Much of my writing time of late has been spent, as it should be, on my current WIP novel, “Smoke and Goblet”. I wrote what I thought would be the opening scene quite a while ago. My writing group critiqued it and I made revisions. Thinking I had a solid opening scene, I moved on to writing other scenes that would round out the first third of the book. Several of these scenes introduced other major characters and gave additional exposition regarding the main conflict. While writing a scene introducing my primary antagonist, I hit a wall. The scene just did not feel right. It read like a flashback based on the preceding scenes.
I went to my storyboard and moved some scenes around. The logical place for this scene was the opening scene. I based this on the flow of ownership of the object that causes the main conflict in the plot and not on which character is introduced first. It just made more sense to me that the reader would want to know how the object got to where the protagonist obtains it. Also, it is a great set up to show just how nasty the antagonist is.
My dilemma came from several writing sources which stated, “Anything before the protagonist is introduced, is a prologue.” These sources further state that, “Prologues, with few exceptions, should be avoided.” Prologues require the author to write two opening scenes which cause the reader to start the story over. A prologue often contains characters other than the main characters of the story, is set in an early time, and/or is located in a different setting. It is a set up that may provide exposition the author can think of no other way to introduce to the reader. I have read novels with and without prologues and I understand what the writing sources were trying to say. I think most stories can do without a prologue quite nicely. That brings me back to the question of this post.
My opening scene introduces my antagonist, his evil personality, and the object which will be the main cause of conflict for the remainder of the story. The second short scene shows how the object changes hands before the protagonist is introduced and obtains the object in the third scene. I do not believe that the first two scenes fit the definition of a prologue as the timeline, antagonist, and conflict are consistent with the rest of the story plot. I’m not adverse to using a prologue. I’m just not sure that is what I’m dealing with.
So…when is a prologue not a prologue? Have you used a prologue in your writing? Did an editor ask you to either add or delete a prologue? What was their reasoning?