I have written that darn prologue so many times it’d make your head spin. It’s been as large as five and a half pages and as short as two paragraphs. I’ve tried intrigue, mystery, action, romance, etc. to engage the reader.
The funny thing is, I always get people saying, “Oh wow, I want more.” Except one loan voice who said she was glad to leave that era and move on to my protagonist. She was a woman who was younger than anyone else that seemed to have a good ear for what young adults liked. I was listening, but not understanding. She was giving me a huge clue.
Just recently I posted my latest version of my prologue. I thought I had it. I sent it to the critique group who had a few technical things to say but on the whole liked it. It was my sister’s critique that once again bothered me the most: “I don’t know who I should care about. I liked the intrigue version better, because I cared what happened to Inger.”
ARGH! Not that I expect to please everyone, but when something like that gets said it makes me sit up and look a little harder at my work.
This morning I started reading David Farland’s Kick in the Pants emails – I was backed up this week on them. That’s where the epiphany came from, although the previous critiques prepared me for it. I’m reading his analysis of why Harry Potter worked so well. He’s describing the opening scene in book one where Harry gets left on the doorstep. He describes the demographics that are laid out for the reader to soak up. And although I’d listened to Dave say the same thing at the writing conference, it didn’t click until now.
Although Harry wasn’t written in the dialogue, he was there.
You care what happens to the baby, don’t you? That’s what my prologue has been missing the whole time. I’ve been trying to write a dual story with Inger and Joey. It won’t get me the results I want. My protagonist needs to be my focal point. He’s the one you need to care about, be thinking about, etc.
I’ve been writing this like a Clive Cussler story. Seriously, I have thought many times, “Clive Cussler does it this way.” Meaning, he tells you in his prologue the back story – he sinks the treasure that Dirk goes after. The genius in that is that he’s creating a personna for the treasure – he makes you care about it being FOUND. The other thing I hadn’t considered – Clive Cussler has his niche – not everyone wants to read his stuff and he doesn’t care – he makes a dang good living doing what he does. But is that what my goal is?
In that sense, I could continue on with making Inger worth caring about, but it would only appeal to an older audience. I run the risk of loosing my YA audience before they even get to Chapter One – not to mention an agent putting it aside. OR…
put Joey there.
It might just pay to begin with the end in mind. Heh heh
Don’t you love time stories? 😉