Wednesday, April 25, 2012

To Prologue or Not To Prologue

Best I could do...

When does your story start?

That's silly, you may say. At the beginning. Duh.

But when do you really begin?

In my WIP, my inspiration was an image of a body in the water that is found by a Thai fisherman. From there I started asking how he got there, and the story took off.

I initially started the story with the fisherman finding the body. I recently revised it to show the person found in the water running for his life in the jungle, to make the suspense immediate and to show more connection to events later on. So my first chapter was Travis running and getting caught, and the fisherman finding his body in the water. I then shift to Jenna, Travis's sister, who is a medical student on training in the ER, showing a day in her life to introduce her character and skill set, for chapter two.

I just got the results back from a writing competition I entered. The feedback was positive, with constructive criticism revealing things I needed to work on. One repeated comment was that I wasn't starting with the protagonist in the main conflict right away.

One judge suggested the first chapter be a prologue. Another thought I needed to start with Jenna, and show her getting the news about her brother right away.

These are good thoughts, but I think the contest is limited by only being the first 15 pages. In the next chapter I introduce the other main character and his connection to Jenna, with chapter 4 as the point when Jenna finds out about her murdered brother.

My dilemna is how to handle the opening. Is a prologue the right way to go? I've struggled with this for a while. I understand why it would work that way. I also hear readers skip prologues. I never do, but then I read the acknowledgements and almost anything else in print in the book.

So this is a question for my writing friends. What do you think about prologues, and how would you suggest arranging the structure here?

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