Prologues can be a contentious issue. Everybody has a different opinion on them. I’ve known of readers who love them, agents who hate them, and everything in between! The last novel I wrote started with a prologue, even though as a reader I’m not a huge fan of them. Sometimes you just have to do what works for your novel. But for anyone who’s not sure, I’ve listed some of the pros and cons of prologues below.
You can hook the reader
Prologues tend to be short and sweet, and so it gives you the opportunity to really hook the reader with a gritty opening. You don’t need to introduce the characters involved in any depth, which gives you the chance to create a real air of mystery.
Chance to use a different POV
The prologue doesn’t have to follow the pattern of the rest of your story. So if you know which characters’ point of view you’re using to tell the story, this is a great way to use someone else as a one off. It can be used to show the antagonist’s perspective, or that of a character who won’t be revealed until later on in the story.
If you do it well, your prologue can be a great way to foreshadow other aspects of the story. You’ll need to be clever about it, so as not to give away too much or ruin any of your surprise twists and turns. If it works though, you could create a really satisfying reveal, giving readers a ‘wow’ moment when they realise it was foreshadowed from the start.
Setting the tone
Above all, a prologue can really set the tone for the rest of your novel. It gives readers an immediate insight into the type of story they’re about to read, the setting or themes that will come into play. Some readers love prologues as it’s a quick way to delve into story, and doesn’t require too much time to establish the voice.
Some people hate them
This is just the fact of the matter. Some readers hate prologues. At a writing event I attended once, an agent said they found prologues unnecessary. Everybody has a different view of them. I’m not a huge fan of prologues myself, but I always read them. However, I’ve heard that some readers skip them completely.
They can be boring
Nothing worse than a boring prologue. This is your chance to make that all important first impression. If it’s too slow, too long, or full of too much information, you’ll bore the reader. Prologues shouldn’t be info dumps. And some readers will always prefer to dive right in at the first real chapter.
They delay the start of the story
Is there a reason you need a prologue, rather than using that scene as the first chapter? Using a prologue delays the start of your story, by giving readers something to process before the real start of your story. If you’re going to use one, it needs to be for a really good reason.
They can be distracting
As with delaying the story, prologues can also be a distraction. After reading a prologue, readers may spend the early chapters trying to work out how it relates to the prologue. You want to immerse readers in your book from the off, and if the prologue isn’t completely necessary, you could be making it harder for them to get into the flow of your storytelling.
At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong answer. You have to do what works for you and your story. Do you like to read prologues? Do you write them? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them, so do comment below.