Wild and Wicked in Prologueville

Most of the time when I read a Prologue, I’m barely aware that what I am reading has been specially set aside. I tend to go straight from Prologue to Chapter 1 the same way I would go from Chapter 1 to Chapter 2. The prologue in Wild and Wicked in Scotland by Melody Thomas is not an exception.

Yep, I read the part about how the heroine, Cassandra Sheridan weathers a betrothal ball with no groom in sight without even being aware it was merely a prologue. I hit Chapter 1, where Devlyn St. Clair, Earl of Hampstead shows us a bit of his metal, with barely a hesitation. On Chapter 2, though, a time jump occurred which made me wonder why we had a prologue with Cassie and not one with Devlyn, or why both Cassie’s scene and Devlyn’s weren’t in the same section, or why a prologue at all? One of the functions of a prologue is to accommodate this kind of time shift.

I marked it down is one of those tricky writing conundrums that could have been solved in a variety of ways and went on. Not until half way through the book did I realize another reason.

The prologue paints a very clear picture of Cassie. She is an American heiress who was betrothed to an English gentleman in the hopes of moving her family’s standing in Boston while Devlyn’s parents are desperately in need of cash. It’s a typical arrangement. She has been sheltered as one would expect of a young lady, and so has the refined and restrained barring, though her height has everyone calling her an Amazon. She rises above it, but is still hurt by unfavorable attention.

By half way through the book, she has become a different creature all together. She is much bolder, more forthright, but also a bit sadder-but-wiser. The arch of her character growth is heightened and illuminated by the prologue. The prologue acts as an anchor and a reference that informs the reader.

Now, from the vantage of the end of the story, I would have written the beginning of the book in much the same way, prologue intact.

9 Comment(s)

  1. Interesting thoughts about the prologue, Alice. You’ve introduced a very good reason one might need a prologue.

    I think a prologue is necessary when the crux of the action, the initial conflict is instigated by a significant event from the past. I’ve read comments from contests, though, where judges have had hard and fast rules, like a great amount of time must pass between the prologue and the present . . . but y’all know my thoughts on these so-called “rules.” :)

    Brynna | Jul 5, 2010 | Reply

  2. Is this a case where the conventional rules were made to be broken?

    Terri | Jul 5, 2010 | Reply

  3. I think in this case the conventional rules came in conflict with themselves because of the uneven nature of the time flow at the beginning of the book.

    Alice | Jul 5, 2010 | Reply

  4. Although I don’t mind reading prologues, I prefer not to write them. I try to stay away from them

    Renee | Jul 5, 2010 | Reply

  5. I’ve done a few, when I felt compelled to use on, usually because of a difference in time or the cast of characters.

    Alice | Jul 5, 2010 | Reply

  6. I like prologues. Have yet to write one though. LOL. But I agree that they have to have a very good reason for being.

    Interesting point Alice, I have to hunt the book down. :)

    Anastasia St. James | Jul 5, 2010 | Reply

  7. I’ve never read a prologue that’s bothered me, but I think unless something just doesn’t make sense or I just don’t like the characters, I’m fairly easy on my authors. :)

    Since my historical conflicts often tend to hinge on something that happened prior to the main action and often in the hero’s or heroine’s youth, I do write prologues because I don’t want a backstory dump later in the story. I’ve had some people like them and some tell me I haven’t done them correctly. As they stand now, I’m keeping them until I hear a better reason than “they’re just not done” to sway me. :)

    Brynna | Jul 5, 2010 | Reply

  8. I usually find prologues interesting, a bit of foreshadowing involving the motivations of one or more characters as the story moves forward. I’ve only used one prologue in my own writing and definitely thought at the time that it was necessary. No telling what I’d think if I went back now and looked at it. :)

    Sasha Allgood | Jul 5, 2010 | Reply

  9. You know, I am a firm believer that sometimes a prologue is needed. I put a prologue in two of the four projects (Well three out of five if you count the sequel to Beauty School Demon). My prologues are short (usually 4-5) pages and merely a glimpse into the character without revealing too much.

    Beauty School Demon starts out with third person in the hero’s POV and chapter one starts out in the heroine’s 1st person POV. It’s the only way I could think of to avoid jarring the reader too much. I decided to keep the sequel in the same perspective, that way there’s some sort of continuity between books.

    Sidney / Arianna | Jul 6, 2010 | Reply

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