By Chester Campbell
Earl Staggs wrote recently about the often maligned flashback and his reason for using them. I thought I'd take a whack at another of those literary forms that drives some readers, and editors, to distraction: the Prologue. I like them. When, as they say, properly used.
I wrote Prologues in my first two Greg McKenzie mysteries. The fact that I haven't used one since shouldn't be taken as a slight. They just didn't fit or weren't needed in subsequent books. But in those first two, I thought they improved the story.
I write the McKenzie books in first person, from the protangonist's point of view. In the first book of the series, I used a third person Prologue to introduce elements that would improve the reader's understanding of things that would take place during the rest of the story. I wrote it in a dramatic style aimed at grabbing the reader's attention and holding it into the main plot.
In the second book, I used a third person Prologue to introduce the main plot point, which led to the murder. It also served to introduce all of the principal characters and suspects except for my two protagonists. They appeared in Chapter 1.
For my money, the kind of Prologues that gave the introductory chapter a bad name are those that launch the book with a scene from the end of the story and then build toward it. Or those that start from the unidentified murderer's POV. There are some others that have created justifiable ire, but in general I don't understand all the condemnation of Prologues. For some haters, it would apparently be okay if you just named it Chapter 1 instead of Prologue.
I've read comments from people who say they skip over Prologues. Pardon me, but if you're going to read a book, read everything the author put in it. That's like skipping over the dialogue.
I don't imagine my little diatribe has changed the mind of any Prologue dissenters, but them's my sentiments. What do you think?
Including two with Prologues, Chester Campbell has written four Greg McKenzie mysteries featuring a retired Air Force OSI agent and his wife. His newest book introduces PI Sid Chance in The Surest Poison.