There, I said it. I feel like I just confessed a decade long drug addiction, and I know many will view my proclamation in the same light. But I'm being honest.
I'm not saying every book needs one, nor do I feel they should be wedged inside the spine for the sake of being included. Yet where not having a prologue is acceptable and never disputed, many criticize their inclusion, categorizing them as a major faux pas.
I had written about five first chapters before uncovering where my W.I.P. began. When it finally revealed itself, I found it perfect. From there, I progressed at a consistent pace. The foundation had settled and I could begin building the subsequent levels of my project. But the further I got in the story, the more I sensed something was missing. Something critical; one tiny piece that needed to be revealed earlier.
So, I wrote a prologue.
At the time, I thought nothing of it. The majority of the books on my shelf have a prologue. As a reader, I appreciate prologues that leave me feeling teased by the author. As a teacher, I relied on prologues to help me 'sell' a book to students. Imagine my surprise when, months after beginning a novel of my own, I learned prologues are a highly debated topic in contemporary literature.
I have since spent a lot of time - too much, in my opinion - reading the arguments for and against prologues. I can tell you mine is less than 350 words. I can also tell you I believe the last line is flawless. That sentence motivated the entire piece; I started there and worked my way backwards.
I want the reader to have that statement before beginning the story. I feel it is the perfect hook to segue into the novel. Yes, I have tried moving the hook to the opening of chapter one, but it doesn't fit correctly. I've spent days playing with the wording to make it fit, but my efforts continue to fail. The bottom line is, without the proper progression, the pizazz disappears. And I want readers to feel the same pizazz I felt when I read it for the first time.
My prologue has been shared with a handful of people. I ask each reader to comment on whether or not the writing builds suspense, whether the facts are intriguing, and most importantly, whether the prologue motivates them to dive into this story at full speed. The responses have been unanimously favorable, and the feedback convinces me my purpose has been accomplished.
I want to keep it. At the same time, I'm not comfortable keeping something so controversial, especially if it could turn people away from ever reading the first chapter. The easiest thing would be to chuck it - I can't worry about something that doesn't exist, right?
I feel it. I feel the significance of those words and recognize the purpose they have in the overall book. If it is removed, I will miss it. I'll have no choice but to throw on black and mourn it's loss for
Of course, if it causes others to detest my writing - or blog about how they refused to give the book a chance because they despise prologues more than chronic illness and acts of terrorism - I still lose.
Sigh. What's a brother to do?