Friday, December 30, 2011

To Prologue Or Not To Prologue - That Is The Question

Now, before I get started, there are not editors and agents out there who are firmly in favor of, or against prologues (despite the common rumors that are out there). The issue stems from how a prologue is used.

Too often, I see projects that insert a prologue to do nothing more than to insert "backstory" that the author believes the reader needs to know at the immediate get-go. In reality, this is information the author needs but, for the reader, this is something that can come out later on when we start to wonder why the character would want to do something so strange.

The other time we see authors using a prologue, in my opinion, incorrectly, is when the author decides to give us the insight into the villain without giving us any name, context, gender or anything. We have no reason to hate this person yet because we haven't become attached to the main characters.

A prologue can be great for some tidbit of a smaller scene that just needs to get the ball rolling. For example, maybe this is story about two friends dealing with some tragedy that will affect one of them. In this case, a prologue to show them as great childhood friends and ending with a dialogue scene that says "You know, we'll be friends for ever" would be great. Now you can show the contrast in the rest of the book.

The key is to use a prologue WHEN IT IS NEEDED. In many cases, that prologue might be something you insert after you have gotten into the book.

Just be careful. Remember, if we make decisions on the opening pages of a story and we hate the prologue, you have just wasted 5-8 pages of your partial and already have us thinking the story isn't going to work.

Have a great weekend.



  1. You have an amazing blog! I love how you have such a different perspective on things!!! Look forward to seeing more. Happy New Year in advance!

  2. This is fantastic advice. I've sturggled with whether I will include a prologue in my WIP for a long time. But my question has just been answered.

  3. Hmm, good food for thought again Scott. My current story has a prologue, and I've asked around and general concensus seems to be to keep it in. Of course if I were working with an agent or publisher who said "take it out", I wouldn't be offended to do that either. I get where you're coming from though. Thanks.