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Pandragon Dan

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How to Write an Awesome Prologue - A Guest Post by De Kenyon

Stuck on how to write that incredibly brilliant prologue for your book? Never fear - author Deanna Kipling is here today to give some tips on how to write an awesome prologue!

 

Deanna writes under the name De Kenyon is the author of the short story anthology Tales Told Under Covers - which I reviewed early last year. See my review of her book HERE .

 

In the meantime, I now hand you over to Deanna for her post - take it away Deanna!

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How to Write an Awesome Prologue

 

 

Most writing advice on how to write prologues goes like this: don’t.

 

Okay. Having read a ton of slush from beginning and intermediate writers, I can see the point. Prologues in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand prologues are almost always bad. Not just kinda bad, but baaaaaaad.
Now, I’m not a famous writer with lots of street cred. And I haven’t written a million prologues. But I have read through the mistakes that beginners make over and over again, so let’s first get those out of the way.

 

The big oopsies:

 

•    The prologue is unnecessary. Usually, this is because the prologue is just backstory--something that we can find out later, like in Chapter 10 while two characters gossip.
•    Nothing happens. The prologue isn’t written as a scene with setting and characters, just a summary of What Happened Fifty Years Ago, like a history lesson.
•    “Did you know?” We get backstory in the form of dialogue between a couple of characters. Yawwwwn.
•    The characters in the prologue are boring, stupid, or pointless. And we really don’t care what happens to them.
•    The prologue contains no setting.  Usually while trying to be mysterious, the writer makes it so mysterious that we have no idea where the characters are!

 

I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones I usually read, full of boring stuff the writer had to know in order to start writing the book. No wonder that most writing advice says not to write a prologue.

 

But...

 

There are some awesome prologues out there, so somebody must be doing it right.

 

So why write a prologue?

 

•    The beginning of the story is low-key. The beginning’s not boring--you should never bore your reader--but it’s a sunny day at a picnic where something seemingly insignificant puts the story in motion. A lot of cozy mysteries do this: they show a murder then switch to the sleuth in a calm scene where they pick up the first, hidden clues.
•    It’s a story within a story. The Princess Bride by William Goldman does this--in the movie, it starts out with a grandfather trying to comfort his sick, bored, cynical grandson.
•    To show some other type of contrast. If you want to show the difference between the past and the present--use a prologue. Between fantasy and reality--use a prologue. Between two completely different outlooks on life (with different POV characters)--use a prologue. How the future will look back events vs. how the characters see them at the moment--use a prologue. Any contrast can make a good prologue, as long as that contrast is important to your whole story.

 

And note that if you can write Chapter 1 instead of Prologue at the top of that section and have it still make sense to readers, then it’s not a true prologue. Just call it Chapter 1.

 

Now, finally--the traits of an awesome prologue:

 

•    It hooks the reader right away. Rule #1 of Write Club: Don’t bore the reader. But use whatever techniques you like, from action to great voice to characters you can never forget.
•    Make sure it fits. A prologue is your readers’ first impression of your book. When you write a prologue, you’re making a promise that the rest of the book will match. Write a couple of incompetent bad guys in the prologue, then write a detective novel featuring a serious detective? Nope. You promised the reader Inspector Clouseau in your prologue, not Sherlock Holmes.
•    Don’t give a lot of backstory. Remember, a prologue is supposed to contrast. If all you’re doing is giving the reader backstory to explain why the main character is the way she is, you could do that in backstory. But if you show a scene from the character’s past in the prologue...then have her show up in Chapter 1 acting differently than we expect, that’s interesting. What happened that we don’t know about?
•    Build a character in a setting with a problem. If this looks familiar, it’s because it’s the beginning of Algis Budrys’s Seven Point Plot.
•    Something important happens that explains why the rest of story is important. Like in The Princess Bride: We know that the fantasy story about Buttercup and Westley (and fantasy in general) is important because it delights the cynical grandson the same way it did his grandfather, when he was a kid.
•    It’s short. If your prologue goes on and on...maybe your prologue is the book you should be writing. I’d say look at your average chapter length and make the prologue just a little bit shorter.  A prologue is an appetizer, not a main course.
•    Chapter 1 isn’t boring. You gotta start all over when you hit Chapter 1. Chapter 1 can be more low-key, but it can’t be boring. Your readers have to be hooked by your character in a setting with a problem just as hard as they were in the prologue. Going back to The Princess Bride...the beginning of the story-within-a-story is pretty slow, right? So slow that the overly cynical grandson complains about it. But it’s still fun to watch.

 

I’m pretty sure I haven’t hit on all the techniques that you could possibly use. But these are some good ones to start with.

 

So if you want to write a prologue, don’t let people scare you away from it...but make sure it’s an awesome prologue if you do.

 

DeAnna Knippling tends to like books that are stories within stories and would hate for prologues to go away.

 

Check out Ebooks 101: Beginning Formatting, her new kids’ story, “Beware the Easter Moon,” written as De Kenyon, or her blog at www.DeAnnaKnippling.com.

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A huge thanks to Deanna for her amazing guest post. I'm now going to go back to my next book and work on that amazing prologue! Hope you guys found this interesting as well! Please leave comments below and share some love!

 

Authors - do you have a guest blog that you want contribute? Please contact me on pandragonpublishing@gmail.com to discuss.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Pandragon

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Author Interviews - De Kenyon

Up a day later than usually, but none the less I have today the last in my series of Author Interviews (for the time being) of authors whose books I have reviewed on Read2 Review. Today I have with me the wonderful De Kenyon.

Of all the interview's I've done, her's is by far the most entertaining and hirlarious. I love her sense of humour! De Kenyon is the author of the brilliant Tales Told Under Covers - a selection of Children's Horror stories. Featuring everything from zombies to wizards to giant sushi monsters (yes you heard that correctly), this book is a must read if you're looking for entertaining horror that's perfect for children. In fact I actually compared De Kenyon to H.P Lovecraft in some way, in the sense that her stories are so wild and imagitive it's hard not to be swept away by them!

Check out my review for the book HERE . In the meantime, let's see how De Kenyon decided to answer my questions. Enjoy!

 

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
No.  I refuse.  I refuse to tell you about my love of comic books, learning karate with my daughter, or living in Colorado with an awesome playhouse in the back yard.  You'll just have to live with your despair, which, I see, is making you cry  disconsolately.



2. Outside of writing, what would you say your favourite hobbies are?
Reading books.  I read a lot of books (and comics).  Cooking weird food that I don't know how to cook, just because I want to see how many ways I can mess it up.  Well, I suppose I also want to eat it, but mostly I want to see how far I can mess with things before I can't eat it anymore.  Playing online games with my family.  We usually end up on the bad guys' side.  They're just misunderstood, you know.



3. What made you want to get into writing?
I used to make up stories for people when they came to visit us. We lived on a farm, and my mom stayed home all day, so one or two of our cousins would stay with us every year and hang out and do chores and things.  And we'd play pretend--oh, for a very long time, probably until I was in sixth grade or so--and go on adventures and things.  I'd set up whatever the beginning was, and then we'd all play until everyone got mad at each other.  I got bored in school, and one of the teachers decided that I needed to be a writer, because that's what I'd do in class after I'd done all the homework: make up stuff.  I was sent to writer camp for a week...only I had to write a story before they'd let me in.  Does that make sense, I ask you?  First you teach me to write, and then I write the story.  But no.



4. Who would you say are your favourite authors and who inspires your writing the most?
I'm a huge Alice's Adventures in Wonderland fan, to the point where I know that the town where the author spent some of his vacations had a bunch of white rabbits running all over the parks.  LOTS of them, for some reason.  I find that Alice always inspires me.  I also love Terry Pratchett, Steven Brust, Spider Robinson, Robert Heinlein, Eoin Colfer, Carol Berg, Jonathan Stroud, Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones...oh, about a bajillion other authors, too.



5. Without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us a little about Tales Told Under The Covers?
It's a collection of short stories about a) defeating bullies, 2) getting in trouble, and d) a lot of other things.  I used to read a lot of horror stories as a kid, like the books with 101 spooky stories in them and stuff.  So all the stories are a little creepy in one way or another, and I can't think of any of the stories that doesn't have a fight in it.  But all of the stories have mostly happy endings.  Because I'm terrible at sad endings, really.



6. How did you get the ideas for the stories in the book?
I asked kids for ideas and then made them as weird as possible.  Like for "A Picture is Worth 1000 Chomps," I asked for an idea, any idea, and the girl told me she wanted a story about evil things coming out of mirrors or picture frames.  I just changed it to cameras and laptops, because nobody expects your tech stuff to be more or less haunted.



7. Do you prefer writing short stories over full length novels?
I like both, but short stories are harder for me.  The hardest part is coming up with the ideas for me, so short stories mean a lot of work for not all that much writing.



8. Which of the stories is your favourite?
It depends on my mood.  Usually I like "The Last Voyage of the Mermaid" the best, because my daughter, when she was younger, was always asking me what death was like, and I never knew what to say to her.  But when we go out for sushi, it's "Attack of the 50-Foot Sushi Monster," because that's where we came up with the idea.  Each of the stories has its own special moments where I'm like, "Oh, story.  I love you so."



9. Even though it’s aimed at children, do you worry that some of the content may be a bit too dark for them in places?
Yes and no.  Yes, because I know some kids are scared out of their wits by scary stories.  No, because the book kind of says, "Hey, there are some scary stories in here."  I think adults don't give kids credit for their bravery.  They see you be scared about one thing, like spiders, and think, "This kid's a chicken" for the rest of their childhoods.  And kids have to deal with scary things all the time--like divorce, parents who have job/money/drug or alcohol problems, not knowing whether you'll ever see your friends next school year, bullies, etc.  Why not talk about that?



10. I have to ask this – the story about the Sushi monster is one of the strangest, yet really entertaining stories I’ve read. Where did the inspiration for that one come from?
My daughter.  We were eating sushi, as we do, and sitting at the counter watching the chefs chop things up.  One of her favorite things to eat was octopus for a while; now it's two different kinds of fish eggs.  I told her I needed an idea for my next story.  When the rolls came out, we were messing around, and she kind of built a sushi figure from my roll.  "What if this was a sushi man and he ate everyone?"  I think that's how she put it.  I sometimes have to tone down her ideas a little; they're already pretty far out there.



11. Are there any current horror trends that get on your nerves?
The women who scream and get chopped to bits.  Really?  Really?  If I'm ever in a horror movie, I'm going for a cleaver.  Or a nice, heavy set of keys.  Even a pen.  I may die, but I'm taking at least a few bad guys with me.  Especially if there are kids to defend.  Hooh boy.  I'd just put down the chainsaw and run, if I were the bad guy.  Don't mess with ladies who are defending little kids.



12. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read.  If you want to write, you should be addicted to reading the stuff you want to write.  Don't watch mostly TV if you want to write books, for example.  And write. A lot.  Not just when you feel like it.  All the time.  Every day.  It doesn't matter if it's terrible; if you keep writing, it'll get better.  It just will, believe it or not.  But write a lot.



AUTHOR DETAILS

I blog at www.dekenyon.com and tweet at @writerde .  You can get my book in print at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or as an ebooks at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Smashwords, and lots of other online bookstores.

 

Thanks again to De for the interview - I hope you all found it as entertaining as I did. More author interviews coming very soon!

Normal service should resume for blogging as from tomorrow! Until then, keep reading!

 

Kindest

Pandragon

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