To prologue or not to prologue

Prologues have a pretty bad rep. Most editors will tell you to cut them out. If they’re giving the reader crucial information, slide that into the book. If they’re hooking the reader, make it a chapter. Either way, chop that prologue away.

The issue with prologues is that they’re asking the reader to get into the book, not once, but twice. It takes effort. Some readers don’t make that effort. I have to admit, there are times when I’ve skipped the prologue. It’s a chancy business.

If you’re an indie author, you can do whatever makes you happy and go with your gut. They say prologues are out? You put in three. Who cares what they think? After all, you’re your own boss.

However, if you’re interested in what others are saying (here come the links!), I have some posts to share with you.

This one is by Marg McAllister in Foremost Press and breaks down when to use a prologue and when not to. It also explains the uses of a prologue and has examples when it works well.

This one is by Kristen Lamb and has the cons and pros of a prologue with a delicious title: The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues.

This one is by Nathan Bransford and this one by Kristin Nelson where they explain all the reasons against prologues.

Finally, this one by Kas Thomas in his Author Zone in which he candidly explains pros and cons.

I should add that in my first book, I put in a prologue (about 5 lines long) and now, my second, I’m considering doing without.

What about you? Do prologues work for you? Do you skip them (gasp!) when you’re reading or faithfully read every word?

12 thoughts on “To prologue or not to prologue

  1. I’ve seen them used a few times to great effect. I like the example Kristen Lamb used of the prologue set in medieval times while the story is set in modern times. I think most books can do without.

  2. Prologues are one of those things that people say you should never have, but as a reader, I never mind them. I just view them as setting up the story or as ‘chapter one’ 😀

    I think what ‘people’ say you should do and what readers actually mind reading are very different things.

    If you want a prologue, write a prologue. I bet 99% of the time, readers won’t even blink an eye at it in a book.

  3. Really useful resources, thanks 🙂 I generally use prologues or a preface, either way. But it’s purely personal preference. I like to give an introduction – a little snapshot before the full adventure begins! Having said that, I can see both sides of the coin and I would get rid of a prologue if it didn’t work or took too much attention away from the main action.

  4. I’ve read the second link, and that was what cinched my decision to keep Darkness Concealed’s prologue. I hit none of the sins, and all of the good reasons to. I’ve still gotten minor flak for the decision…up until someone reads the prologue.

  5. A number of my books have prologues. My upcoming release has two of them, but I never use them unless the back story is integral to understanding the plot. There are times when you can use flashbacks and explanations in place of prologues, but then there are people who will tell you not to use those, either! Rules change all the time. I say, if the story needs a prologue, stick it in there. =)

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