My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

I know I’ve been wondering whether or not I should have a prologue in my story. I’ve read that a lot of agents don’t like them and many will reject the entire manuscript because it has a prologue. Personally, I think that’s a bit overboard–I’ve read plenty of books that were published and that the prologue added to the story.

I was reading on Writing World that for a book to warrant a prologue, it needs to be one of the four following:

  1. Future protagonist–meaning that the prologue is set after the events of the novel and show why the following story occurs. It also needs to be written in the same POV as the rest of the novel.
  2. Past protagonist–It shows a defining moment that occured and made the protagonist who/what  he/she is and helps the reader further understand the character.
  3.  Different POV–Obviously this is that the prologue is a relevant event seen through the eyes of another character. The relavence HAS to be seen at some point in the book. It helps an author pull of plot twists that would not otherwise be revealed or known to the MC.
  4. Background–Normally these are used in fantasy or sci-fi novels to give a background to the world that the story is set in that the reader would not be able to pick up on in the story. Again, it has to be relavent to the story. This one is the hardest one to master and do successfully.

Currently, my novel is using a mix #2 and #3. It starts off with Kaiyo as an infant, a few months old. Obviously we don’t see in her viewpoint as she is so young, but I have it through her mother’s. In it, I briefly introduce her father–who throughout the story remains obscure to her–and show him parting from Kaiyo and her mother. I don’t go into the reasons behind it, simply to say that it’s safer for them both. I thought by using this, it would show some background to her story and thus is a “defining moment” when her father determines to stay out of their lives.

I’m wondering if it’s really needed or not, though I do like the fact that it’s there. I do have to change some of it. I figure I’ll decide on its necessity as I edit more.

Anyway, if you are writing a novel, do you have a prologue? What’s its significance? Does it use any of the four types of prologues or mix of them? I’m curious to see how many actually use them in their writing.

Comments on: "Prologues: Should Your Story Have One?" (5)

  1. I’ve never written a prologue for a novel yet, but that’s not to say that I won’t at some point. I think there is a place for them in some books, though not all and if it has a purpose like you say, then run with it. Besides, later on you can always go back and see whether it’s needed or not, the joys of revision and editing!

  2. about half of what I’ve written has a prologue. and I go back and forth, whether I’m happy with that or not.

    they don;t start out with a prologue, and I’m not sure what that means either.

    mine seem to be #2 & 4, especially 2. as though defining the past needs a separate entity.

    but as I said, I’m not altogether happy with this, yet it seems to suit the stories to which it has attached itself. if it’s well written, there you go…

  3. I think using a prologue is the same as starting a sentence with ‘and’. Most of the time when I’m just writing away without thinking too much I write like I speak, which means some sentences start with ‘and’ or ‘because’. And, then, when I go back to edit them it’s easy to see that the ‘and’ could be cut and the sentence still works. (Then, when then, when I go back to edit them it’s easy to see that the ‘and’ could be cut and the sentence still works.) 😉

    With prologues, why have one if it’s just part of the story? Surely that just makes it chapter one? I was going to put the creation of the protagonist in my NaNo novel as a prologue, or maybe even the first murder, but then I wasn’t sure there was any need. The first murder is obviously part of the main story so that’s just chapter one and I’m not sure if the creation of the murderer needs to be in there (the more I think about it, it does, but I’ve got a week or so to decide).

    Just my thoughts. 🙂

  4. I actually kind of used #1 in my novel Kings & Queens. It’s very brief. Three paragraphs. I have the prologue, which is a teaser for the end, then I backtrack two months to tell my story, then I explain the prologue in the epilogue. But that character only has a perspective in those two bookend chapters. He’s the villain, unknown until the end. The epilogue reveals his motivation. My novel really needs the prologue, otherwise the twist of an ending would seem out of left field. Now, readers, are like, oh, okay. Cool.

  5. Hello! I found your site in the most abstract of ways. =D

    I’m not a writer, although I wish I was. I like to write a little hear and there but I don’t believe I have all of the “umph” to be a true writer when the words just flow.

    However, I wanted to comment on your use of a prologue. I have to admit, and this is coming from a reader’s point of view, I generally skip prologues. Sometimes I’ll read them later out of guilt or at the end of a good story that I do not want to let go. Otherwise, I disregard them altogether. I just like to jump right in to the story.

    There is certain criteria which will actually make me read a prologue before reading the actual work:

    1. The book is part of a series and I may be missing prior knowledge from previous works
    2. It’s a fantasy or sci-fi as you’ve mentioned. I’d also read it for obscure parts of history. Like, for instance, Heian era Japan. Most people are familiar with the medieval era and anything outside of that they might not know much about. The Edo concept of courtier is not the same as the Heian concept; they’re related, but the aesthetics of each period are different.
    3. The book has no summary on the cover or it looks abstract in general. Or, if the summary is really interesting, I’ll read the prologue because I want to get all of the information I can.

    I hope my “reader’s pov” helps and doesn’t discourage you. All in all, I’d say go with what you feel is best for your story. It’s yours after all. You have the best judgment for when a prologue should and should not be used. I’m sure you’ll do great though. Good luck with your endeavors and take care!

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