The Trouble With Prologues
Here’s my issue with prologues:
I’m a long-time fantasy reader. That means I have been faced with more prologues than I can even count. Some books even have two prologues! Sometimes these prologues are interesting and legitimate.
Much, much more often the prologue is used as a free info-dump. The writer feels no need to ‘hook’ me into the book—so why read it at all? I was at one time a decided prologue skipper, because more often than not, the information in the prologue wasn’t even necessary for me to understand the story.
In my opinion, for a prologue to justify its existence, it needs to:
- Have a reason for not being Chapter One. Something breaks it from the main story–a big time jump, an unusual shift in POV (3rd person a story otherwise told in 1st person, or from the POV of a character who is never seen again, etc), or it’s information that none of the POV characters could possibly have access to.
- Be necessary. Every single scene in your story needs to be necessary, especially the first one.
- Have a damn good hook, just as compelling as the one that opens your first chapter, because the prologue is hopefully going to be read first.
The first two are requirements for the prologue even existing. The third one is what you have to do to make the prologue good. If you can hit all three, I’ll eat your prologue up and ask for seconds.*
* Not really seconds. I’ll ask for your first chapter. Please don’t give me a second prologue, I don’t care if you are Brandon Frickin Sanderson.