Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog–To Prologue Or Not To Prologue

This month, I ask:

The Prologue: Love It or Hate It? Are there times when it’s necessary to have a prologue?
Before I started writing for realz, I actually LOVED prologues. I didn’t care if they were directly connected to chapter 1 or note. It didn’t bother me if the narrator was completely different from the main character. Hell, I didn’t even mind if the prologue captured a different century, planet, or plane of existence!
Then I learned about the RULES.
And The Prologue (to me) died.
They weren’t allowed. Agents didn’t want to see them. Writing forum members swayed newbies away from them.
I was like, “Okay, no prologue. No harm, no foul.”
(I try to go with the flow.)
Then I saw newly published books (touted by the writing world as AWESOME! FANTASTIC! MUST READ!) WITH prologues!!!
I was like, “HUH? I thought they were a no-no!”
Listen, when I read a book for enjoyment, I still like prologues. I don’t skip over them. I don’t “tut-tut” them.
But I don’t include them in my stories. And I don’t really know why.
What about you? Prologues: Love ‘Em Or Hate ‘Em?
Tune in next week for Lydia’s take on Prologues.

24 comments on “Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog–To Prologue Or Not To Prologue

  1. It’s a tough one. Like you I went through a stage thinking I needed one but got feedback that I didn’t but I still read books with them in. I suppose it depends on the genre and time setting of the story. I think when approaching agents I’d leave it out unless I had to have it.

  2. Sarah Fine says:

    I’ve got a funny story about prologues, but I’ll tell it in two weeks when it’s my turn! I see why this prologues-in-published-books thing would be very confusing to people. I know it was confusing to me.

  3. Lynn Rush says:

    I’m not a fan of prologues. They work sometimes….but very rarely in my opinion. 🙂 But, I think it’s just a personal opinion thing for the most part. 🙂

  4. Ciara Knight says:

    I’ve noticed prologues coming back in some of the big 6 books and self-published, but not in the small press houses. Hmm….curious. Any way, I like them if they add something or are interesting. I can’t stand it when they have no purpose.

  5. roguemutt says:

    I rarely ever write prologues. I did write one for my novel A Hero’s Journey but then cut it because it wasn’t really needed. (You can read it in the deleted scenes on my website.)

  6. Great post! I’m still contemplating this subject. 😉

  7. The dos and don’ts in the publishing world are ALL subjectives. If you look into all aspects of writing aren’t there dozens of contradictions?

    For the past three years in my writing I learned all of them and now decided to do what works for me. Remember publishing is SUBJECTIVE … so listen to you heart and let YOUR words SING!

  8. louisesor says:

    I’ve never read a prologue in a book that bothered me. I also enjoy epilogues.
    I think that writing and publishers follow trends.
    If someone was taught by their prof> Prologues Bad! then when they’re in control, editing, agenting, publishing, they’re going to discourage (annilate, give bad rep, put the fear of … , hav a sign on their desk saying “I will strangle you with the slimey tentacles of your…) prologues.
    Trends, fads, fashions.
    I don’t think it matters one way or another.
    If a prologue feels right to the writer, it should go in.
    If you’re not a fan of them, leave it out.
    E-publishing is going to result in some interesting writing experiments.
    Not all of them will be successful.
    But it will be interesting.

  9. Lydia Kang says:

    I loved your response, because I felt the same way! Hmm, what am I going to blog about now? LOL

  10. I don’t use prologues. I’d be tempted to use it to get in backstory. That said, I don’t skip prologues in books I read, but sometimes they leave me feeling tricked especially if it’s fast paced and action packed and then leads a slower paced first chapter.

  11. I love prologues. I don’t know why they supposedly fell out of favor.

  12. I think only those in the publishing industry don’t like prologues. Readers just read. I don’t mind them but I do tend to stay away from them. Although, having said that I read a book where its chapter 1 was really a prologue and it annoyed me when I got to chapter 2 because everything was different. If I’d known it was a prologue I would’ve expected the change and it wouldn’t have upset me.

  13. Karen Lange says:

    I don’t mind them as long as they aren’t confusing. Haven’t written any yet, may give it a try sometime for the WIP just as an exercise.

  14. All of the books I’ve read with prologues work, but that’s because editors have decided they can stay. For the majority of unpublished book, they probably aren’t necessary. The smart writer will weave the info into the story and use it to develop suspense.

  15. I never used a prologue until the manuscript I recently completed. The editor told me it needed a prologue because of the way the story is structured.

  16. Krispy says:

    I’m like you. I was totally into the prologue thing before I saw all the advice against them. I never skip over the prologue when I’m reading since I figure it’s part of the book and there for a reason. I think that’s the sticking point – it has to be there for a reason. Like every scene in your book, the prologue has to pull its own weight and add to the story. I think it can be great for mood/worldbuilding or plot set-up, but I think it’s easy for people to see it as a sort of free-for-all dumping ground. So it gets used incorrectly – as an info-dump or a shameless hook – more often than not. Hence the bad rep.

  17. I like prologues and don’t see why they get such a bad rap. George R.R. Martin uses them…and he sells millions of books.

  18. Botanist says:

    I feel the same way. I never had a problem with prologues, and I get distressed by the knee-jerk “Prologues Are Bad” reaction, which seems to owe more to dogma than critical thinking.

    I think there are situations where a prologue may be a good thing. As with everything in writing, it’s subjective, and also subject to the one golden rule: Do what works!

    One reason why maybe prologues have such a bad rap is that they are often the result of laziness. They can be the easy way out to dump some essential (in the author’s mind) information onto the reader. So you end up with prologues where they aren’t really appropriate.

  19. Donna Hole says:

    Prologues are a “hate them” for me.

    I rarely find one that isn’t repeated within the novel, or seem like something the novel can’t do without. They are a form of author intrusiion; the author making sure the reader has been predisposed to “get” the plot, or character purpose.

    I have rarely found a prologue to do its intended purpose; set up the world or inciting incedent without ever mentioning the relevance within the body of the story.

    For instance: a friend of mine wrote a novel that included a haunted mountain. Several times throughout the story development he used an evil wind as an excuse for the brutality of certain dubious individuals. The prologue he used had the main character running through the forest with the evil wind at his back scaring him on even though he was nearly too exhausted to carry on and report prophetic tidings to his people. Then chapter one started with the MC reporting out.

    A good prologue here would have been up to 12 or 1800 words showing the origins of the evil and how/why it manifest throughout the ages to some but not all inhabitants of the area. Since this type prologue would have been ages past from our story beginning, and only explained the specific haunting the MC received, it would have been relevant.

    Anyway, I’m not impressed with prologues. I read them, but I read every world of a novel, including the publishers notes, the dedication page, the author dedications and bio.

    I know a lot of readers like prologues to explain what the main point of the novel is; but I feel the author should be writing that well into the story Very few stories need a prologue. In my not so humble opinion, that is.


  20. kendallgrey says:

    I don’t have strong feelings about prologues one way or another. If they’re needed for a set-up (NOT bombarding the reader with backstory – there’s a difference), use them. If not, don’t. I have a prologue in my first book, but not in the other two in the trilogy. *Shrugs*

  21. lenny says:

    hi dr laura! for me i didnt ever write a prolog and i didnt read too many. but im ok with a prolog if it jump starts me into the story but not if is “huh.”
    …hugs from lenny

  22. My publisher actually requested a prologue for my first book. (Although there’s not one for the second.) Guess it all depends on the publisher.

  23. I think in some cases it works well to have a prologu,e and in other cases it isn’t really necessary. I have one WIP that does have a prologue, one that used to have a prologue that I’ve now removed, and the rest don’t need one 🙂

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