What About Prologues?

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Again, I’m inviting everyone (both writers and readers) to share some of their beliefs, writing habits, expertise, and opinions on a variety of subjects connected to writing or reading novels. For today’s topic, I’d like to hear what you think about prologues.

There was a time when  many novels started with a prologue. Lately, I’ve heard it said that using a prologue is a cop out that writers use when their novel doesn’t have a strong beginning.

Sometimes a prologue is meant to be a taste of some of the action to come later in the novel. Is it fair to do this? Would writers do better to rethink the beginning of their novels to hook the reader? Is it cheating to jump ahead to the climax of the story and use it as a teaser before starting the novel?

Please tell us your thoughts. If you are a writer, have you ever used a prologue? Tell us why you think it is a good idea (or not). As a reader, how do you feel about reading a prologue and then reading to find out what it is all about?

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6 thoughts on “What About Prologues?

  1. Thanks for your input, Darlene. I wonder what people say who have used prologues. I know that your novels don’t have them. Starting the story where it starts would make an author have to work harder to hook the reader, I would think.

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  2. I am a fence sitter on this one… (and boy am I glad you chose something I can give an opinion on) there are some authors who I follow quite diligently, who use prologues and for that matter epilogues. More often than not I find these in their books where the story is not really a trilogy, but the stories are in a way related, as in characters and plots. I find this useful in a way to remind me what happened in the last book and what is to come in the future… living in Africa, follow on books don’t always arrive when they hit the market overseas and can take months before they do. Because of this I might have read two or three other books in the interim and need a prologue to almost aid what happened in the past, whilst telling me what is to happen in the future… (now that sounds Greek) … so my conclusion, I enjoy them in certain circumstances but not all….

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  3. I believe prologues have their place, but think they fit some genres better than others.

    In the first book of our series, we included a short poem entitled “In The Beginning” which set the scene before the characters entered the stage. As our main protagonist is written in the first person, and could not know of the legend and magic waiting to unfold, then the poem-prologue seemed to be the best way to start the story.

    The sequel did not need a prologue, so it didn’t get one. 😉 It did have an Epilogue, though, a scene (vision) which was separate from the rest of the book and which forms a link to the third.

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    • Thank you, Joanna, for your input. This way of using a prologue makes very good sense. It shows that in this case you haven’t just used a prologue as a way to hook the reader with a glimpse of what’s to come, although it might inadvertently do just that. Good comment!

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