For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

August 22, 2014
Is anyone else watching Outlander? Because wowzers, that show is incredible. I love the books--looooove them--but somehow the show brings my love to a whole new level of adoration.
Also, let's be honest: the actor playing Jaime (Sam Heughan) is pretty easy on the eyes. ;) But that said, my connection to the show (read: obsession with it) has more to do with my connection to the heroine than anything else. The actress playing Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is incredible, and she somehow brings SO much strength to an already strong heroine.


For the Misfits:
Of T-shirts and Truthwitch Teasers

First off: if anyone is interested in buying an "Aim for the Knees" t-shirt, let me know.

You can see what they look like in the image to the right (many thanks to my poor husband for modeling). And in case the image is too hard to see, it's a parasol underneath the words "Aim for the Knees." ;)

The shirts cost $20, and that includes the cost of shipping. Of course, the cost would increase for non-US residents.

Just email me at if you might want a shirt. I'm ordering some from my local screen-printer, and I need a to gauge how MANY to order.

Now, moving on!

Check it out! Truthwitch was in a sampler passed around at LonCon3 last week! How freakin' cool is that?! I'm getting a few copies, so you KNOW I'll be signing those babies and giving them away to the Misfits. ;)

And, then since we're discussing Truthwitch and since I'm writing today's Daydreamer post on prologues, I thought I'd share the prologue to Truthwitch. :)

Originally, this prologue was the opening to the book, but I ended up cutting it before we sold to Tor. (The reasons for that are below.) The COOL thing about having cut scenes, though, is that I can then share them with YOU ALL as free, extra content! :D

So click here to read the original opening scene to Truthwitch. Remember, though, that this is "first draft-y" and hasn't been through an editor--so it's not the most polished piece of writing. ;)

And don't forget: if you ever have any questions about Something Strange and Deadly or Truthwitch, you can head over to the forums to ask.

For the Daydreamers:
Of Prologues

Speaking of prologues, I got this awesome question in the forum last week:
Recently, I was reading a post written by a Freelance editor about her thoughts on prologues and first chapters. She talked about how prologues, flashbacks, or dreams written in or around your first chapter might be selling a false promise and leave your novel with a weak beginning.
My prologue is written in another POV than the rest of the my novel, and . . . I liked that my prologue did give a little extra punch and excitement to the beginning . . . but after reading her thoughts, I was a little discouraged. Should I rethink the first part of my book?
This is tough question, and the answer has two parts:

First, what are you trying to accomplish with the prologue? And second, who is your target audience?

Prologues are meant to accomplish different things, but more often than not, we use them to introduce KEY information (backstory, world history, non-POV characters, etc.) that can't be introduced in the scope of the main book. But we DON'T want that key information--as the agent rightfully says--to set up a "false promise."

For example, in George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones, we are given an awesome prologue that introduces all the creepy stuff happening north of the Wall. That stuff doesn't come back into play until later books, yet the reader needs to know it's happening in order for the rest of the story events to have proper context/meaning.

Do we NEED this information? No. In all honesty, the book would likely be fine without it. But giving the reader more knowledge than the characters allows for some dramatic irony and therefore more tension. In my opinion, the book is stronger because of the prologue.

Does the prologue offer a FALSE PROMISE? No, because there are plenty of gritty actions scenes coming up (so the prologue isn't misleading you on the kinds of content ahead).

In Kelley Armstrong's The Summoning, we're introduced to Chloe's powers during a pivotal moment in her childhood. The scene hits us right in that primal monster-in-the-basement fear, so we have an instant sympathy and understanding of Chloe's powers. Plus, it's a pretty exciting/scary scene, so the author can then slow down a bit in the opening chapters.

Do we NEED this scene? No. But it adds to the story, hooks the reader, and it sets up just how terrifying Chloe's necromancy can be. In my opinion, the book is stronger because of the prologue.

Does the prologue offer a FALSE PROMISE? No, because again: there are plenty of action scenes in the near-ish future.

Now, in Truthwitch, I wrote a prologue as a way to introduce readers to the Broader Picture and to show all that was at stake--a là Game of Thrones. I wanted readers to know there was this Epic Scheme going on in the background and that the fate of entire empire was in our heroines' hands.

Did I NEED this prologue? No. And even though I've ultimately cut it, I honestly still believe it made the book stronger. BUTTTTT...

Did my prologue offer a FALSE PROMISE? Well, actually it did. The prologue was written from a character named Habim's POV. Originally, I had written Truthwitch with Habim's POV woven into the story because I thought the book might be adult fantasy. However, when I decided to make the book exclusively YA, I cut ALL of Habim's scenes. Suddenlyt there was this prologue from adult's POV when the rest of the book was only from older teens' POVs. This meant that my prologue was promising an adult book with adult POVs instead of the upper YA book I wanted it to be.

And this leads me to the second question of who is your target audience?

Although I HATE telling writers to consider their market (rather than writing what they love), when it comes to prologues, you should definitely consider your market.

The simple truth is that YA novels are harder to sell with a prologue attached. Yes, there are no doubt many exceptions to that rule (I'm sure you can find plenty of YA books with prologues on your shelves), but it doesn't change the reality that prologues CAN turn off agents/editors and younger readers.

Adult fantasy, meanwhile? Oh yeah, prologues are common and work pretty well. But you're also dealing with a more patient audience. They expect slower-to-build plots, many layers, plenty of characters and POVs, sweeping worlds, and stories that might not get resolved for 7 books or more.

When I first started writing Truthwitch, I wasn't sure if the book was YA or adult. I wrote a prologue, and despite my agent urging me to cut it (because prologues can scare off/annoy editors), I kept it in the book.

Yeah, no one likes killing their darlings. :P

When, however, my shiny new potential editor ALSO mentioned removing the prologue... 
Well, I wasn't about to lose a book deal because I was too attached to cut something!* The editor wanted to bring the book as YA to her sales team, and--as mentioned--prologues don't always work well in the YA world.

So consider your market, consider what purpose your prologue is serving, what promises the prologue is making, and then consider if you REALLY need it. If you can get away with weaving that information into the book later on, then DO. While having a prologue can sometimes turn off readers, having NO prologue is never a problem. But, if you also deeply believe that the book is stronger with a prologue, then keep it. :)

*I should mention that I don't truly think my editor wouldn't have bought the book simply because I had prologue. But having an editor feel wary about a prologue in addition to my agent...Well, sometimes it's best to listen to the commercial pros.

Now, here are some links to wrap up the week:
See you next week, dear readers! And don't forget: if you have any questions about ANYTHING, drop by the forum to ask. Thank you for reading!

photo by Emily Rae Photography

Copyright © 2014
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.

110 West 40th St., Suite 410
New York, NY 10018

I'm a misfit, a daydreamer, an animal-lover, and a (now gluten-free) cookie-eater.