Whenever I peruse writing forums and blogs, I often come across a rule warning writers away from from using prologues in their writing. Especially when it comes to the flash-forward type of prologue, where the reader is presented with a scene or situation and we don’t yet know the details leading into it. And probably won’t until somewhere close to the end of the book.
So first off, obviously there’s no hard and fast rules about things like this. Books with flash-forward prologues continue to be published and it’s hardly a deal breaker for a manuscript. If you’d asked me not that long ago, I would have been all snarly on the subject and told you that I hate flash-forward prologues.
Not necessarily true.
Here’s why I discriminated against the flash-forward prologues. They often made me feel tricked and cheapened my reading experience. For example, I read a book last year (that I won’t call out right now because I’m in a decent mood) that employed a flash-forward prologue. I was sucked in immediately. The prose was poetic and in the moment of tragedy.
Then I met a character who was flat and dull and writing that reflected the same amount of personality (read: none). And not only was the moment following the prologue BORING, but I would never have thought that it was written by the same person who wrote the prologue (though, really, I’m sure it was). Nothing about the prologue made sense with where the story actually opened in chapter 1 with the main character. I had nothing to tie them together.
“Wow, Jen,” I hear you saying. “You are really not making much of a case for the flash-forward prologue here.”
But almost immediately after reading said prologue chicanery, I picked up Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez and my biases towards flash-forward prologues were proved wrong. Because a flash-forward prologue can work and Virtuosity was a case where it did. It really, really did.When the prologue was over and the story started, it didn’t feel like two different people had written it. There were elements of the prologue that pop up in the 1st chapter to ground us in the story.
And yes, I was thrust into the action before it happened, but I had clues as to how the main character arrived at the point at which we find her in Martinez’s flash-forward prologue.
And that’s why it worked for me this time.
How about you guys? Do flash forward prologues tend to rub you the wrong way? Or, do you like them? Or, like me (now), does it just depend?