I am a fan of the prologue. For me it is like the shorts for a film; dropping you into the action of the story before we have to worry about all that character development/ world building stuff. I think it nicely whets the appetite for what is about to come.
Others are not so taken with the prologue. Things I’ve heard about prologue use include; ‘I will put a book down if I see it has a prologue’, ‘it is a tool for weak writers’, ‘It is the author being lazy.’
I must confess, I’m a bit perplexed by these comments, they certainly don’t hold true for my beliefs, for of my six novels (either finished or on the go) only two do not have prologues. Then again, maybe that is a sign of my weak writing? 🙂 Topic for another post perhaps?
Maybe it was my early reading affair with Clive Cussler novels where whatever distant disaster the book was about always took place in the prologue, so we knew what everyone was talking about in the main guts of the novel. I do not see this as a weakness, more as an excuse to do just one flashback –because everyone knows you are not allowed to do JUST ONE flashback in the body of a novel (aren’t you glad you don’t know all these rules).
For me a prologue can save you a bunch of clunky info-dumping later in the novel (another of those rules about things to avoid) or it can hook your reader so they get a glimpse of what will ultimately be driving the novel.
There are a couple of rules that I do respect when it comes to prologues; 1) short and sweet. You must keep your writing tight, and no more than two pages, half a page is even better! 2) If you start with a prologue, you must end with an epilogue. If your novel does not lend itself to an epilogue, try to knock the prologue on the head. They are the bookends to the novel and if you have one, you should always have the other.
I would love to know what readers think, as it is only other writers who I have heard make such denigrating comments about that snappy first chapter. I suspect most readers don’t even notice that they are reading a prologue! But I could be wrong…