Today is a day for thought. First off, Johanna over at Once Upon A Novelist got me thinking about prologues. For the uninitiated (or just those of you who like clarification), prologues are a prequel of sorts. They can also be referred to as backstory, and they are used to provide a little background for the reader. Every writer has their own opinion on this, and I've read quite a few angry rants against the practice. On the surface, I can see their point and I do agree that prologues can be a bad thing. For one thing, prologues can easily end up "telling" the story versus "showing", because after all this is what you are doing - narrating what happened before your MC got to where they are now. If you're a decent enough writer, you will hopefully avoid this pitfall. I do acknowledge though, that prologues can make it more difficult.
I consider a prologue a good thing however, if it makes sense for the story as a whole. If you step back from your work and see that a prologue is necessary to make the work complete, then by all means add it in. There are contingencies with this though. You have to be extra careful not to get caught "telling". You need to maintain your author's voice throughout, so that the prologue is no different in voice from the rest of the work. The POV (something I'll touch on more in a moment) needs to stay consistent. The thread that weaves its way from beginning to end should remain unbroken throughout, so that you are not "pulling your reader out of the action", so to speak. If all of the above is in place and done well, then a prologue might work perfectly.
That's enough on prologues, so thanks Johanna for giving me something to ponder. Now let's talk about POV or point of view. This is an aspect of writing I hadn't given much thought to until other bloggers started pointing it out as significant. I then realized that my POV was all over the place, meandering around like a drunken bumblebee. So why is POV important? Well, if you're writing in 1st person, this is obvious. You can't tell the story from one person's perspective if you include other perspectives.
Telling a story from 2nd person POV is odd in my opinion. Basically it is where you tell the reader's story. It becomes more clear with an example, trust me. Writing in 2nd person would look something like this:
"You stood next to the swift river for some time, gazing into its depths. Without warning, you plunged in."
I honestly can't remember any book I've ever read that is written (entirely) in this fashion, so if anyone can enlighten me, that'd be great. I also cannot imagine writing an entire story from this POV, but I can see how much of a challenge it would be.
Writing in 3rd person POV is probably the most common (an assumption on my part, so feel free to correct me here) perspective used. It can be omniscient, where the narrator or storyteller knows everything about all characters. This particular POV is where you have to be careful, because you can get caught jumping from one character to the next, describing their feelings or whatever, and you may end up confusing your reader. You can also use 3rd person from the perspective of a certain character (I am unfamiliar with what the term is, so feel free to supply it, English majors). In this instance, only what that character actually knows, feels, sees, etc is related to the reader. For example, my MC wouldn't know exactly how a stranger on the street really feels inside, especially if their facial expressions or body language didn't provide clues.
The important thing here is to pick a POV and stick with it throughout. With 3rd person omniscient, it's very easy to get into head-hopping so be careful. Thorough editing and/or multiple drafts should help you get rid of any POV mistakes though.
Finally, as stated in the title I have a pronouncement. I have since the beginning of time proudly stated that I am a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. Fear not, I am not completely abandoning this practice. I still think there is value in discovering the story, but part I of Scott Bailey's post here got me thinking about my own writing processes. In my current WiPs, there are some questions I can't honestly answer that I should be able to. I should have at least some general idea of why my protag is in this story. I should have an idea of what it would take to resolve whatever the conflict is that is going on. Too many questions...too many questions...
I have therefore decided that I need a little more structure in my writing. I need to at least answer some of the basic questions from the outset - Who, What, Where, Why, and How. I can see how not answering at least 4 of these questions causes me to stumble midway through. I usually just plunge in and start writing, and I don't answer these questions. Then as I get farther down the road, I'm stuck wondering where the heck this train is headed. I already know I can't do a formal outline. Been there, tried that, it don't work. But a rough question/answer scribbling just might be what I need. Ta Da! Are you impressed? Yeah, I know it's very anti-climatic. It's been difficult for me to admit (or realize maybe) that my process just isn't working, but I don't expect everyone to hoop and holler in celebration.
What are your thoughts on prologues? Are there any POVs you absolutely would not write in (for me, its 2nd person)? Any grand pronouncements we should all be aware of (it can be just as silly as my own, with just as much fanfare)?