Saturday, September 10, 2011

Writing Tips- Prologues: Aye or Nay?

Random thought: so since tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I have been reading the articles on Yahoo! about it and in one of the articles it was talking about how President Bush was at a elementary school in Sarasota, Florida. Well the name sounded familiar and I couldn't think of why, but when I was going over some of the articles on here recently, I saw that Tuesday's post mentions Sarasota. Yep, the same town where President Bush was in ten years ago, just got on the news so soon to the anniversary of 9/11.

Anyways, back to the actual article. I was going over the comments I have gotten on my books on Inkpop recently and it came to mind that some people don't mind them and others hate them. So the question came to when is: when is it ever okay to use a prologue and does my story really need one?

Well, does it?
According to A Writer's Guide to Fiction, prologues should be used...:

  • To show a scene from the past or near future that may be too jolting in the rest of the story.
  • To introduce a character or point of view that may never be seen again in the rest of the story.
  • To provide critical infromation about the background, history, etc. that the reader needs to understand in order to understand the rest of the story but may not fit into the rest of the story. 
Here's some tips:
Some writers tend to have a prologue when it really isn't needed. For example, if you have a prologue, look and see if that information you have there could be sprinkled into the rest of the story without causing too much problems. If you can fit that information into the rest of the story without changing anything too much, chances are that you don't need that prologue. 

In The Cursing, I have a prologue. And in some ways it really isn't needed, but it's important to the story because it shows a) the viewpoint from a character who won't ever get her own point of view again and b) it shows some truth to what really happened in the past. I.e, it shows that Tatiana's aunt lies to her all the time and is evil and mean. 

Keep in mind:
  • Some readers just plain don't like prologues, even if they are well written and are important to the story. But if you feel that your story must have a prologue, buy all means, go for it! 
  • Prologues are not meant for info dumping. That's one of the reasons I didn't really liked Ready Player  One. It info dumped for the first eighty pages.
  • Try to keep it somewhat short. Although there are many books out there where the prologues are quite long (In The Book Theif, the prologue is actually several chapters and lasts more than ten pages). 
  • It's your book. Even if some one says that you shouldn't have a prologue you don't have to listen to them unless you know that you really don't need one. 
I personally don't mind prologues but only when I think they work for the story. \Sometimes, I've seen it where the author has a prologue to remind readers of what happened in the last book. For example, in Eldest, the prologue tells us what happened in Eragon. Sometimes I find this really nice, especially if its been a while since I've read the last book or if it took a while for the book to come out. 

So, do you like prologues or not? Does your story have one? 



  1. When I'm reviewing books on inkpop that have prologues, I put them to the test. What I do is I skip past them and start at chapter 1 then read for however long I do (whether it's one chpater or 15 chapters). When I'm done reading and writing my review for what I read, I go back and read the prologue and review it. This helps me figure out if it is necessary or extraneous and exactly how much it adds to the story. I think it's a pretty good little test :)

    I'm usually not a fan of prologues, but I do looove the idea of the point of view of a different character. I actually have a book idea in my head that I want to do that with. The whole book will be from an older lady's point of view but the prologue will be from the point of view of a young man. Eventually their lives will interesect and blah blah blah. I just think it's a neat idea. If done correctly, it could add a lot of depth and another dimension to a book.

  2. That tests sounds like a very good test! :D I've never thought about looking at them that way.

    That does sound really cool. And I think that its unique that it's from an older lady's point of view. I haven't really seen much like that before (of course, that is if you're talking about like people in their 60s to 80s). I would like to read that I think.


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