One of my very goods friends and I find ourselves constantly revisiting this topic. So I thought I’d put it out there and get your thoughts, as avid readers, as writers, and as generally interesting people. What do you think about prologues?
- They’re an easy way to give some background to your plot
- They can be VERY effective in the right circumstance (What IS that circumstance? Don’t ask me; I have no idea)
- They can be a useful tool to start in the middle of some action / give a good hook for the reader
- They add some distinction and draw your attention to say “this is important”
- They can reveal motives
- They can establish the tone of a book very quickly
- They can cause a bit of confusion: Why should I care about that character in the first 5 pages that I don’t see again for half the book?
- They don’t always add a lot of value
- It’s possible to give the same background info, motive, tone, etc in other more creative ways
- They add some distinction and may cause the reader to focus on THAT instead of the direct storyline
- They can often come off as an info-dump
My personal belief:
I like writing prologues as a tool for myself, but I don’t actually like to read them. For me they form a crucial part of the writing process, so I actually don’t really remember the last time I started a book without writing a prologue. And I use them almost as a thesis paragraph: this is the tone I want, and this is the impetus for everything that’s about to go down. And it’s something I revisit as I write.
But as a reader, they drive me nuts. Some are manged very well, and I like those. Anne Bishop’s intro to The Others books, with the background she gives of how The Others and humans came to live side-by-side was beautiful and needed. But most of the time they just serve as a distraction.
So when (if) I ever publish any of my books, that prologue that I’ve written will almost guaranteedly be cut. That means I’ll likely have to figure out how to rework my beginning, but that’s ok.
What do you think?
Are prologues something you’re a fan of? Or do they get on your nerves? If you’re a writer, do you work with prologues at all?