Monday, 3 October 2011

Prologues: Unnecessary, boring and sometimes a bit too long.

A prologue is an introduction piece to a novel where the writer can lay down the foundations for the setting or give the reader some important background information to the novel.

First of all, I should probably make it clear that a prologue isn't a preface. So many people seemed to be confused about this and I see a lot of it on Inkpop.

A preface is like a short essay at the beginning of the novel, written usually by the author of the book. I did read a children's book once which had a preface written by another author though.

And yes, Stephenie Meyer did write a prologue and call it a preface in Twilight but then again, she hasn't exactly studied writing, was a newbie when she wrote the book and it's a bit hard to pretend that the book was properly edited. 

However, a preface is not there serve as a prologue. So use the correct term.

I have nothing against prefaces. I do however, hate prologues. Unless the author has used it for all the right reasons.

If you're writing an epic fantasy and need to include a scene about what the country is like or about something that happened long before the start of the novel, go ahead and use a prologue. But if you're writing a paranormal romance (YA) then ditch it.

Most YA paranormal romance novels are simplistic and require little usage of the brain. And most of the time, prologues are just used to make the book look more like an epic saga.

Because admit it, having a prologue at the beginning of the novel makes you consider yourself much more intelligent than you are. I have used a prologue before though and it was only for me to read. I only wrote it so I could understand the world a lot more.

Now here are my points on why you just don't need a prologue:

- They're unnecessary. Not every book needs a prologue. The best way to determine whether or not you need a prologue is to send a copy of your book to two people. Give one person a prologue and the first few chapters. Give the other person the first few chapters and no prologue. Ask them who found it easier to understand.

- They're boring. Seriously, even I skip the prologues. Most of the time, nothing happens. Print off the prologue and give it to someone to read. But don't include the word prologue at the top and tell them it's the first chapter. If they tell you it's boring or slow, take it out.

- They're long. A prologue is not a short story or a mini-novella. Keep it to 1000 words maximum.

If you really love your prologue, then include it. But don't send it to any agents. If an agent does agree to represent you, then ask them if they would like to see the prologue. They don't need to know about your coma-inducing prologue in your query letter, honestly.

But I do love prefaces. I don't know why but I enjoy reading the introductions some writers have at the beginning of their books where they tell you some seriously cool stuff such as:

- how they came up with the idea for the book
- what they learnt while writing the book
- whether or not there is a sequel coming up
- the inspiration for certain characters and stuff.

So my verdict is: prefaces > prologues.

What do you think? Do you like prologues? What do you think about them? Have you ever written one?

Please don't be offended at my post. This is just what I personally think. Feel free to ignore it if you wish.



  1. Totally laughing at your remarks on YA paranormal. :)

    I think I'm one of the few, but I actually enjoy prologues. I don't actually have one for any of my books though. I DID have an agent tell me on one of my books that it SHOULD have one though. Interesting. :)

  2. The only prologue I've liked is the one from The Book Thief. It's a bit long for a prologue but was so weird that I loved it.

    What genre was the book? if you don't mind me asking.

  3. Thanks for the follow and your comments. Yes, I write everything down! From advice I give (which may or may not be great), to things my kids say. I never know what might inspire a story later on. Have a good rest of your day. :)

  4. No problem! You should consider motivational speaking/writing. That would be a pretty cool career.

    "What's your job?"

    "I'm a motivational writer."


    I agree with what you say on something inspiring a story later on. I just have a fear of missing one tiny little detail which would have inspired a huge series of books which would get published!

    Thank you. You too!

  5. Loved your comment on my "Making Dreams a Reality" post at Say This Write. How cool is it to know that, you've made one of your dreams happen ~ even if it is just to go to Arctic Circle? Easy enough to cross off your To-Do list, right? And so what if your dream is to sell a million copies of your book. Every sold book gets you one step closer to your dream. Just don't stop dreaming! Anything can happen!! I truly believe that.

  6. Finally, someone who hates prologues as much as I do! Actually, I've softened my stance a tiny bit over the years. I used to consider inclusion of a prologue in a ms a blazing neon sign of amateur writing. Now I realize it's possible they might sometimes be necessary and enjoyable, as in the case of The Book Thief, as Kamille mentioned above. But in most cases I think a writer should just start at the beginning.

  7. I loved the prologue in the Book Thief but it worked well and wouldn't have fit into the main body of the novel well enough to work.

    I still shudder when I see prologues.

    But I agree with the last part in your post!


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