After reading through and editing my first draft twice, one place I keep returning to is the prologue. I’m really conflicted over it. If I don’t love it as the writer, I know that the reader won’t either. And so I’m at a crossroads— do I skip my prologue or keep it?
A trip through google will give you varied opinions. Most people will tell you that readers usually skip the prologue anyways, so there is no point to having one. That is a risk the writer takes. If they put all their important information into the prologue, or use it as their hook and then the reader skips it— the writer just missed their opportunity. Not only with the reader, but with an agent as well.
However, as a reader, I usually read the prologue. If I’m going to invest in reading a story, I want to make sure I don’t miss anything important. But I know I can’t expect everyone to feel this way.
A common feeling is that agents hate the prologue as much as readers do. The argument is that people would rather dive head first into the story rather than be told backstory. I agree with this. I’d much rather hit the ground running too. And most agents feel that new writers usually get prologues wrong. The main complaint is that descriptions are too long and flowery.
This article has some great insights into using a prologue. I found this quote particularly helpful:
“Prologues, with very few exceptions, are a prime example of the writer wanting to hold his reader’s hand. Mr. Writer figures the reader won’t possibly be able to figure out the backstory without a little help, so he spells it out in the greatest possible detail.”
It might be good to ask yourself why you are using a prologue. Most of the time it is used it to fill the reader in on important information, before they dive into the “real” beginning of the story. But could your story survive without it? Would it be better to not give the reader all that information up front and keep them guessing throughout the story?
This article has outlines The 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues and its quite good. As you go through the questions, you will realize that using the prologue might not be the best for your novel. I was guilty of this sin:
Sin 7: If your prologue is there solely to “set the mood…”
You have to set the mood in Chapter One anyway,
so like the hook, why do it twice?
Well, that cinched it for me. No prologue. I was basically setting the mood that I already set in chapter one. So, moving forward, I’ll try to integrate that information into the book and skip dumping it on the reader too early.
But, if you decided that writing a prologue does work for your story, here is a great article to help you keep it from failing. It provides a checklist of things to be aware of so you can make it the best prologue possible.