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Group Questions? > What's everyone's thoughts on prologues (and how to write around them)?

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♥️♥️ Lanae ♥️♥️  (ramboramblernae) I've been reading up on them and the general consensus is that they're either a bad or, even if it is a worthy prologue it's pointless because the majority of readers skip over the prologue and start with chapter 1.

I ask because I'm thinking about writing a prologue for my novel, but instead labeling it "Prologue," or "Preface" it will be the official Chapter 1.

Then underneath the chapter 2 header, or on an otherwise blank page between Chapter 1 and 2, I indicate the time jump which is 16 years later.

I know that every writer thinks their prologue is necessary. I'm no exception to this belief. My prologue would serve as the [before] for my MC, as in when she was an infant.

In fact, it's much like Harry Potter's first chapter, which has always read like a prologue to me. In terms of info/background, it sets up all the players that revolve around my protagonist when she's introduced as a teenager in chapter two.


message 2: by Michael (new)

Michael (michaeldiack) | 16 comments I did start out with a prologue for my fantasy novel but after advice, I removed it. The reader wants to be drawn in from the first line with getting to know the character/s, whereas my prologue was a little too heavy on description and backstory.

I think it is better to work the prologue into the novel itself, have the characters talk about past events and how everything has led up to where they are now.


message 3: by K.P. (new)

K.P. Merriweather (kp_merriweather) | 519 comments depends on the story. as long it's not an info dump or history it should work. if you can weave the info throughout the story that's a bonus. not all prologues are bad just badly done 。^‿^。


message 4: by Lynne (new)

Lynne Stringer | 179 comments In my mind, if you're having a prologue, it should only be a page or two long. Anything longer, and it should be the first chapter. Lanae, what you're suggesting about the second chapter jumping forward 16 years I think is a good way to work it.


message 5: by Longhare (new)

Longhare Content | 60 comments Now that you've worked it into the body of the novel, you need to ask yourself whether the reader needs or wants this introductory backstory. If it's just a "snapshot" of the MC as a baby, it might not be interesting enough to readers who are looking to jump right into the story. If you can remove that chapter entirely and still have a great book, that is an indicator that the prologue or prologuish first chapter may be a false start. Often the critical information can be worked into the novel in no more than a line or two, in a passage where the information seems pertinent or poignant.

That first HP chapter works because it introduces the other characters in Harry's life in an interesting way--it catches the reader immediately and sets up the rest of the story. It's a good first chapter. More problematic would have been if Rowling had decided to start with a passage about Harry's parents being killed. That scene is important and, action-wise, is crucial to all that follows--but it isn't Harry's story, at least not for a while. When it is finally told, it serves its purpose at just the right time.


message 6: by Amber (new)

Amber Foxx (amberfoxx) | 287 comments I don't have the book with me(I'm in my office and it's at home) so I hope I'm describing its advice well. In Jack Bickham's Scene and Structure he gives an example of what makes a good prologue. It's something that raises questions about the main plot and triggers the subsequent events, but happens at another time. It might be in a POV that's not used again, such as the victim in a mystery or thriller. It has to be a hook, though, not just backstory. It has to be the rock that starts the eventual landslide, and it has to be the best way to tell that piece of the story. If I didn't summarize this right and you've read Bickham's book, correct me. (I might look at it when I get home if I remember and see how I did.)


message 7: by ♥️♥️ Lanae (last edited Nov 27, 2015 05:27PM) (new)

♥️♥️ Lanae ♥️♥️  (ramboramblernae) Longhare wrote: "Now that you've worked it into the body of the novel, you need to ask yourself whether the reader needs or wants this introductory backstory. If it's just a "snapshot" of the MC as a baby, it might..."
Its a snapshot of why she was still alive when she was meant to be killed as a baby. The introduction is meant to contrast with the present day lies that unravel when shes 16. Its something i want the readers to know, and for the character to realize much Later. Without giving you a essays worth of plot. The people who tried to kill her 16 years ago are back and her parents arent present in the story long enough to explain their lies. Trying to avoid well.....getting killed takes precendence over asking around for the "WHY"S


I don't want readers to get frustrated with not knowing this or give the impression that these people are evil for the sake of being evil. The opening would, as you said introduce the surrounding characters in that the entire opening is her execution gone wrong when someone saves her.


message 8: by Jason (new)

Jason Crawford (jasonpatrickcrawford) | 591 comments I find prologues effective (and use them) when I'm giving a snapshot into a story that isn't the main one, but that, once you've gotten into the book, you look back on the prologue and say, "Oh! Now I get that!" It should be short and compelling, filled with action/drama or whatever you're using. Don't put a bunch of backstory or exposition in the prologue.

I prefer to call that "prologue" rather than "chapter 1" because it isn't a direct part of the main character's story. I write in 3rd person limited most of the time, and so having that division is helpful to me.


message 9: by E.G. (new)

E.G. Manetti (thornraven) As a variation on a theme… I use the 'one page' prologue for my series so returning readers remember the key points and new readers aren't lost. I also don't call it 'prologue' for all the reasons stated. It has a chapter title but no number. This works because I title my chapters as well as number them.


message 10: by Yolanda (new)

Yolanda Ramos (yramosseventhsentinel) I also received advice not to have a prolong so I took it out and incorporated the scene later in my story.


message 11: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 506 comments I think it depends on what you put there. For me, it was the opposite. I had the scene 'explained' in the book. then I realized it would be so much simpler to make a prologue for it. Instead of my MC explaining how he crashed on Earth, I turned it into an action scene. It's short and to the point, about a page and a half.

Personally, I don't like long prologues with info dump. It's usually better if peppered in the story here and there when relevant.

I also think that if the first chapter happens in another time or world, it's better to call it prologue.


♥️♥️ Lanae ♥️♥️  (ramboramblernae) Well in my case the prologue would be 16 years before the present day story.


message 13: by Angel (new)

Angel | 28 comments I was told prologues are for novices and if you want to be a veteran author you need to learn to write without them. I've been an author for twenty five years, tried the prologue thing and realized I could do better without it. I did well without it. That's my experience take it or leave it.


message 14: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 506 comments Great if it works for you but to call those who use them novices, that's just a bias opinion. I've read trad pubs who used them so I wonder what they would think about that comment. :P

May I ask who told you that?


message 15: by Lynne (new)

Lynne Stringer | 179 comments I think the opposite, actually. I think it takes a degree of skill to make a prologue work, so I would advise against it for novices.


message 16: by Angel (last edited Dec 22, 2015 04:46PM) (new)

Angel | 28 comments G.G. wrote: "Great if it works for you but to call those who use them novices, that's just a bias opinion. I've read trad pubs who used them so I wonder what they would think about that comment. :P

May I ask w..."

A bestselling author, trad published.


♥️♥️ Lanae ♥️♥️  (ramboramblernae) Lynne wrote: "I think the opposite, actually. I think it takes a degree of skill to make a prologue work, so I would advise against it for novices."

Good point. I agree with you. It's not an easy thing to pull off.


message 18: by Dionne (new)

Dionne | 14 comments I generally have nothing to say about prologues since my fantasy has one. I mean my fantasy needs it so the reader can sort of catch up on what's happening in the main character's life. To show what will happen, kind of like. Though i don't really feel the need to use them a lot. My first book Eternal Youths: The Big Switch doesn't have a prologue. It just starts with chapter one and continues on giving the reader a simplified backstory with the main character.


message 19: by Carly (new)

Carly Compass (CarlyCompass) | 13 comments Short, and necessary!


message 20: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Lilly | 11 comments At a writing conference I attended, a bestselling fantasy author said his books never have prologues because he calls them Chapter 1. As a reader who doesn't like prologues, I find that to be good advice. I will read a book with a prologue from an author I love or in a book that's recommended to me by a friend who likes the same types of books I do. But with a new/unfamiliar author, the word "Prologue" puts me off. By definition it suggests something before the actual story starts. I like the advice above about when a prologue is necessary/worth including, but I'm with Lanae on calling it Chapter 1.


message 21: by Lynne (new)

Lynne Stringer | 179 comments I agree.


message 22: by K.P. (new)

K.P. Merriweather (kp_merriweather) | 519 comments I don't mind prologues and it can be done well if you know how. not all can be put in as chapter one. and I have read trad published authors who have them so to say it's a novice thing smacks of bias. if it works for you roll with it. if the setup is needed and can't be woven any other way then bite the bullet and do it anyway. there are no wrong way to go about it. it's your book and your vision. do it as you feel it needs to be done.

I had a prologue for one book that had to be expanded and it ended up being part one due to many complex factors that couldn't be distilled into a few pages (it came out to fifteen chapters whew) because the original chapter one had too little to work with and couldn't be settled with weaving into the story or done with flashbacks. it ended up working out for the better anyway... and the book still sells okay.


message 23: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Rand I've never understood some people's problems with prologs. (Try saying that three times fast!) Then again, I'm the kind of person that reads the forward.

I think the best prologs are ones that are interesting in and of themselves. Ones that follow all the rules that a good first page does. And are relatively short.


message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael Benavidez | 1720 comments i never thought prologues were all too bad. Just so long as it doesn't really feel like exposition before the need for exposition, and just kind of a manual for the world about to be entered. it's best if it's just a taste of what's in store. if that makes sense.
then again, i've read books that have that Prologue title, when it can just be Chapter One, kind of thing. if it can work as a Chapter one, then that's a nice way to skirt around a prologue. maybe


message 25: by Bruce (new)

Bruce (bruce1984) | 8 comments Virginia wrote: "I've never understood some people's problems with prologs. (Try saying that three times fast!) Then again, I'm the kind of person that reads the forward."

I don't understand the problem with prologues either. I always read them. But I've never read a Forward!


message 26: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Rand Some good comedy writers will add jokes to everything. If they can make that funny signs are good for the rest of the book. :-)


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