By definition, a prologue is a preface or introduction to a literary work. But before you include a prologue in your book, you should ask yourself, “Is it really necessary? Does it add to the readers’ enjoyment of the book?”
The cold, hard fact of the matter is that prologues are rarely necessary, and using one is not recommended. When you include a prologue, you are sharing information about the story before you start telling the story. But wouldn’t this be better accomplished through the art of exposition? Think of it from the reader’s perspective; does having a prologue improve the reading experience? In fact, most readers don’t even read prologues. They prefer to get right into the meat of the book. Their reading experience will be greatly enhanced if you tell your complete story (beginning, middle and end) within the content of the story itself.
Another fact to consider is that your story is very likely to evolve as you write it (regardless of how thorough your outline may be.) Will this evolution be consistent with the information in the prologue, or will you end up in a never-ending loop of revising one to accommodate the other?
When all is said and done, the best authors are the ones who get right into the story, engage the reader and make her/him anxious to turn the page. Start your story with action, or the middle of a key moment within your story; get the reader interested in what’s going to happen next. Let your creative genius flow as you weave your tapestry, as you construct your story so that the reader wants to keep reading and reading. Don’t bog the reader down with a prologue.
If you’re still not convinced, do a quick survey: Of your favorite novels of all time, or the most popular novels you know, how many have prologues, and how many get right into the substance of the story? Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the overwhelming majority of successful novels would fall into the latter category. Like them, you should think twice before deciding to include a prologue in your book.
I appreciate this article. I will reconsider my format. I am just in the process of writing my first novel and have included a prologue which I think is helpful for the story. As a prolific reader myself, I always read the prologue, knowing it gives insight into the core of the story. I may still include a prologue for my novel because the reader still has the choice whether to read it. Something to think about anyway. Thanks again.
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