Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tuesday Tidbits: PROLOGUES, FLASHBACKS, DREAMS, & EPILOGUES, OH MY!

As authors, we are cautioned against using these devices.


On one hand, I agree.


On the other hand, I have used each of these at different times. The problem with each and why they are generally frowned upon is their misuse or poor use. When used well, they are great plot devices and can enhance a story. When used poorly, they can be detrimental.


Prologues
are those introductory scenes the author wants the reader to know before the main part of the story starts. Some readers always read the prologues and some readers never read the prologues. Those who don’t have probably read too many unnecessary ones. Those who do, like me, want to make sure we don’t miss anything.

~Some times the prologue is something that happened months or years before the start of the story. I always have to wonder if this information would do better in a flashback.

~Some times in a thriller, suspense, or mystery, the prologue will be from a victim’s or bad guy’s point of view, and that point of view won’t be used again in the story.

~Some times in mystery/thriller/suspense, the author will take an exciting scene from the middle of the book and put it in a prologue to add tension and suspense before much of interest happens to engage the reader. I tend not to like these as they feel like cheating to me. I feel as though the author couldn’t figure out how to make the first chapter interesting enough, so they pad the beginning. I know this is an often used device in these types of stories, but I still don’t care for them. I’m not one who reads the end of a book first. This kind of prologue is the author forcing me to read a part of the story that hasn’t happened yet. I don’t even really care for this type of thing in my favorite TV shows, but those work a bit better for me because I already care about the characters.

~Some times prologues are just back-story dumps. This is a no-no. Sprinkle back story in throughout the story.

As authors, we must ask ourself if the reader must have this information to enjoy the story or does the author just want to tell it. If it is necessary information, can the author sprinkle it in later in the story when it really matters? If the author gives vital information in the prologue, by the time that information is needed, can the reader remember it after 200 pages? Or is the author going to repeat the information.

In my first published novel, Newlywed Games, the editor asked for a prologue, so I wrote one. She felt that readers needed to see my hero and heroine together before the inciting incident in chapter one.


The keys to a good prologue are to make them relevant, engaging, and short. The reader wants to get into the main story you promised them from the description.

Because I know that some people never read prologues, I try not to use them. I’ve heard some authors say that it’s fine if some of the readers don’t read the prologue. My questions is: If it’s fine not to read the prologue, why put it in?


Flashbacks
are when the point of view character remembers, in a showing scene, something that happened before the point in the story where the character is currently. Flashbacks are tricky business. Done well, they can help. Done poorly, and they only serve to confuse the reader.

I read a book that was a series of out of sequence flashbacks. There were flashbacks within flashbacks, within flashbacks. After a couple of chapters, I gave up on trying to figure out any kind of sequence of events. If I wasn’t reading it for book club group, I would have set it down and never picked it up again. I saw absolutely no need to tell the story in such a disorganized out-of-sequence order. The writing itself was good and engaging, but I was too distracted by trying figure out when in time I was to enjoy it. No, this wasn’t The Time Traveler’s Wife. I could actually follow that one, more or less, and enjoyed it.

I read another book which had a lot of short flashbacks I felt worked well. I knew when I was heading into a flashback, when I was coming back out, and the flashback related to what was going on in the main storyline. The information in the flashback was needed at that point in time to help understand the current story.


Dreams
are the showing and experiencing what the point of view character is asleep dreaming. Some authors like to use these to up the tension by having the character experience something exciting that doesn’t really have anything to do the actual story.

I try to be careful how I use dreams. I’ve used them to put pieces of a mystery together that the character’s conscious mind couldn’t while they were awake. I used them to highlight a fear. I’ve used them to help a character make an important decision or discovery about themself.

Like prologues and flashbacks, dream sequences should be kept short. If the author wants the reader to believe the events in a dream are really happening, they shouldn’t do it for very long.

Epilogues are those scenes that happen after the main story has ended. These often occur months or years later to show where the characters are now. I think of the four, epilogues are the least troublesome. If a reader is stratified with how the main storyline ended, they can quit without feeling as though they are missing something. Like prologues, I don’t use these often. I try to have a satisfying ending without them. I have included epilogues in a number of my books. Sometimes of my own accord and sometimes because the publisher has requested them.

So what about you? Do you read prologues and epilogues? Why or why not? Do you like flashbacks and/or dream sequences?


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Texas, 1884
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Can a patient love win her heart?

As Isabelle Atwood’s romance prospects are turning in her favor, a family scandal derails her dreams. While making a quilt for her own hope chest, Isabelle’s half-sister becomes pregnant out of wedlock and Isabelle--always the unfavored daughter--becomes the family sacrifice to save face. Despite gaining the attention of a handsome rancher, her parents are pressuring her to marry a man of their choosing to rescue her sister’s reputation. A third suitor waits silently in the wings, hoping for his own chance at love. Isabelle ends up with three marriage proposals, but this only further confuses her decision.


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Finding Love In Last Chance, California by Miralee Ferrell
Dreams of My Heart by Barbara Scott
Hills of Nevermore by Janalyn Voigt
Heart of a Cowboy Novella Collection--four Old West romances by Susan Page Davis, Miralee Ferrell, Yvonne Lehman, and Vickie McDonough

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MARY DAVIS s a bestselling, award-winning novelist of over two dozen titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her 2018 titles include; "Holly and Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides Collection (January), Courting Her Amish Heart (March), The Widow’s Plight (July), Courting Her Secret Heart (September), “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection (December), and Courting Her Prodigal Heart (January 2019). Coming in 2019, The Daughter's Predicament (May) and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads (July). She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.
Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of over thirty-four years and two cats. She has three adult children and two incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at:

1 comment:

Mikki said...

Oh my! I hate flashbacks and dreams; they are usually more distracting than helpful. I LOVE epilogues, and most of the time prologues. If a piece of the story needs to be said, or just enhance it without being needed, then I love to have that as a prologue at the beginning. I have that information in my head, without being distracted or confused about it later.
I like several different genders and have seen both epilogues and prologues in them all. Keep up the good work!

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