Hey, everybody! I’ve been reading a lot of books that use prologues lately. Many writers include unnecessary prologues, or struggle with whether to include one. Here are some questions to consider when debating a prologue!
Does it Add to the Plot?
This one is probably the most important, so we’re going to talk about it first. A prologue should not just be an excuse to info dump about the world or history. That’s lazy, and nobody wants to drudge through it. A prologue should still have conflict, action. This isn’t just a page to get all of your world building out rather than integrating it into the story. The prologue needs to add to, or at the very least foreshadow, the plot. Just like the rest of your book, every line should move the characters and plot forward in some way.
Does it provide a different perspective not seen in the book, or take place in a different time?
A good reason to add a prologue is if it will give the reader knowledge they couldn’t have had otherwise. For example, if you’re writing a first person story, it can be interesting to have a prologue from, say, the villains perspective, to see them plotting before the MC even knows what’s going on. It can add some much needed tension.
But, if the perspective and time are all the same, and it would easily fit in with the rest of your chapters, it likely doesn’t need to be a prologue.
Can the story be understood without it?
Just as each chapter needs to be crucial for the plot to make sense, the same goes for a prologue. It needs to add important insight and conflict to the story. If you can take your prologue out and the story is no different, you don’t need it.
Will it draw the reader into the story in a special way?
Maybe your prologue, going back to the example of the villains perspective, adds some danger and urgency to the plot. Maybe the villain has a plan revealed, and the reader watches the hero falling for it in the first chapters, creating dramatic irony for your audience and giving them a sense of conflict in what may for the MC seem a normal day. Prologues can add mystery, conflict, character intrigue, etc. when used properly.
Overall, a prologue can be a powerful tool, but only when used appropriately. It is by no means a prerequisite for writing fiction, and should be carefully considered.
Are you including a prologue in your story? How does it add to the tension?
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With all of this in mind, go out and write your masterpiece!