DaveK's picture

Every now and then someone in a writing forum asks about prologues. Are the forbidden? Are they a good idea? The replies break down into: prologues suck, I never read them, simply fold the back story into the rest of the novel; or it's part of the book so I read them; or the ever non-helpful, if it works for the story then it's OK.

I'm of the opinion that the author put it in and it may contain information that I would find useful and it's usually a small part of the story so I read it. From a writer's perspective I haven't had an opportunity to need one.

To me "prologue" is simply a label for a chapter sized chunk of text at the beginning of the story. The label implies that it is written in a different time, place or voice than the main story. There are a few times where a prologue is very useful. Such as, to set the background for a historical story that is not commonly known, or to recount the previous events in a series. I wish Jim Butcher would do that in his Dresden Files series. It's not that Butcher doesn't write well but after ten or so novels I'm a bit tired of hearing about the histories of the characters every time.

In the end it is a style issue. And styles change.


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I like a prologue myself : I

I like a prologue myself : I find it sets the tone, gets my mind into the right place. Congrats on the W1S1 May Marionette too. Great stuff.

It all depends on the story,

It all depends on the story, but prologs can be extremly useful for writers, and entertaining for readers. If a story is especially complex, a prologue can introduce the reader to some intrigue to get them through those early (read: slow) chapters.