Prologues - article

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.

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  • 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.

  • Hello there, I'm kytty. It's my first time writing a novel and I am not sure that I should have this prologues aswell. I got two editors for my book and I asked them if I really need it, one said I should and another one said a synopsis at the end of the book is enough. Since my story is Romance/Mystery.. Should I have to get ppl interested or should I follow the advice her? Thank u so much! :)
  • So confused - by the way, hi my name is Rita and I am currently working on my 2nd book. After all the research regarding prologues I walked away with the total understanding that if you dont need it skip it so I just broke mine down and worked it into chapter one. And I think I like it. It puts a different spin on the story as well as a different way to set it up. Anyone experience that?
  • What about non-fiction books. Does it help to have an introduction I.e about your experience with the subject matter. Before you get into a self help book?
  • I am writing a poetry book. A collection of poems I've written over a number of years. I have an 'About the Author 'page that is simply a couple of sentences written in the third person by a friend. Q) Do I need a preface? I feel it is necessary for me to say a bit about what made me write and what I felt and thread all the individual poems together in my preface; else it my book feels a little fragmented to me. Unlike a novel I am not going to give away my plot in my preface, that does not apply to me. What is the norm for a preface in a poetry collection book This is my first book, I need advice? Thank you in advance.