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message 1: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments What do you think about prologues, do you like to read them or include them in your own books or maybe go right to the main story?


message 2: by Junkomi (new)

Junkomi Eno | 28 comments I tend to always use a prologue in my light novels. It is pretty rare that I start off with chapter one. I find prologues to be great for opening up a scene that may not be in a story or a scene that happens in the future/past. A prologue can let the reader know what they are getting into as well. It could even start an idea or questions to form that may later be explained. All in all I think Prologues are a useful but of course, it depends on the story being told. Some stories can get by without them. Others just do not need them.

As far as reading as reading them myself, I find that I don't mind a one or two page Prologue, but I find that if a Prologue is way to long or just really boring then yeah, I don't like it.


message 3: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 731 comments Mod
I'd say it depends on whether or not the story needs them. Think about something like Harry Potter and the scene that happens when Hagrid and Dumbledore leave him at Dursley's. I am not sure if it's labeled as a prologue but that's generally what one might be like. Something that sets up some characters or settings while happening a bit before the main story. I'd never skip one.

As a writer, my WIP has a prologue in the first book of the to-be trilogy but not in the second and third. It's a very short scene that happens roughly 18 years before chapter 1 and sets up the main characters, the setting and some bit of backstory.


message 4: by Micah (last edited Aug 16, 2018 09:53AM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Like anything else, it all depends. Prologues are great if used correctly. They're useless otherwise.

What is "correctly"?

Well, it's when the prologue presents plot elements which cannot be easily or seamlessly included in the rest of the story. Typically that will be some past event which has an important impact on the rest of the story, but which the characters in the story may be totally unaware of and, therefore, would be clumsy to add anywhere other than the prologue. Sometimes it's a statement of foreshadowing that only becomes clear at the end of the book (I'm thinking particularly of cases like when you have an unreliable narrator).

The sign of a good prologue is where if you remove the prologue, the story simply does not work, or does not work nearly as well.

A bad prologue is one that simply does a giant world building data dump, or is actually a Forward rather than a Prologue. Or one that contains story elements that have little bearing on the actual plot (I'm looking at you Peter F. Hamilton for the start of The Reality Dysfunction: naughty, naughty!)...or one that if you remove it from the book it has no impact on the reader's understanding or appreciation of the work (i.e. it's fluff and should be cut).

There are a lot of readers, however, who have a burr up their **** about prologues and automatically skip them assuming them to be universally useless (probably because they've read too many bad ones). Some claim all prologues should just be called Chapter One. As such, I'd only include one if I felt it was absolutely necessary for either the book's story or structure.


message 5: by Cana (new)

Cana Gauthier | 3 comments I clicked on this feed because I have a prologue in my current WIP. Now I wonder if it shouldn't be chapter 1, although it would be a short chapter. The event doesn't take place decades before the action. In fact, it's really the beginning of the story. Something for me to think about. Thanks all.


message 6: by Anna (new)

Anna Faversham (annafaversham) | 552 comments I like them, they serve as teasers or ensure the reader knows something pertinent before he/she sets off.

At least that's what I try to do...


message 7: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Wolfy wrote: "I tend to always use a prologue in my light novels. It is pretty rare that I start off with chapter one. I find prologues to be great for opening up a scene that may not be in a story or a scene th..."

I'm thinking a short one as well especially since the work itself is not over 55K so I wouldn't want it too long.


message 8: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Tomas wrote: "I'd say it depends on whether or not the story needs them. Think about something like Harry Potter and the scene that happens when Hagrid and Dumbledore leave him at Dursley's. I am not sure if it'..."

I liked that first chapter in HP, it really let the reader know what to expect.


message 9: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Micah wrote: "Like anything else, it all depends. Prologues are great if used correctly. They're useless otherwise.

What is "correctly"?

Well, it's when the prologue presents plot elements which cannot be easi..."


This is a good litmus test, "The sign of a good prologue is where if you remove the prologue, the story simply does not work, or does not work nearly as well." And here again, "if you remove it from the book it has no impact on the reader's understanding or appreciation of the work."


message 10: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Alex wrote: "I always think of Clive Cussler when I think of prologues. A number of his Dirk Pitt novels have prologues, and they are all set decades and even centuries before the main events in the book but th..."
I'll have to take a look at one of his. I read something, not sure if it's the same, that described berserks and then went to the present day. It was a good set up.


message 11: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Cana wrote: "I clicked on this feed because I have a prologue in my current WIP. Now I wonder if it shouldn't be chapter 1, although it would be a short chapter. The event doesn't take place decades before the ..."

I've wondered about that too, include as a chapter.


message 12: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Anna Faversham wrote: "I like them, they serve as teasers or ensure the reader knows something pertinent before he/she sets off.

At least that's what I try to do..."


That's a good idea. I think it may help since this is urban fantasy


message 13: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4356 comments Mod
M.L. wrote: "What do you think about prologues, do you like to read them or include them in your own books or maybe go right to the main story?"

It depends. I did on my first book because I had a sweet vision of the main character as a child out camping with his dad. The scene takes place years before the main book, but helps to set up his relationship with his dad and helped to hint at a couple of plot lines.

I did not include one on Suckers & Rogues. But, my third novel will likely have one. S&R is about a group of teenagers in the eighties. In my work in progress, two of the teenagers have grown up, married, and had children. The two novels are different stories with different themes and even different tones. This is not a sequel, more like a spin-off. I may include a prologue so people who read S&R can see how these two characters were reunited, how they fell in love, etc.


message 14: by Bolivar (new)

Bolivar Beato (bolivarbeato) | 4 comments For my part, in the past, I have skipped prologues that were too long.

In my first draft (Pangaea) I had a massive info-dump prologue that I knew I would have to cut down. In the first published edition I still had a lengthy one (probably 2-3k words) which I had trouble trimming. Plus, a 10k novella at the beginning that should never have been included. (What a disaster!)

In my current edition there is a prologue that is more of a teaser at roughly 600 words. Something to salivate the tongue for the bigger world view. (Something I plan on doing for all my books if I can keep it around 1k).

I ended up cutting the info in the first prologue into tiny appetizers and spread it throughout the book where relevant and discarding the rest. I found the information to be much easier to digest that way.


message 15: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 731 comments Mod
My first attempt at a prologue of the to-be book 1 of my to-be trilogy, the prologue was some 15k words long and I still failed to say all I wanted to say. Eventually, I cut it (it was happening several generations before the main story), put it aside to be turned into a prequel novella eventually (estimated at maybe 30-40k words) and created a new prologue at ~1,5k words that happens just two decades before the main story (birth of the youngest character of the main cast).

The former prologue and to-be prequel is put on hold for now and will likely be released either between the individual main books or after the trilogy.


message 16: by Lila (new)

Lila Diller I used to love prologues! I'm the kind of person that I like to read everything on every page, because I'm assuming that the author had a reason for every word. But lately, I've fallen out of love with them. Just make them the first chapter. I especially dislike it when the prologue is written in a completely different voice or from a different perspective from the rest of the book. If you have a backstory that needs to be told, find some other way to bring it in.

The one reason I can see for having a prologue is if the story is one in a series, and the previous plots need to be explained or remembered for the occasional reader who may read out of order. I'm thinking specifically of Anne McCaffrey's Pern series.


message 17: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 915 comments I have a book with a prologue which is close to 1400 words. It is written through the eyes of the murderer and essentially tells you how the murders are being committed (but you don't pick that up until later) but not by whom, setting the stage for what is to come. What makes it fit is how you hear from this person at various points throughout the book. The prologue is from when the murderer was a boy and what started him down the road he took.

I read the prologues in books, but am still up in the air as to whether they are necessary in most books. If it is setting the stage without being an info dump, then use one. One thing I have learned is to jump into the action right away. Unless the prologue is part of the action, you might want to rethink if it is needed.


message 18: by Robert (last edited Aug 18, 2018 04:51PM) (new)

Robert Edward | 42 comments I like prologues (and epilogues) that are from a different POV. Like Micah said, if it describes an event that's integral to the story, but doesn't involve the main characters-- maybe it's something in the past that explains the way the world is why it is, or the perspective of the villain, or an origin story told from another perspective.

Along those lines, B.A.'s "eyes of the murderer" sounds awesome. As a reader, I find it exciting when the characters figure out something that the author hinted at earlier on and I get to see how it all fits together.

Re: world building info dumps, I think there is a way to do that well in the prologue-- maybe you show the climactic battle that changed the earth forever, and then chapter 1 starts with your characters making their way through the new world. In that way the prologue can show history, technology, geography, politics, and language so that the first paragraph of chapter 1 makes sense.

Similarly, I like an epilogue, especially if the story is going to continue in the next novel, that shows something of which the main characters aren't aware-- like the bad guy's son finds his father's vengeance letter and picks up his sword with a menacing gleam in his eye.

That said, some stories don't lend themselves to it, and as this thread has shown, some authors' styles are different, so if your instinct is that it's out of place, the choices come down to (1) fix it or (2) remove it.


message 19: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Thatcher (jenna_thatcher) | 132 comments Everybody (read: publishers/editors) says no, no way.
But...I think they can really have a place. Something that has worked for me is to just make the time change obvious. For example, a page that says "1812" and then chapter 1 (prologue actually) and then a page that says "1830" and then it's chapter 2.
I will say, I just considered a prologue for a fairy tale, but then realized it was such a soft start. Instead, when I start after her kidnapping, all of a sudden there's action to draw you in. So, I realized it wasn't the best way to set things up. This all depends on your genre/style, of course, but just some ideas to add to the mix. :)


message 20: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 731 comments Mod
I have the feeling that publishers just want everything to stay in some norm so it's easier for them to go through. Fortunately, self-published authors have no reason to stay within those rules. Do what is best for your story, that is what matters.


message 21: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Jenna wrote: "Everybody (read: publishers/editors) says no, no way..."

Obviously that's not a universal truth because there are plenty of traditionally published books with prologues.

IMHO 90% of the books written don't need one. The other 10% absolutely do. There are just some things that for plot or structural reasons cannot be accomplished otherwise.

My advice would be to think about what you're trying to accomplish with a prologue and see if it can be handled better some other way. If it can be, leave out the prologue. If it can't, then carry on.

In all my writing projects (dozens of them in all--published or not) I've only used one. And that one is only 3 paragraphs long. And I didn't even call it a prologue, I gave it a title with no Chapter name or number because it's more a statement of intent, a foreshadowing, a warning to the reader to not believe all they read hereafter... And I'm struggling with the epilogue, which is needed in order to give the final resolution (or punch line).


message 22: by Val (new)

Val | 7 comments As some people already mentioned, I think that writing a prologue is a matter of personal preference and desire. For me it is always obvious when an author forces himself/herself to write a prologue.

I haven't written a prologue yet, however I want to write it for my new book I'm working on right now.


message 23: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments This is very helpful. The story I thought of adding a prologue to is told in first person, a fifteen-year-old protagonist, but the prologue would be in third person. To me it seemed too big of a change. Maybe when in doubt leave out.


message 24: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments In my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with a prologue as long as it is not an info dump. Make it interesting and people will read it.

I know some people will swear up and down that they don't read prologues or epilogues. Their loss. :P


message 25: by Frances (new)

Frances Fletcher | 46 comments M.L. wrote: "What do you think about prologues, do you like to read them or include them in your own books or maybe go right to the main story?"

It depends on the story and what you are trying to accomplish. Tell us a little about your project and perhaps we can provide more specific feedback.

I've used a prologue once, and am happy with my decision. I restructured the manuscript six times to make sure the action and sequence of events flowed clearly, and each time the prologue stayed. The prologue is short (as are most of the chapters since it is a thriller) and occurs half a century prior to the event in chapter one.

I've never used one before that one or in my current WIPs, but if a story is more effective with a prologue or an epilogue, I wont hesitate to include them.

The best part about self publishing is that the writer is not pigeonholed into print guidelines. Story is king. Whatever works best for storytelling is the right choice.


message 26: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments I'll come back with a blurb in the blurb category. The book I'm reading now, at first I thought a prologue would have been good but that opinion changed. I've also read books where the prologue was so good I would rather the story started there. I'm thinking just start with Chapter One.


message 27: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 731 comments Mod
G.G. wrote: "In my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with a prologue as long as it is not an info dump. Make it interesting and people will read it."

That was a problem in the earlier drafts of my WIP. The prologue was 15k (or so) history dump that I eventually decided to put aside as eventual short story/novella material. Instead, since the fourth draft, I wrote something completely new that sets up the main characters in just over 1k words while giving a bit of backstory.

Maybe it might be like that for others - try a few different takes on the prologue and see what works (and what doesn't).


message 28: by Emilyrose (new)

Emilyrose | 3 comments I think a prologue is a tool like any other, you have to decide if it suits the start of the book. The best prologues I've ever read have been written by authors who don't always use one, it's a choice that they'e made work for that specific story. Also I think you have to remember that you're just moving where the opening line is, the first point of engagement for the reader. If you have a great idea for the opening of a prologue then don't take it out just because!


message 29: by Nikkole Pruett (new)

Nikkole Pruett | 2 comments I like a good prologue, it makes me feel as if I'm getting a little something extra. I also like the idea of adding extra dimension to a character using a prologue to tell a backstory that shows aspects of a characters personality.


message 30: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments I just read a twenty-five page prologue. Chapter one started: one year later. The prologue could have been set up as chapter one, but I think designating it as a prologue added additional separation between it and when the current story starts. So, that extra separation is another reason for a prologue, and in this case it serves up backstory from the prior books.

I agree about reading the prologue, epilogue: if I read the book I read those as well.


message 31: by Tony (new)

Tony Blenman | 95 comments I like reading everything in a book and this includes a prologue, but I wouldn't continue on the prologue if it appears to be too long. In my opinion, a prologue should provide background information to the story of the book, which if included later would break the flow of the story.


message 32: by Rich (new)

Rich Garon | 3 comments Great topic. I had written a prologue for an earlier draft. I thought it helped set the scene -- three sentences. My editor advised against using prologues, should go right into story. Result, I didn't use it. I think there are arguments on both sides.


message 33: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Rich wrote: "Great topic. I had written a prologue for an earlier draft. I thought it helped set the scene -- three sentences. My editor advised against using prologues, should go right into story. Result, I di..."

I read a short prologue, it was about three sentences. It went by so quickly it was more confusing than informative. The whole series though didn't suffer so I guess it worked OK.


message 34: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments Tony wrote: "I like reading everything in a book and this includes a prologue, but I wouldn't continue on the prologue if it appears to be too long. In my opinion, a prologue should provide background informati..."

The twenty-five page prologue I read was good. It's the fourth book in the series and since I read the first two I already knew the characters and set up, What's interesting is how visual (cinematic) it is and I think the writer is writing what will amount to a very fleshed out screen play.


message 35: by Lila (last edited Oct 05, 2018 09:47PM) (new)

Lila Diller I just an article on NY Book Editors blog that had a quick section on prologues. Since I'm not supposed to link, I'll just quote the relevant lines:

"Kill your prologues. In most cases, a prologue represents lazy writing. Most agents hate prologues."

That seems a little too absolute, even for me, but do with it as you will. Just a warning to be careful with them, I guess.


message 36: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments And that is why I love Indies and I am proud to be an Indie. Our books don't feel like they came out from the same mold. They are as different as there are authors. :)


message 37: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 347 comments To me, a prologue is just a small chapter that is important background to the story, but does not connect nicely with it. With the modern habit of temporal or spatial hopping at will, it could be called chapter 1, but calling it a prologue does make it easier for the reader.


message 38: by Rich (new)

Rich Garon | 3 comments Does one write the prologue before everything else, or when the rest of the book is completed?


message 39: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4356 comments Mod
Rich wrote: "Does one write the prologue before everything else, or when the rest of the book is completed?"

It really doesn't matter. The one novel I have with a prologue, I wrote it very late in the process. If you want to write it first, that's fine.


message 40: by Rich (new)

Rich Garon | 3 comments I think you're 100% right.


message 41: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 731 comments Mod
Rich wrote: "Does one write the prologue before everything else, or when the rest of the book is completed?"
I wrote the first attempt at prologue after the second draft and reworked it in the following drafts as I was not sure what I wanted it to tell when I started writing. It might be different for others.


message 42: by Karen (new)

Karen Elizabeth | 15 comments I like short prologues. I tend to mix media in my work (blog postings, social media chatter), so prologues can be a nice way of putting in something other than just straight prose.

I think the thing with the prologue is to make sure it's distinct from how the first chapter starts. From a different character's POV or something. The one thing I don't care for is when the prologue just reads like it could be the first chapter.


message 43: by Haru (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments I see I write this answer over and over again, but it fits:

Whatever is good for YOUR particular story.

For an example from me: In my first novel, the first "day" (I use days, not chapters) is narrated by the hero, while the rest of the book is narrated by the heroine. This serves a couple of purposes: to contrast the hero's cold voice and the heroine's childish, carefree voice so their personalities are more accused, and to inform the reader that the hero does know what time is it (in a context where a "rational" person--what the hero looks like in front of others--would be dismissing all the paranormal crap happening around him as mere figments of his imagination). So yes, the story would suffer if I removed the prologue.
My second novel will have no prologue whatsoever because it doesn't need it.

That said, it's a totally different matter with the kind of prologues that are a "peek into the future" like when there is a snippet of the main character about to be killed somewhere in the future and next it comes to that main character going on a normal day. THAT, I do consider lazy writing and I would likely not give the book a second thought. It happens a LOT with romantic novels where you get a snippet of a steamy scene and then goes to the heroine and her normal, single life.


message 44: by Shanna (new)

Shanna Swenson (shannaswen) | 32 comments I personally am indifferent to prologues and epilogues... all three of my books have them simply as a way of introducing the story/ending the story without the full length of a chapter! Some books need them, some don’t! I’m undeterred by them... if a book starts with a prologue, fine, if it starts with a chapter, whatever, I just read. If it’s a good story then it’s a good story, prologue or sans prologue!


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