing the strongest it can be. If you need to break the so-called rules, know why you’re doing it.
    Mary Stewart nearly always starts a book wonderfully, whether it’s a prologue or not. And you’re right about Andrea’s ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane.’

    Reply
  84. Quantum, I agree with you about writing “rules” — usually they start as advice for beginners, but then the more they’re repeated, the more they tend to harden into “rules.” And that can be a limitation.
    I tell my writing students to learn the rules and consider what effect they’re trying to achieve, to understand why writing conventions exist, and then to do what needs to be done to make your writing the strongest it can be. If you need to break the so-called rules, know why you’re doing it.
    Mary Stewart nearly always starts a book wonderfully, whether it’s a prologue or not. And you’re right about Andrea’s ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane.’

    Reply
  85. Quantum, I agree with you about writing “rules” — usually they start as advice for beginners, but then the more they’re repeated, the more they tend to harden into “rules.” And that can be a limitation.
    I tell my writing students to learn the rules and consider what effect they’re trying to achieve, to understand why writing conventions exist, and then to do what needs to be done to make your writing the strongest it can be. If you need to break the so-called rules, know why you’re doing it.
    Mary Stewart nearly always starts a book wonderfully, whether it’s a prologue or not. And you’re right about Andrea’s ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane.’

    Reply
  86. What? Limiting exclamation marks, Mike??? I’m shocked!!! I tell you, shocked!!!! (Sorry, frivolity outbreak here.)
    “it’s worth an author thinking why a rule might apply – if it is not just an attempt to impose the rule writer’s taste on other authors – before learning how or when to break it.”
    I completely agree,

    Reply
  87. What? Limiting exclamation marks, Mike??? I’m shocked!!! I tell you, shocked!!!! (Sorry, frivolity outbreak here.)
    “it’s worth an author thinking why a rule might apply – if it is not just an attempt to impose the rule writer’s taste on other authors – before learning how or when to break it.”
    I completely agree,

    Reply
  88. What? Limiting exclamation marks, Mike??? I’m shocked!!! I tell you, shocked!!!! (Sorry, frivolity outbreak here.)
    “it’s worth an author thinking why a rule might apply – if it is not just an attempt to impose the rule writer’s taste on other authors – before learning how or when to break it.”
    I completely agree,

    Reply
  89. What? Limiting exclamation marks, Mike??? I’m shocked!!! I tell you, shocked!!!! (Sorry, frivolity outbreak here.)
    “it’s worth an author thinking why a rule might apply – if it is not just an attempt to impose the rule writer’s taste on other authors – before learning how or when to break it.”
    I completely agree,

    Reply
  90. What? Limiting exclamation marks, Mike??? I’m shocked!!! I tell you, shocked!!!! (Sorry, frivolity outbreak here.)
    “it’s worth an author thinking why a rule might apply – if it is not just an attempt to impose the rule writer’s taste on other authors – before learning how or when to break it.”
    I completely agree,

    Reply
  91. Janice I’m fond of a good epilogue, but I suppose it depends on what you want. I don’t like those ones where we fast forward 20 years and they’re still hot for each other, and surrounded by 6 kids and 27 grandkids. But I do like to have an extra little dollop of the story at the end that leaves me with another little smile.

    Reply
  92. Janice I’m fond of a good epilogue, but I suppose it depends on what you want. I don’t like those ones where we fast forward 20 years and they’re still hot for each other, and surrounded by 6 kids and 27 grandkids. But I do like to have an extra little dollop of the story at the end that leaves me with another little smile.

    Reply
  93. Janice I’m fond of a good epilogue, but I suppose it depends on what you want. I don’t like those ones where we fast forward 20 years and they’re still hot for each other, and surrounded by 6 kids and 27 grandkids. But I do like to have an extra little dollop of the story at the end that leaves me with another little smile.

    Reply
  94. Janice I’m fond of a good epilogue, but I suppose it depends on what you want. I don’t like those ones where we fast forward 20 years and they’re still hot for each other, and surrounded by 6 kids and 27 grandkids. But I do like to have an extra little dollop of the story at the end that leaves me with another little smile.

    Reply
  95. Janice I’m fond of a good epilogue, but I suppose it depends on what you want. I don’t like those ones where we fast forward 20 years and they’re still hot for each other, and surrounded by 6 kids and 27 grandkids. But I do like to have an extra little dollop of the story at the end that leaves me with another little smile.

    Reply
  96. Michelle, this is spot on, in my opinion — the definition of a good prologue.
    “The best prologues I can think of have me jumping right into the middle of a vivid and telling scene, and yet, it retains its mystery until later revealed.”

    Reply
  97. Michelle, this is spot on, in my opinion — the definition of a good prologue.
    “The best prologues I can think of have me jumping right into the middle of a vivid and telling scene, and yet, it retains its mystery until later revealed.”

    Reply
  98. Michelle, this is spot on, in my opinion — the definition of a good prologue.
    “The best prologues I can think of have me jumping right into the middle of a vivid and telling scene, and yet, it retains its mystery until later revealed.”

    Reply
  99. Michelle, this is spot on, in my opinion — the definition of a good prologue.
    “The best prologues I can think of have me jumping right into the middle of a vivid and telling scene, and yet, it retains its mystery until later revealed.”

    Reply
  100. Michelle, this is spot on, in my opinion — the definition of a good prologue.
    “The best prologues I can think of have me jumping right into the middle of a vivid and telling scene, and yet, it retains its mystery until later revealed.”

    Reply
  101. I read everything, from the title page through to the end–rarely jumping to the author’s note in historical novels even when sorely tempted. Prologues require skill, so as not to leave the reader more frustrated than intrigued or, as you found, letdown.

    Reply
  102. I read everything, from the title page through to the end–rarely jumping to the author’s note in historical novels even when sorely tempted. Prologues require skill, so as not to leave the reader more frustrated than intrigued or, as you found, letdown.

    Reply
  103. I read everything, from the title page through to the end–rarely jumping to the author’s note in historical novels even when sorely tempted. Prologues require skill, so as not to leave the reader more frustrated than intrigued or, as you found, letdown.

    Reply
  104. I read everything, from the title page through to the end–rarely jumping to the author’s note in historical novels even when sorely tempted. Prologues require skill, so as not to leave the reader more frustrated than intrigued or, as you found, letdown.

    Reply
  105. I read everything, from the title page through to the end–rarely jumping to the author’s note in historical novels even when sorely tempted. Prologues require skill, so as not to leave the reader more frustrated than intrigued or, as you found, letdown.

    Reply
  106. I read the dedications, the prologues, the epilogues, and sometimes even epigraphs or whatever they are called. You know those little quotes or sentences which some authors put at the beginning of all of their chapters. For me to be interested in those little quotes/sentences/epigraphs/whatever, they really have to connect to connect to the story somehow, as in Julia Quinn’s To Sir Phillip with Love. I think they work better in a story which is humorous.

    Reply
  107. I read the dedications, the prologues, the epilogues, and sometimes even epigraphs or whatever they are called. You know those little quotes or sentences which some authors put at the beginning of all of their chapters. For me to be interested in those little quotes/sentences/epigraphs/whatever, they really have to connect to connect to the story somehow, as in Julia Quinn’s To Sir Phillip with Love. I think they work better in a story which is humorous.

    Reply
  108. I read the dedications, the prologues, the epilogues, and sometimes even epigraphs or whatever they are called. You know those little quotes or sentences which some authors put at the beginning of all of their chapters. For me to be interested in those little quotes/sentences/epigraphs/whatever, they really have to connect to connect to the story somehow, as in Julia Quinn’s To Sir Phillip with Love. I think they work better in a story which is humorous.

    Reply
  109. I read the dedications, the prologues, the epilogues, and sometimes even epigraphs or whatever they are called. You know those little quotes or sentences which some authors put at the beginning of all of their chapters. For me to be interested in those little quotes/sentences/epigraphs/whatever, they really have to connect to connect to the story somehow, as in Julia Quinn’s To Sir Phillip with Love. I think they work better in a story which is humorous.

    Reply
  110. I read the dedications, the prologues, the epilogues, and sometimes even epigraphs or whatever they are called. You know those little quotes or sentences which some authors put at the beginning of all of their chapters. For me to be interested in those little quotes/sentences/epigraphs/whatever, they really have to connect to connect to the story somehow, as in Julia Quinn’s To Sir Phillip with Love. I think they work better in a story which is humorous.

    Reply

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