That’s right. I used an 8LW banned word (or it would be, if we kept a banned words list). Prologue. In our McDaniel classes, Jenny instructed, encouraged, and pleaded with us to eschew prologues, because the story should start when the Thing That Changes Everything happens. But since this isn’t a story, I figure I can get away with it as an introduction to my series of posts on series.
The first series I remember reading in childhood was The Little House on the Prairie. The first romance book I read was book 1 of Roberta Gellis’s Heiress series. As soon as I finished it, I was thrilled to find out books 2 and 3 were available, and devoured them. To this day, I’m thrilled when I find a new series to love and often find myself googling impatiently when I’ve gone too long without an installment of one of favorites.
That love doesn’t stop at reading. It extends to writing. Several of us here at 8LW are either writing a book series or planning one. Justine has mentioned her plans for the sister of the heroine from Three Proposals to get her own book. Jilly is already working away on the second MacKenzie brother’s story. If the gods smile upon us, there will be more demons and were-cheetahs in Jeanne’s and Michaeline’s futures. And me, I’m in the midst writing one Victorian-era romance series and planning a modern-day, Copenhagen-set mystery series.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to share more details about some of the series I’ve read or partially read recently, and what lessons they’ve taught me for writing my own series. There will be minor spoilers, lots of opportunities to discuss our favorites, and maybe even a surprise guest or two.
But today, as a prologue to the upcoming series on series, I thought I’d share just a few of my many, many favorites, which I’ll be discussing further in the upcoming weeks. Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments!
Chief Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny. Nearly every one of Penny’s 10 books in the Gamache series has won or been nominated for major awards including the Edgar (as in Poe) and the Agatha (as in Christie). These books are complex, with many story threads twisting through them. There’s also an overarching ‘big picture’ issue that comes to a head in book 9 (more about that next week!). I started with book 9, then read book 10, and now am going back to the beginning to read all of them.
Bridgertons Series by Julia Quinn. Quinn has been writing this series for over a decade. I recently returned to reading it, after seeing a reference to one of the newer books and realizing the series had fallen off my radar. I then had the fun of getting caught up with several new-to-me books in a row. Seeing the (in)famous Smythe-Smith Quartet and so many main characters, now happily married couples from earlier books has been like reconnecting with old friends.
Dublin Murder Squad Series by Tana French. French has been on my auto-buy list since I read book 2, Likeness, based on one of my daughter’s (always excellent) recommendations. I then quickly read book 1 and impatiently waited for book 3. French has now released 5 books in the series, and some of them have been optioned for TV. But the book is almost always better than the screen adaption (this is totally unbiased fact, of course) so if you haven’t read them yet, you really should start!
I found a prologue yesterday that actually works really, really well! It was the beginning of John Scalzi’s Redshirts, which is a fast-paced space adventure, and a really meta-meta-meta discussion of what makes good writing. The prologue tied into a couple of themes, and by infodumping a little, it allowed the rest of the story to unfold much faster. I think it was a nice appetizer of a start, whetting our appetite for the story to come.
If we do book discussions, I’d like to discuss this one. And maybe, also, one of Courtney Milan’s romances. Feminist historicals . . . she can do them well.
I remember our class having the prologue discussion about Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels. Some people loved the prologue and thought the book wouldn’t have worked as well without it. Others (I was among them) thought it would have been just as good without the details of Dain’s past being right up front. As with everything else in writing and reading, it’s a ‘YMMV’, ‘IMHO’ sort of thing :-).
I was on a Courtney Milan romance tear at the end of 2014, as she writes in the Victorian era and pushes the boundaries with the feminist tilt of her heroines. My series is set in the same time period and I’m trying to create the same type of heroines, so I really enjoyed them!
I’m a hug fan of the series, too. Lisa Kleypas has the Wallflower series that is good and a couple of other linked stories. And I was okay with the prologue in Lord of Scoundrels, although I don’t usually like them. I haven’t read any Milan. More on my TBR list. I’ll have to check my boxes of books from RWA conferences to see if I have one.
I think you’ll like Milan’s work, Michille! Definitely add her to your TBR list. Have you handed in the final version of your project yet? I’m assuming you won’t have much writing time until you do ;-).
I don’t mind the prologue in LoS but I agree with Nancy – I think the book would have been just as good without the upfront briefing.
Definitely try Courtney Milan, Michille, and her workshops are also excellent – I’m hoping she’ll be presenting at RWA National again this year. Worth looking out for those, too.
The Lord of Scoundrels prologue made me slightly nervous. Oh, poor boy, abused, abused, abused, and that’s why he’s an asshole. It may be true for the character, but I didn’t want to read a book full of whiny boy. Thank goodness, it was fairly short, and we got Jessica in there — who knows what she wants, and knows why she does things. If Dain had been the viewpoint character, it would have been a loooooong book.
I see what role the prologue played there — he’s an ass at first, and has quite the character arc to complete. This shows his first character arc — from innocent boy to hardened ass. We feel sympathy for him, and that carries over to when he’s being all Alpha-bastard in the first several chapters.
I love Jessica from the minute she steps into the curiosity shop — but I can see how some readers (not me!) would find her a little cold and calculating. Maybe many readers would need warm fuzzies to keep them going into the cold hard first part of the story. (Although, what kind of warm fuzzies do you get watching a boy be bullied and abused? I suppose I’m talking about the Protective Mother kind that some people ((men and women)) get when confronted with this kind of story.)
But many readers would have been just fine without the prologue. I think I would have been one of them.
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