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Prologue (Should I or Shouldn't I) (1 Viewer)

I am wondering if I should write a prologue for my novel, or just put it all into chapter one. The prologue is only two pages long but sets the scene for the novel, and Chapter 1 starts somewhere completely different in location wise. Should i do the prologue or just dump what would be the prologue into chapter 1?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I am wondering if I should write a prologue for my novel, or just put it all into chapter one. The prologue is only two pages long but sets the scene for the novel, and Chapter 1 starts somewhere completely different in location wise. Should i do the prologue or just dump what would be the prologue into chapter 1?

For my personal taste, I dislike prologues and generally skip them entirely. When I do, I'm never lost in the book, emphasizing that I missed nothing I had to know. I typically advise working prologue material in a bit at a time as backstory.

Here's one very logical reason: If the prologue tells a good story, I become interested in THAT story. Then it ends prematurely to start some other story. How rude is THAT? LOL You'll find LOTS of advice other than just mine to doubt the value of a prologue.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I like a good prologue. As long as it's not very long. It should provide a piece of information or clue that becomes apparent to the larger story much later on. Mysteries often start with a prologue. However, If you are able to fit all of the information into chapter one, then likely it's not suitable for a prologue.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
In my novel Departure the first chapter was set at a distant location with different characters than most of the book. It described the event that drove the rest of the story. I returned to those characters in the final chapter to provide resolution.

What purpose does your prologue serve?
 

robertn51

Friends of WF
I am wondering if I should write a prologue for my novel, or just put it all into chapter one. The prologue is only two pages long but sets the scene for the novel, and Chapter 1 starts somewhere completely different in location wise. Should i do the prologue or just dump what would be the prologue into chapter 1?

Were I you, I'd ask my first readers and reviewers to consider the book text with and without the prologue. (You might even silently withhold it and see if the readers have problems understanding things without it. Then bring it out.)

If they generally don't need it. I'd say it's up to you. (You will get flack, but it's your book.)

If they generally say they do need and appreciate it, then you have motivation to decide. (You will get flack, but it's your book.) Again your first readers will have thoughts about whether it should be standalone or if the prologue content might be merged with the body.

If they say "what prologue?" you are home free. (You will get flack, but it's your book.)

From what you've described, I feel like you might need that prologue text. But that depends upon its content and tone and how its telling merges with the first chapter.

Also you might ask yourself why the body's setting, as rendered in the prologue, is so different from the first chapter's setting. They both are parts of the same story, so...? (I have an idea why, but I will shut up.)

Me?

I just looked at the fiction books I've open in my e-reader. I stopped looking at six. (Further would be embarrassing.)

Every one of the six has a prologue. And I hadn't noticed.

The fact that I hadn't noticed says it doesn't matter. But that's me and my way with reading.

So I looked closer. Of the six books only one truly needed the prologue. And that book is second of a series. The prologue was a recap, and I appreciated it. I remembered things I'd forgotten and got interested to see resolutions. Quite solid comforting hook.

The other five?

Two of the remaining "unnecessary" ones? I'd snatch the book back and tell you you just don't deserve it. Because I want every word those authors have written. Prologue or cocktail napkin.

One of the three remaining "unnecessary" ones? The prologue is a short-story-long exciter. A good one for a trailer. But unnecessary. The book body text just blazes without it.

The last two? King having too much casual chumminess. And Asimov being his usual very smarty pants. In both cases, the content of the prologues are actually spoilers, being set in the stories' futures. King: Character doesn't die. Asimov: Galaxy does not regress into chaos.

Also, back to your question. Whatever you decide, please don't "dump it in". The shovel marks will show.
 

Crooked Bird

Senior Member
I've been mostly against prologues but have recently understood their usefulness. I have a book with a very difficult first chapter; it just has too much in it. One of the things in it is a set of flashbacks/memories illuminating what's at stake in the story & where the threat is coming from. I put this in as flashback because I didn't want a whole scene about it; the event itself seemed kind of melodramatic when presented as a scene whose climax is someone making a vague threat, etc. (But it's actually a historical event and had to be in there.)

I've finally, finally cracked that first chapter, and here's what I did: I wrote half a page of prologue describing only the pre-climactic moment of the threat scene. Just enough to tell the reader where we are, that a group of people are approaching this powerful guy, that he hears what they have to say, that he's getting angry, and then it cuts off before he acts. So basically prologue as teaser. Now the flashbacks in Chapter 1 are answers to the reader's questions--"so what did he do?" "so why did they want to talk to him so badly in spite of the risk?" etc. Instead of new unsolicited info for the reader to assimilate.

So--perhaps narrowly as a result of this one experience?--I now believe what a prologue should serve to do is whet the reader's appetite. Do you think yours would do that, if positioned as a prologue? Is there any possibility of cutting it short or ending it with suspense? (Or maybe it ends with suspense already?)
 
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