I have a prologue dun dun dun.

Question: Ok. I have a short prologue in my book, about three Microsoft word pages. I've read that it is bad to have one but I really like how it fits with my story. It is told through the eyes of a minor character and you get to meet the main character as she goes through a very difficult time. You also meet her family and you see the type of world the book is in. My question is, would it be ok to keep the prologue?


Answer: There is no "rule" or guideline in fiction writing that doesn't get broken sometimes. Every time you read "Don't do X," it really means "Don't do X ...unless it makes the writing or the story better."

You have to ask yourself why you want to include a prologue.

Sometimes, a prologue is used to present the inciting incident, the event that causes the rest of the story to unfold. Or it can be used because the writer wants to show the beginning of the overall story throughline, and these events happen to occur before the main character enters the story.

Generally, readers like to meet the main character in chapter one and get immediately into his/her head. It's disappointing when this doesn't happen. So the usual practice is to introduce the main character in the first chapter and if there is a key event that occurs before the main character enters, it gets made into a prologue. Sometimes even a whole series of events is summarized in the prologue so that the reader can get to the main character quickly. (For instance, at the start of the film The Lord of the Rings, there's a prologue that summarizes some 3,000 years of history.) Readers who hate prologues can just skip to the start of Chapter 1. If they get confused, they can go back and read the prologue later.

In some stories, the main character is present for the inciting incident, but there is a lengthy time gap between the event and the next time the main character appears. For instance, the inciting incident may happen when the main character is a child, but the story doesn't really get going until ten years later, after the main character has grown up. That's really the first time we get a clear sense of who the main character is. So again, the earlier incident becomes a prologue.

Often too, you see stories where the inciting incident is an accident or a crime. Then the story jumps to months or years later and we encounter the main character whose personality has been shaped by that tragedy. And that's when the story picks up again.

You may find, maybe after you've written a draft, that you can cut the prologue altogether. Or, if it is essential to the story, you may find an opportunity to use a flashback or a recounting of the past at a later point in the story, so that the reader learns what happened in another way. The advantage is that the reader can meet the main character and fall in love with him/her immediately.

However, don't feel that you have to decide right away. .

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Jan 26, 2014
Thanks!
by: Eliese

That was such a great response to my question, and so fast. I really appreciate it. It helps to think that I can decide later. This site is fantastic. Thank you!

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