A few years back, word on the street was that the ‘industry’ no longer liked the idea of a prologue in a novel. Authors were encouraged…dare I say forced?… to abandon the prologue and jump into chapter one. Period.
Huh? Who said so?
Well, apparently ‘someone’ said so, and authors then stopped using (or stepped back from) a prologue to set the tone of their novels.
Such ridiculousness needs to stop now. Just do it your way.
Here’s a simple explanation of what a prologue is:
Typically found in works of fiction, a prologue is usually written from a character’s point of view, either the main character or a character who brings a different perspective to the story. This introductory literary device gives the reader additional information that will help their comprehension of the story. This can include background information on characters, events that took place before the story begins, or information that establishes the setting of the story.
Why use a prologue?
- Setting the Tone
- Provide context
- Set your POV
- Hook the reader
A novel takes time to simmer, but with a prologue an author can dive right into the action on page one.
I love a good prologue. It offers a promise of more to come. Does that make sense?
One thing I’ll caution you about, is the use of a prologue that doesn’t deliver.
I recently read a book, where the prologue drew me in and carried through the first chapter and then basically went somewhere to die.
It was like the prologue was the hook, but the rest of the book went in a different direction that never really lived up to the fast-paced, heart-thumping prologue, so be aware of that when you’re writing.
Read that review HERE.
Setting the Tone or Context
Writing and utilizing a prologue is a great opportunity to set the stage for complex relationships that may need a bit more of an introduction than offered through typical chapter writing.
Relationships for example. These take time to build and show in a novel, but with the use of a prologue you can hint to the reader that not is all what it seems.
That’s a powerful tool, to be sure.
You can also look back in time too. Perhaps there was trauma that affected the main character and the emotional impact surfaces in the story.
A prologue shouldn’t explain things away, but instead lay a foundation of what’s to come.
Set Your POV
A prologue is a great place to establish a point of view for the character who is telling the story.
Hook the Reader
I’ve read books where it takes a couple of chapters to get into the ‘meat’ of the story. That could be the fault of the author in that their openings are strong enough, but I also understand how characters need to be introduced and developed.
Again, remember that using a prologue shouldn’t be a gimmick so much as a promise of what’s to come. You must follow through on that promise.
Take this quick poll and we’ll see what people think about prologues.
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