Introducing a Character, Not a Bore

introducing a character

10 Signs You’re Introducing a Boring Character

And how you can ensure they hook us from page one.

 

Your character might be complex and dynamic, but if your opening pages make for a boring introduction, the reader probably won’t hang around long enough to find out. Here are ten signs your opening scene might need to go back into the oven, and bake a little longer.

 

Introducing a Boring Character – Warning Sign #10

The Forest From the Trees

What’s the first sign your character introduction needs work? If you’re certain it’s a winner, but you’re yet to finish your novel’s first draft. You may be following an outline, but at this point you haven’t undergone the full journey from problem to climax and finally, resolution. Chances are you just don’t know your protagonist well enough to present them in a truly authentic, strategic way. Finish the first draft and get some much needed perspective, before tackling the introduction again.

 

Introducing a Boring Character – Warning Sign #9

Meet: Anonymous

We hit page three and we’re sitting there scratching our heads. You’ve given us a setting, action and dialogue, but you’ve forgotten to give us a name. Yes, it happens, particularly to those writing in first person narrative. Make sure you find a way to slip the character’s name somewhere on page one (or soon after). It creates a little anchor in our heads for us to attach traits and back story to so that the character doesn’t remain abstract, like a stranger we’re following down the street. Other key attributes, like age, race and gender, should also be clarified as quickly as possible. Don’t allow the reader to form one mental picture, and then suddenly reveal something different.

  

Introducing a Boring Character – Warning Sign #8

Staring Into Space (Sci-Fi not included)

I don’t know how many openers I’ve read that begin with the character musing as they gaze into a mirror, take in a view, sit in traffic, partake in morning ablutions, or <insert banal, sedentary activity here>. This is great for your background notes or character profile, but not the way to hook a reader into a riveting plot line. So, if your character isn’t staring off into space, musing about their life/problems/dreams or whatever, what are they doing?

Something interesting, is a great place to start.

Allow us to draw conclusions about the character by seeing how they interact with the world around them.

First Draft: A journalist sits in his office, ruminating about how he hates his job as a paid hack. He stares at the sprawling view before him, feeling empty and frustrated.

I’m going to give this writer the benefit of the doubt and imagine that these ruminations are really well-written, but even so it sounds pretty flat, right?

Second Draft: We open with a scene of the same journalist arriving at an accident. Instead of going to help the injured people, he chases down the witnesses, hunting for a story. People lie dying and he’s on his knees, snapping pictures as the police arrive.

Whoa. No one needs to tell us he’s a hack, that much is clear, and more! Right away we have a vivid idea of who this guy is, and what his problems are. As the old adage goes, actions speak louder than words. In keeping with this rule, try to avoid opening with long, ‘static’ descriptions of landscapes, towns, or any kind of setting. Once upon a time that style was popular with classical writers, but readers’ expectations have shifted since then. They want you to get to the action, quickly.

 

Introducing a Boring Character – Warning Sign #7

Action – Overload

Now I’m going to contradict myself. I recently read an opening chapter where a police detective and his partner were caught in a violent shootout. Two pages in, the detective’s partner was mortally wounded and I sat there thinking, Why should I care? I barely know the guy! I might be a heartless monster, but it’s not enough to simply describe something sad; you need to make a reader care by engaging them emotionally. Show us a person’s vulnerabilities and dreams, and we become invested in their welfare. It’s the difference between frowning at a TV report declaring hundreds have died in a bomb blast, versus dissolving into tears at the passing of your twelve-year-old labrador. Empathy and emotion aren’t logical; they’re based in familiarity and understanding.

Aside from action, this also applies to info dumps. Avoid the long explanation of how the world was destroyed by aliens, and introduce us instead to the young boy climbing out of the burning rubble of his home.

   

Introducing a Boring Character – Warning Sign #6

Red-Haired-Green-Eyed-Walking-Cliché

Unruly auburn hair framed deep green eyes the color of moss. She’d always hated her hour glass figure, but it still seemed to attract lingering glances wherever she went…

The description above fits half the female protagonists I come across. Funnily enough the heroes rarely have red hair, so it’s some kind of weird gender-based double standard. But the main problem is that these kinds of descriptions feel forced, as if we have to sit still and listen while the picture is ‘set up’ for us. Instead, allow the reader to step effortlessly into your world and absorb a thousand tiny little brushstrokes that come together to create a beautiful image. Tie subtle hints into your action (she ran a hand through her spiky, black hair etc) instead of reporting it all for us in one dating-profile-style slog.

 

Introducing a Boring Character – Warning Sign #5

Don’t Lose the Compass

Is your character a bit of a free-spirit, going along for the ride? That might seem nice in reality, but in fiction it just won’t cut it. A character’s goals might change throughout, but if they don’t have any at all the plot will lack direction and purpose. It’s not enough for us to watch someone walk around and interact with their daily life, or simply deal with problems/opportunities as they pop up. That makes them passive; their choices become meaningless reactions and we have less reason to stand at the sidelines and cheer them onward.

 

Introducing a Boring Character – Warning Sign #4

Perfectionism is Worse Than Boring: It’s Death

Has your character been victimized throughout their life, but never done anything wrong? Or perhaps they’re just all-round fun, flirtatious and interesting; lovable in every way. Victimization / Perfection equals boring for three primary reasons: #1: If they’re a perpetual victim, the reader will assume the narration is self-serving. If the protagonist is perfect, the reader will envy them, instead of empathizing with (and caring about) them. #2: Both types of character lack tension, so there is no simmering intrigue to pull the reader in. The victim’s already dis-empowered and lost, while Miss Perfect is too wonderful to suffer from conflict or weakness. And #3; they’re phony. Do you know anyone who’s perfect, or for that matter totally blameless?

Bonus points: For the romance writers out there, you can apply the same principles to creating a dynamic romantic hero. Resist the temptation to make him #1. rich, #2. handsome and #3. kind. These are the primary ‘virtues’ of a hero, and he’s only allowed to embody 2 out of 3. So if he’s a wealthy, good looking CEO, he needs to be an asshole. Or if he’s the hot, muscled guy with a heart of gold, he also needs to be the penniless stable-hand our aristocratic heroine must admire in secret. At the end of the book he’s allowed to embody all three, but at the start we need to find him lacking in some respect.

 

Introducing a Boring Character – Warning Sign #3

You’ve Killed Them Off

One of my pet peeves as an assessor is when an author goes for a cheap trick to achieve shock value. Examples include, the character who is killed or almost killed, but wakes up to reveal it was only a dream. Or, in chapter one the character we’re following is killed, but chapter two reveals they were only a minor character anyway. Readers invest a certain level of trust in your ability to take them on a journey with integrity. If you make them feel surprise, or sadness and they then find out they’ve been tricked, you’ve forfeited their trust for the remainder of the story.

 

Introducing a Boring Character – Warning Sign #2

Prologue-Schmologue

There is a reason editors, publishers and agents hate prologues, and it’s more than just some global conspiracy to save paper. Most of the time, prologues delay us from meeting our main character (the person we want to connect with), and hamper plots that can function perfectly well without them. Readers don’t want to start a story twice; losing themselves in a time and place only to be suddenly wrenched into another time and place. YES, fantastic books have been published with prologues, but use them at your peril. They fail more often than they triumph.

 

Introducing a Boring Character – Warning Sign #1

The Dark Cell

Why get stuck on the who, what, when and where, if we can jump straight into a page of fast-paced dialogue, or an emotional torrent of thoughts and feelings.

Noooo!

It all boils down to context. We can’t care if we don’t understand the basic dynamics of the situation. How much world-detail you need to set up depends on the type of book; a contemporary romance obviously requires less scene-setting than a fantasy novel. At the very least, let us know where the character is, what they’re doing and which other characters have joined them in the scene. Ensure the context is there for their actions and dialogue to make sense. E.g. we might see a woman slipping on a lacy red bra and praying to Jesus, but if Rhonda is a secretive, sixty-year-old nun in a convent, that’s very different to meeting Rhonda, the twenty-year-old stripper with a heart of gold.

 

Are you writing an opening scene at the moment?

Pop your message or question in the comments below!

 

 

 

45 Comments

  • Reply August 14, 2016

    Mary

    Oh, geez, reading all of this makes me question everything written in my first chapter. Hopefully, I’ll get the hang of things. So glad you made this post!

    • Reply August 22, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Some rules are made to be broken Mary! Take what serves you and leave the rest – the most important thing is keeping up the writing and constantly moving forward. 🙂

  • Reply June 23, 2016

    Ajaxtorm

    Seriously Cate… it’s ultra brilliant. Most exhaustive and full of wisdom. I like your blog and I wish you all the best for your writing experiences. Keep sharing awesome stuff like this.
    Regards,
    Dr.Antony.

    • Reply June 24, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      So glad you enjoyed it Dr. Anthony. I look forward to when you next stop by. 🙂

  • Reply May 5, 2016

    Elmer Seward

    Great advice, Cate. Although I have to admit that I’ve purposely violated number 9 in each of my novels. In Hearts in the Storm, we don’t get the main character’s name until chapter 2. Again, in Set You Free (the manuscript you will receive in the next few days), main character names don’t come until chapter 2. I hate, hate, hate (did I say it enough for emphasis) when I read something like, “Jason Armstrong looked out over . . .” or “My name is Jason Armstrong.” I see these in published books, but I think they are weak and distracting. I believe that a character’s name should come out naturally in the flow of the story, many times as part of conversation. Those are my two cents worth.

    • Reply May 6, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      I agree, Elmer. So many stories start with: Jason Armstrong’s hands gripped the steering wheel as he etc etc. It’s tolerable for book blurbs and descriptions, where we need to get to the point very quickly, but definitely an unnecessary cliche in novels. I’m looking forward to Set You Free; though I would have liked to spend a bit more time with Duck! He was fun.

      • May 7, 2016

        Elmer Seward

        Duck’s still on slate for the future – after Set You Free.

    • Reply May 24, 2016

      J.

      Thank you Elmer for clueing me in on stating the characters name in the first sentance. I was told over and over that not doing so was a mistake by the cridics online. I went and fixed it. Now to go fix the other chapters with other charicters being introduced.

      • May 24, 2016

        Elmer Seward

        I’m not saying that the way I introduce characters is the only way or the right way. It’s what makes sense to me as a reader and a writer. However, you have to be careful not to confuse the reader. I’ve really pushed the limits of this in the novel that Cate is currently reviewing, Set You Free, and she may hammer me for it on this one. We’ll see. I may be the one going back and revising.

      • May 25, 2016

        Cate Hogan

        No hammering, only nudging 🙂

  • Reply March 10, 2016

    Charlotte Rains Dixon

    Great post, thanks, Cate!

  • Reply March 8, 2016

    Missye K. Clarke

    I gotta BIG bone to pick on #s #2 and #9. First on #9 (in order of appearance): If you’re walking down the street, see a super-cute guy/female with a purse you’re lusting after/smell a particular cologne or perfume that turns your head, will you not follow the person long enough to track them down and ask about it? Sure would. You don’t have to know their name to do that, do you? Nope (And for the record, I’ve done two out of three: the cologne and the bag. Not the guy. He chased me. We’re friends to this day 🙂 ). So, too, why do we need to know the character’s name straight off? If everything else about the story grabs me, that detail won’t yet matter. And if you don’t care about the character in the first place, knowing his name won’t make you care, even if you happened to like that name the author gave the lead.

    The above analogy is PERFECT for a writer to break this rule, provided he’s using these traits–the cologne, the purse, the attraction factor, etc.–in his prose to justify not using the 1st POV character’s name. It can be done, and honestly, SHOULD be done, when finessed well enough. And you can’t hone that until the mistakes of it are made first. Then, one will know what NOT to do, to keep doing that which they’re told NOT to do.

    #2 — If prologues are so bad, why do the books of yesterday have them? They serve a purpose; several successful romance writers today use them (Patricia Kay, Mary Higgins Clark to name two). Granted, they’re older ladies still writing in this format, but age doesn’t matter; how well that tool is used, no matter how antique is might be, does. As for this line–“YES, fantastic books have been published with prologues, but use them at your peril. They fail more often than they triumph.”–why should the writer use them at their peril? If the story dictates it, use it. That blanket statement is exactly why, with all due respect to you, I scream in frustration at the levels of contradiction this industry permits to run rampant. If one’s story needs a prologue, let it be there to serve a purpose; Chapter One is as much a setup, too. And not all one author’s books will call for a prologue, right? As for them failing more than they triumph, yes, they do. But, like in my nit-pick of #9, if finessed well enough, this tool can also be as useful as its books’ predecessors had been. It’s statements like these–“Use At Your Own Peril!”–that throw an unnecessary scare into perfecting this craft without meaning to, but also needlessly. Thomas Edison failed forward. These tools, too, can do the same.

    Terry Brooks, author of the Shannara Chronicles, said a book is the cheapest form of entertainment, and the longest to invest one’s time and imagination in. Okay, prologues are encouraged to be cut for the sake of saving paper, but this wide swath of ALL prologues should be cut serves no purpose.

    Aside from that, this is a resourceful article, and I’m glad I don’t break said Laws of No Boring Characters. Then again, I’m supposed to drive 55 mph; I don’t often do that, either.

    I’m not angry, but my biting sarcasm might be seen as such. I’m not, honest. Just fed up with the constant writer noise, is all, and it landed here. 🙂

    • Reply March 8, 2016

      Inge H. Borg

      Thanks, Missye, for your “Granted, they’re older ladies…”

      Now I know why I wrote those prologues…And perhaps also why my gnarled fingers produced “notice writers,” instead of “novice writers” in my comment below…Open your mouth about something – and it never fails to humble you.

      • March 10, 2016

        Cate Hogan

        No humbling here Inge! Please feel free to toss your typos around like confetti. Grammar-Nazis are not allowed; the more sharing the better. 🙂

    • Reply March 10, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Sure Missye, all good points. I think the thing to remember here is that there are very few writing rules that can’t be broken. This article isn’t intended as some sort of gospel. Some characters don’t need a name. Others don’t require physical descriptions. We’ve all read fantastic books where those rules are broken (which is largely what makes them fantastic in the first place). The point of this article is to highlight ‘signs’ that writers might have missed – e.g. holes in their set up that are accidental, as opposed to deliberate. If you purposefully make a character mysterious, then more power to you. If it’s a vague, accidental oversight, then you need to question that. And if you write a prologue because it seems like the fastest, easiest way to set up a plot, you might be short-cutting the story. If it’s a carefully considered strategic decision (and you understand the difference between a good prologue and a waste of space) then prologue-away. 8 times out of 10 they don’t work, but that doesn’t diminish the 20% that do. If anything, it simply makes them more special.

  • Reply March 8, 2016

    Inge H. Borg

    Oh dear! Mea culpa!
    I use prologues for all my five Ancient Egyptian fiction novels to introduce the effects on people’s minds of the “devil winds,” for instance, the Khamsin and the Sirocco. The prologue in the latter actually garnered a favorable mention from Underground Book Reviews: “I’m sick of hearing agents and publishers disrespect the prologue. If written well, prologues work just fine. In fact, it was Sirocco’s intriguing prologue that snagged my attention. A few lines into Inge H. Borg’s thriller and I wanted to read more.”
    My point is, one can guide the notice writer, yes; but in the end, he or she needs to make their own choices as to what they want to say and how, otherwise we’ll all be producing formulaic cookie-cutter stuff (of which there is enough being spewed already).
    On the other hand, thanks, Cate. It is always good to be reminded of our sins; because those ‘darlings’ do creep in and nest there unless someone bashes us over the head with them.

    • Reply March 10, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      That’s my pleasure Inge! And yes, I love nothing more than showing novice writers the ropes, only to watch the truly talented ones go out, break them, and soar.

  • Reply March 7, 2016

    Hannah Toner

    These are great tips overall. However, introductions are tough; failing to write a good introduction doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve written a boring character. Additionally, victimization can be used well if your protagonist actually is a self-serving or untrustworthy. It can be quite interesting too.

    • Reply March 10, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      I think fascinating characters and strong introductions are largely one and the same, but then I’m a character-driven writer (and reader). And victims certainly make for great characters, but as protagonists they can be tricky. It’s hard to care about someone who is disempowered and self-serving, because we’re throwing our sympathy into a bottomless pit and hoping for a return on investment. I’m sure that a writer has succeeded in mastering this somewhere along the line, but I’m yet to encounter a strong example.

  • Reply March 7, 2016

    jezebellydancer

    Great tips.

    I’m a writer and a professional editor. I see these things all the time with newbie writers. And then they argue with me as to why they need that boring data dump of a prologue, or why why keep describing every new character to the scene as if they were narrating celebs on the red carpet 🙁 Sometimes I feel like along with editing, I am also teaching Creative Writing 101.

    Now I can just give them the link to this article so they know it’s not just my personal opinion.

    • Reply March 10, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Thank you! And it’s funny you say that; I actually drafted this article by cutting and pasting the ten or so most frequent introduction-based recommendations I’ve made to my writers, and now use this link in my assessments on a regular basis. Glad it can prove useful to you also. 🙂

  • Reply February 22, 2016

    Victoria Louise Hill

    Ooops… anonymous main character and opening turmoil of thoughts and emotions on the first page… and I thought it was such a vivid, dramatic opening.

    Thanks for this article, I’ve bookmarked it and will return to read it when I’ve finished the first draft. I’ve already gone back and made sure I’ve made it clear what my character’s name is.

    • Reply March 10, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      I love to hear that Victoria! And don’t be afraid of breaking the rules as well – as long as it’s a strategic decision (not an oversight) then it should work out just fine. Happy writing!

  • Reply February 22, 2016

    Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw

    Great tips here, thank you!

    I’ve encountered “Anonymous” more than a few times; annoying to say the least. I’ve always taken great pains in my own writing to make sure my character is more than just a voice in those first several paragraphs. I am all to aware of how important it is for the reader to be able to engage quickly.

    I’ve used a prologue only once… so far… and that was in my memoir. I wouldn’t hesitate to use a prologue in my fiction if I felt it added something as a prologue and couldn’t be said in those first chapters. Although, I won’t use it in any of my noir stories. In my opinion, prologues have no place in noir. In keeping with the “styling” particular to noir, prologue, which is really only back story, should be woven in gradually in the first chapter.

    Thank you for the advice.

  • Reply February 22, 2016

    charlie

    Writing a scene closing out act I. Staring at my fav quotations:

    The best location for a scene is often the worst location for your character to do what it is he or she needs to do. Discrepancy heightens conflict. What is the best worst place to stage the scene? Think about When Harry Met Sally, a great movie that makes awesome use of locations.

    When it comes to dialogue and subtext, never ever have a character come out and say what he is thinking or feeling. Brilliant characters have us discover/uncover what’s going on inside their heads by their actions, or how they dance around important topics when they’re talking – not how they address them head on.

    The first draft is always shit. –some guy named Hemingway.

    Keep writing, even when you feel like you’re shoveling shit uphill with a typewriter. Some guy who lives up in Maine.

  • Reply February 20, 2016

    TL Fisher

    Like Hazel I typically use prologues to set up the story, or provide crucial information that doesn’t need to clutter the opening scene. I’ve recently started a chick’lit novel that I chose to not use a prologue. I think it depends on the situation. I love some of the advice and will try to trap it somewhere in this crazy bogged down brain of mine. I typically write romance, so this new project has been challenging to come up with an opening scene I’m satisfied with. After reading this, I think I’ll continue with my story and come back to rewrite the opening scene when I’m like besties with my main characters. This makes complete sense.

    • Reply February 21, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Great to hear! I used to painstakingly craft my opening chapters prior to reaching a full draft, which made the inevitable cutting/changes a lot more painful. Definitely helps to go into it with an open mind (and sharp scalpel!)

  • Reply February 18, 2016

    Jamie

    Really helpful list! As a newbie writer, I will definitely take these into consideration!

    • Reply February 21, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading.

  • Reply February 16, 2016

    Janet

    Considering I commit all of your writing sins listed here, I guess you ought to stay away from my work. I see nothing wrong with books that open with a dream sequence or an action scene. I have no difficulty connecting with the character through such methods and don’t see the problem if done right. I also see a lot of traditionally published bestsellers that open with an action scene or a prologue. If editors hate prologues so much, they seem to be letting a lot of them through. As for the “Red-Haired-Green-Eyed-Walking-Cliché” I’ve never run into it myself. Though I do agree with not writing a description list of the character. I see too many books, even bestsellers that do this, where the author just writes the physical description as though it is a laundry list. It will read something like: he had brown hair that was shaggy, gray eyes, white skin, and wore a white shirt that was unbuttoned, and jeans that hung just off the hips, and his shoes were Nikes. This sort of “descriptive” writing drives me insane because it reads as though they are just checking stuff off their shopping list. FSOG was really bad about this and it annoyed the crap out of me.

    However, this list is more your personal preference of what you don’t like to see in books, and that’s fine, but i have to disagree with some if it. I don’t consider myself a novice at all, but do use some of your “don’ts” because I find them effective in helping to establish one aspect of the main character. My latest book opens with a prologue and an action scene. I tried another way, but ended up boring myself, and so, I did it my preferred way: open with a bang.

    • Reply February 16, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Thanks Janet. While I’d love to take credit for these as a kind of personal preference list, it’s actually a pretty standard guide to characterization. I think the main point is to remember that all the rules in this list can be broken if you’re an experienced (or talented) enough writer to pull it off. Readers cast the ultimate vote, so if your books are selling well you have nothing to worry about.

  • Reply February 15, 2016

    Alan

    These are wonderful tips Cate. Although I am definitely guilty of the Prologue sin!

    • Reply February 16, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Nothing wrong with a good prologue. Just make sure it is one! 🙂

  • Reply February 10, 2016

    James

    Personally, my supporting character is a red-haired, svelte vixen but her eyes are only green when things are really calm. And don’t blame me, she was designed (by the bio-engineers) to be something of an archetype.

    I also have a prologue, a 1/2 page ‘historical document’ that will probably be cut before I let anybody else read it.Still, I love it and it needed to be written because my hero and my villains are in part, forged by that ancient event. Sigh.

    So, in sum: great advice. Especially the one about redoing the start after you’ve written a draft, that’s well worth thinking about. Will definitely be bookmarking this page!

    • Reply February 13, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Thanks James! And yes, archetypes definitely have their place in fiction, both physically and thematically. It sounds like your prologue might need to stay – or ask yourself if the same info could be introduced later in the story somehow. If the piece is full of intrigue and hints at oncoming tension, it might make an effective hook. But if it’s pure backstory / information, it might be better placed later on. Happy writing 🙂

  • Reply February 10, 2016

    Gayatri

    This is really good advice l. Exactly the kind of thing required for novice novelists and storytellers

    • Reply February 13, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      True – even when you think you’ve heard it all, it’s important to brush up on the basics. Thanks for reading Gayatri!

  • Reply February 9, 2016

    Lynne

    Sometimes I find it hard to get a balance with description, dialogue and action, but I keep trying! Thank you these were good points to think about.

    • Reply February 13, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Some writers can craft a entire pages of dialogue and make it work. Others communicate everything through description and a few well placed words. Everyone is different, but it helps to have great beta readers who offer perspective when you get too close. Happy writing! 🙂

  • Reply February 8, 2016

    Hazel Campbell

    I chose to use a prologue to introduce essential backstory details I didn’t want cluttering the story proper. My protagonist is there from the first sentence. However, the prologue is in the third person and the story in the first person. I might have done a few no-no’s in MY THEEE MOMS

    • Reply February 13, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Rules were made to be broken, as they say! It sounds like switching narrative styles could work well in this instance – making the different time frames clear and creating a stylistic divide between the set up and story. A question for your beta readers.

  • Reply February 8, 2016

    Forest Wells

    Very good advice, and something to keep in mind as I perfect my craft.

    Though I have to admit, I’m always confused when I see so many say “DON’T DO PROLOGUES!” then I go out and read a bestseller like the Honor Harrington books, that not only have them, but they bring value to the world, despite the main character being no where in it.

    I keep hearing that editors hate prologues, yet I keep seeing them, and finding they do bring a value to the book. Sometimes it lets the reader see the “other side” of the coming conflict. Or they get to meet “the bad guy” before our hero knows who he really is (and readers often love knowing things the other characters don’t). Or, the one time I’ve used it, it’s allowed my reader to “see” a moment my main character was kind of too young to remember, but is a touching moment that matters.

    So, respectfully, I suspect the issue with prologues isn’t a “don’t ever”, it’s more like, “if you do, it better be worth it.” David Weber has made his VERY worth it. Others, not as much. It’s a risk to be sure, so I would agree, tread lightly when trying one. And try hard to go without before you decide you “need” it.

    • Reply February 8, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      You’re exactly right Forest. It’s not that prologues can’t work, it’s that they tend to be mangled in the hands of novices. Bestselling writers can break lots of the rules in this list – introducing musing protagonists etc, but for 95% of writers it’s best to avoid devices that take a lot of experience to use effectively.

  • Reply February 6, 2016

    Angela

    Staring into space / contemplation – guilty as charged! Thanks for the tip

    • Reply February 6, 2016

      Cate Hogan

      Oh, we’ve all resorted to this one at some point Angela! You are not alone 🙂

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