Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Agents and editors are notorious prologue skeptics. The reason being, many times a prologue is what is referred to as “backstory” or an “info dump.” So when I had to confess to my editor that I had written a prologue, her reaction was –Why?

The truth was my first chapter had become bogged down with backstory, and after rewriting it no less than twenty times, it still read like an info dump. The reader needs some backstory, and it is the writer’s job to make it as invisible as possible. Sometimes the narrator gives the reader this information, sometimes it is told through dialogue, and sometimes it is done with internal monologue—a character’s thoughts. But no matter what the delivery, it becomes boring if too much backstory is laid on the reader before he has even met the main character.

The backstory problem I faced with A Splinter In Time was that I had two female characters whose lives and history were intertwined. They have been best friends since the age of six, one is black and one is white, one’s ancestors owned a plantation before the Civil War, the other’s ancestor was a slave on the plantation. All of this information is essential for the reader to know before the time travel event sends one of them to the Civil War South.

And so a prologue seemed my only option. It is short, and is set on the day the girls first meet. To my surprise, it was the easiest chapter in the novel to write. I had been to Charleston and I could see the scene in my head. As I wrote, I watched six year old Audrey’s doll fall from the rail of the second floor piazza. I saw Leigh’s mother bring her up the sidewalk and settle her in the shade of the scarlet crape myrtle, then go to the door to ask for work. I heard the creak of the screen door when Leigh’s mother went into the house, and the rustle of wisteria leaves when Leigh climbed the woody vine to return the doll to Audrey.

When chapter one opens, thirty years have melted away. The reader knows these two women, and the first chapter isn’t bogged down with the details of their history.

To read the prologue of this award winning novel, click the following link, then click “Look inside” just above the book cover.

Linda Shelby
A Splinter In Time - Historical Romance/Time Travel


Barbara Bettis said...

I agree that there are times when prologues serve a purpose but, as you also say, not as backstory dump. Good post!

Marcia Preston said...

A prologue is sometimes the best (or only) way to set up a story that begins years later. As a reader, I enjoy them.

Cat Dubie said...

I always read prologues, good bad and ugly, figuring there could be something pertinent to the story. Some of my novels will have prologues, some won't.

I enjoyed reading your prologue, Linda.

Cj Fosdick said...

I ended my first novel with an intriguing oeek at the second one in "The Accidental Series." The prologue of the 2nd novel became that "peek." Both novels are written from the heroine's viewpoint, but the peek was from a stalker's POV as he watched the heroine from a distance. I thought it served the dual purpose well: Pulling in readers and engaging them in a mystery from the beginning to connect The Accidental Wife and The Accidental Stranger.

Cj Fosdick