I’ve probably got no business starting another novel. There’s some editing to be done on the three I’ve already written; the task of getting them published in some form or another; not to mention all the unfinished projects I have around the house. But, as I said in my previous post, I’ve been “infected” by the germ of a new novel. It’s a sickness; I can’t help it.
The plan was to do the necessary research for the new book while editing book # 3 (a contemporary, non-Jane-Austen story: more about that later). But I wanted to at least set down my thoughts for how I would begin book #4 first. So I wrote what amounts to a prologue. Great! Then I wrote a little more…and a little more. Fun stuff! But when I reread what I had so far, I realized I didn’t have a prologue and chapter 1, I actually had three prologues!
Prologue: an introductory passage before the main action of a novel, play, or long poem.
I’ve heard that prologues are out of vogue at the moment (so having not one, but three of them, is probably not a good thing), but I thought, “surely Jane Austen must have utilized this fine literary tool.” Nope; I checked – nothing that’s officially called a prologue in any of her novels. She was big on epilogues, however. Here again, they aren’t labeled as such, but a final chapter clearly serving that function.
Epilogue: a short chapter or section at the end of a literary work, sometimes detailing the fate of its characters.
My favorite JA quote of all time (and my personal writing philosophy) begins what amounts to the epilogue of Mansfield Park:
Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.
I like the way Austen ties up all the loose ends for us; she doesn’t leave her readers dangling, wondering “but what ever happened to so-and-so?” I try to do the same, but one prologue and one epilogue per book is probably the limit. Gotta work on that.