Friday, August 28, 2009

Prologues: yay or nay?

I've heard different things over the years. Some agents/editors like them, some don't. I'm talking about prologues. Now, I know where I stand. I'm in the for prologue bandwagon. I like them when they are done right. But they have to be short and snappy and be relevant.

A rule of thumb is that usually you can put the information you have there elsewhere throughout the book.

Now, I had a prologue once. For years. And then I had readers tell me that I didn't need mine or that it threw them. They thought the story started at Chpt 1 and I do agree. However, and here is where I don't know what to do: in chpt 2, I have a scene that I've been editing and there's a problem. The information as is doesn't really make sense. I mean it does to a point and it's explained in more detail later on.

But right now, I feel as though the reader won't understand what is going on. So I thought that if I put in a prologue it might help with that. I'm not entirely sure yet. I figure that I'll write it. Get it done and then get a reader or two to go over and see if it works. At this point, I'm still debating. I'm not entirely sure what to do with it. I have an idea in mind of what the prologue would be, but I'm not exactly sure how to get those thoughts out on paper.

You know?

What I need, is a machine. Some machine or tube that will suck that scene right out of my head into the computer and onto paper. Just like that. Instant words. But until such a machine is created, I shall tap away at the keyboard until I get it right.

So what about you? Do you like prologues? Hate them? If a book has one, do you read it or skip right to chapter one?


  1. I always skip them! I want to get right to the story. I always feel like it's backstory and I'll probably sort of figure it out later anyway... :)

  2. You know - I don't care WHAT they say, I love a good prologue.
    I'm thinking specifically of something like a delicious historical, when you see the "big moment" that turned the Hero into a pirate ten years earlier. Because it somehow comes back to cause trouble later and made him all bitter and angsty.

  3. I love prologues. But I never heard anyone else say that, so I try to stay clear of them when I write.

    But I really, really love prologues.

  4. I love 'em, but maybe that's just because my book has one and I love it and I can't think of a way to start the book without it.

  5. Really, for me, it depends on the story. Some stories need or can justify a prologue; sometimes a prologue makes sense. Other times, it just clutters the book and adds hype for the reader to wade through before getting to the meat.

    I do not employ a general rule of thumb; I go according to the story. For instance, my current book, A Tale For All Seasons, is a collection of four novellas. Just one of those novellas features a prologue. And I went back to write it *after* the book was completed. One of the stories really did have a "pre story," I discovered. I feature the prologue on my website. My readers have loved this extra tid-bit and have expressed they view it as a treat. In my opinion, that is due entirely to two things: 1. the character I chose to narrate the prologue; 2. the story itself.

    God, did I make sense? It's late in NY state...