The dreaded prologue….should you or shouldn’t you? Do you owe your readers a heads up or can you dive headlong into your story explanations be damned? Well…it really depends on your story’s needs. More times than I want to count I have picked up a book, read the prologue and then immediately thought, “what the heck was the point of that”? Prologues can be cool but only if used as directed. (and not before bedtime)
What can a prologue do for your book that can’t be done in the first chapter? It can set the mood or it can be that dangling piece of chocolate cake to draw the reader in. I have one novel where I used a prologue to set the mood of the entire story and to be honest…(shhh, don’t tell anyone…) the prologue actually was the end of the story….cleaver huh? In this instance the prologue worked but there are other times when a writer will just throw a prologue in there to make the book seem snobbier and that doesn’t work at all.
Let’s look at some examples of when NOT to use a prologue…
- If your back story is boring- A lot of writers use the prologue to set up the story by providing some history…many readers don’t care about before so if you are going this route make sure the back story is worth it.If you really don’t have anything to say – Using a prologue for the sake of doing so is always a bad idea. It doesn’t really impress the reader at all.
- If you really don’t have anything to say – Using a prologue for the sake of doing so is always a bad idea. It doesn’t really impress the reader at all.
- If what you said could have been in the first chapter – Don’t waste your space. If not having a prologue means that your story is jumping off quicker…then do it. Scrub the prologue and jump from page one.
- If you have no idea what a prologue is – Have you have had a meal someone has made where they have used a new spice. (well, new to them) only they really didn’t get what types of foods to use the spice with? Leaves a bad taste in your mouth huh….so does using a prologue when you have no idea how.
I’m not saying don’t every use a prologue, as I mentioned earlier, I have used one and it worked…just make sure you understand the concept and you use it correctly. It is tempting to try and squeeze those extra words in there but if it’s not necessary, it’s not necessary and it won’t work.
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