The Prologue: Love It or Hate It? Are there times when it's necessary to have a prologue?
I'm not a fan of prologues. I'm embarrassed to admit that as a reader, before I started writing again, I generally skipped the prologue. They often confused the issue for me, and sometimes ruined my enjoyment of the novel.
When I started studying how a novel is put together I discovered there are good reasons to have a prologue. If it's used right, it's a brilliant tool. It can set up the tone of the book, and it can give years of backstory in a page or two. I even wrote a couple, though I tried to disguise them as the first chapters of my novels.
Unfortunately, prologues are generally poorly designed, in my opinion. They give away too much, or they start with a minor character - or worse, with a non-character who never shows up again. Sometimes they're used to start at an exciting point in the story, and we-the-readers must go into the past for chapter one. (How I dislike that type!) Usually, the author could leave the prologue off altogether, and the work would be stronger without it.
Of course, some genres almost demand the use of a prologue, especially mysteries. And mysteries have made much more sense since I started reading the prologues. Imagine that! ;-)
What do you think of prologues? Do you like to read them, or do you ignore them? Do you use them in your own work?