Breaking a Rule

Breaking a Rule

“Avoid prologues.”

That advice is #2 in Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, and many authors, editors, and literary agents agree. In my own writing, I’ve followed that advice in some novels, but in others I’ve been unable to resist the temptation.

Why am I tempted? Prologues are a glimpse inside the story, an invitation to keep reading. I admit they may show a lack of confidence in my ability to hook the reader, and when I push myself to avoid them I produce some pretty good opening lines:

“In my house the early bird didn’t get the worm. It got the bathroom.”
Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial

“It was a good day at Poplar Tunes.”
On Beale Street

“There were Martians in the backyard.”
The Year of the Bomb

Whether prologues are good or bad, boon or crutch, they do provide a quick preview of a book. Over the next several weeks, I’ll present a few of my prologues as a way of introducing some recent novels.


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