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?
So interesting that you skipped the prologues as a reader! I wonder how many people do that. Great post, Deb!ReplyDelete
I've heard of skipping prologues from other readers, too, Sarah. I suspect it becomes a habit after reading too many "off" prologues.Delete
I read a lot of fantasy, and people like David Eddings made the prologues a great place to world build (usually he was citing some ancient legend or whatnot). Blood Rage had a prologue, but I ended up chopping it. It showed a particular scene that I still think was important, but it made people dislike both of the main characters, so it got chopped.ReplyDelete
Blood-Mage Rising (out next month) has a prologue. It's the villain referenced briefly in the first book of the series, and shows the inciting event. I needed him in there to give just a hint into his motivations, and then closed out the book by revealing his identity to the readers and his actual motivations for everything he's been doing (to give more emphasis for something the main characters had just learned prior to the short ending scene). Thankfully my editor didn't make me cut it, though she "encouraged" me to get rid of every other scene from his POV. She was right, they weakened it, but the ending needed him.
Yikes, Tory! That it made readers dislike your characters is the best reason to chop even an important prologue.Delete
Best of luck and success with your release of Blood-Mage Rising!
Like anything else, prologues can be awesome in the right hands or a flop in the wrong hands. LOL, I used to skip all prologues, too, but that was because I thought they were more like prefaces, and I was at an age where the last thing I wanted to do was sit through some person talking about the story. Gimme the story already.ReplyDelete
As a writer, I use prologues - but they usually get snipped after a couple drafts because I've woven all the prologue info into the story and made them unnecessary.
LOL! "Gimme the story already" was exactly how I felt, too.Delete
Hm. I don't think I distinguished between prologues and prefaces, either. I *still* generally don't read prefaces. :blush:
Yes, yes, yes! Writing the prologue info into the story is what I consider the ideal way of dealing with it. That way the information is right where it's needed, and not long forgotten, written off as unimportant, or completely unnoticed (i.e. unread).
Though I'm not one to fuss over whether there's a prologue or not when I'm reading, I've written two stories that have prologues and several without.ReplyDelete
Yes, the poorly done ones can be really frustrating!ReplyDelete
I can't skip them! LOL!ReplyDelete
I agree, they can be brilliant...however, most seem to detract from the story.