Friday, February 6, 2015

Prologuing by Melinda Viergever Inman

Melinda Viergever Inman


As authors learning to write powerful and descriptive fiction, we often make the same mistakes. One is prologuing. As a beginning writer I thought my readers needed to know the backstory first. If they did, I expected them to love my characters. But it doesn't work that way.

If you’ve just started writing fiction, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that prologues rarely get past editors. They’re usually removed. If you’ve ever taken a foray into the world of the free e-book, you’ll see why.

As an experiment, I accumulated a couple dozen freebies—author published, no editor employed. I never finished one. By the time I came to the end of the lengthy backstory in each (never mind the head hopping), I no longer cared.

Why do we prologue? It’s basic to human nature. Not only must we resist it as writers, but also in sharing our personal narratives.

As I get to know you, I share my story. I'm tempted to tint my backstory a rosy hue, so my choices are softened and rationalized in your eyes. I want you to like me. I want you to know why I made that mistake. I want to defend myself. I want to make excuses. And so, I justify my sin through a self-serving prologue.

Thus, I end up seeking to please others rather than the Lord. If I’m not careful, I may come to believe my polished-up backstory and present it to him as fact. Then I’ll never have a real and honest relationship with my God. That is a dangerous path.

Job was particularly skilled at this. But the Lord said to him: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” (Job 40:8).

Truth is, we’re all seriously flawed. None of us is perfect. God knows it and loves us anyway. He wants our hearts to be truthful with him and with others.

The world sees only the outside, but God sees our hearts, thoughts, and motives. Even knowing that, his arms are open wide, and he forgives. There is no reason to polish up a prologue for him. He was there.

Unnecessary prologuing is a harmful personal habit and a flawed writing habit. So how does prologuing damage our ability to draw in our readers?

As the story unfolds, our readers observe our characters’ actions. As they try to understand, they form conclusions. We guide our readers by sprinkling little bits of necessary backstory into the narrative.

Then it becomes a delicious mystery. They are drawn in. They must figure out the whys. Now they care. This doesn’t occur if we give them all the facts upfront. Prologuing is a good way to lose our audience.

As we learn to write stories that unfold without too much explaining, can we apply this to our relationships with the Lord and with others?

Do we need to justify the whys to the One who knows our thoughts before we do? What if we talk to him as if he already knows and loves us anyway? What if we’re this honest with others?

Raw and transparent writing allows our readers to see themselves in our narrative. Honestly revealing our humanity and God’s enablement glorifies God, rather than our own efforts. Honesty demonstrates that our hearts truly belong to him.

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those who heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB).

For more on Prologuing read: “Backstory” (

Nudged toward evil by Satan, Cain 's hard-hearted hubris results in Abel's murder and Lilith's broken heart when he is banished, splitting the family and propelling mankind toward ever-increasing violence as their siblings seek revenge. Crushed by what he's done, Cain runs, certain he's destroyed Lilith, his parents, and the entire family. With Satan hounding his every move and no idea of the forces arrayed against him, can Cain ever find God after he's committed a sin of such magnitude? Can he ever be forgiven?

Melinda Viergever Inman was raised in the tornado capital of the U.S.—Wakita, Oklahoma, of "Twister" fame. There her parents met. There her roots were sunk in a storytelling family. During years of relocation, tragedy struck. Wounded and heartbroken, Melinda forsook her roots and ran from herself and from God. A journey of trial and heartache brought her home again. A prodigal now returned to her secure foundation, she writes with passion, illustrating God's love for wounded people as he makes beauty from ashes. Refuge is her first novel. Melinda shepherds women in church and in prison ministry. She writes inspirational material and Bible studies. Her six precocious offspring, all grown, teach and inspire her. With her husband and family, she is involved in a church-planting ministry in India: Reaching Indians Ministries International.

You can learn more and connect with Melinda here:



  1. Melinda, thanks for your thought-provoking article and great points for avoiding prologues in our stories—and in our personal lives!

    1. Thank you, Dawn! Who knew this writer journey would have so much personal spiritual application!

  2. God sees all our backstory and we don't need to try to explain ourselves. Great point, Melinda!

    1. When I start giving God the backstory in prayer, that is my cue to stop and figure out why I'm attempting to justify myself to him. Having to learn how to handle backstory as a writer has made me more aware of my tendency to do this!

  3. Melinda, good thought-provoking post. I guess writers and others want to explain ourselves and our characters upfront, but it's not so easy. We are called to show how we and our characters really are. People look for us to show them not tell them.


We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!