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.