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Thursday, March 24, 2016

To Prologue or Not to Prologue?

To Prologue or Not to Prologue?

Are These Really Necessary to Move a Story Forward?

Are you an author who struggles with whether to include a prologue, or to leave it out of your story? Here is some key information that may help you in deciding when to use a prologue.

Many books have a prologue at the beginning of the book. But are these really necessary to move the story forward, or to fill in details not included in the story?

As a reader, I skip the prologue of every book I read unless it’s a memoir, or a nonfiction book. For fiction novels, I find the prologue is not necessary and therefore, I skip the reading of these. I haven’t found a story yet that I found a prologue was necessary.

As a writer, I struggle with whether I should include these in my books. At this moment, I tend to leave them out, as I would rather fill in all the important information within the story.

So, what is a prologue?

·         It is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details.

·         Used to fill in pertinent details of the story or plot that if used in the plot would bog down the story and not help it to move forward.

·          For those novels that want to include flashbacks used to help the reader understand the character.

·         It can be used to hook the reader. Although the first chapter of any book should hook the reader. What if the reader does not read the prologue? I don’t read the prologue, and rely on the first chapter to hook me. If the first chapter does not reel me in, then I am not likely to continue to read the book.

·         Prologues can also be used to introduce the book’s characters. Although, a seasoned writer will introduce characters within the story. Again what if the reader skips the prologue, and the writer has used it to introduce characters? The story would be missing important elements that make the story.

Is the Prologue necessary?

·         As a reader, I have yet to find that a prologue was necessary to any story.

·         There are a few things to think about when writing a prologue:

o   If placed as the first chapter in the story, would the plot’s integrity be damaged?

o   If left out of the book completely would it be missed?

If you answer “yes” to both questions, then a prologue is necessary for the book. If no, then skip it.

When to use a prologue?

·         When detailed information needs to be revealed to the reader before beginning the story.

·         If the information would bog down, and interrupt the flow of the story.

·         If used to snag the reader at the bookstore. Many readers when choosing a book to buy will read the prologue to see if they should purchase the book. Of course some would say that they back of the book should do this by itself.

When not to use a prologue?

·         Do not use a prologue to dump additional unnecessary information.

·         Do not use it if it is not needed.

·         Do not use it to repeat what is already in the story.

·         If it does not contribute to the story, it is not necessary.

Many times new writers will write prologues for their book, but not really know when and how to use a prologue. As I mentioned before, as a reader, I detest these and skip them altogether. I have read thousands of books over the years, and yes every one of them had a prologue that I did not read. To me it is a waste of my time. I have never read a story that I felt that needed a prologue. A well written book will contain all the key information throughout the story.

What do you think? Do you find that a prologue is necessary? Leave a comment with your thoughts on this matter.