Reader/Writer Confessions: The Dreaded Prologue

I will shamelessly admit that I will almost always, always skip prologues. A prologue is the lead into an actual story, and is most commonly found in fantasies where an author might start with an enticing event to lure the reader into the story. Here’s why I will usually skip over a prologue: They’re boring. They’re almost always used as a hook for the reader or to dump information on them — for example, a prologue may be used to explain a fantasy world’s history to the reader, or to tell them extra information about the character/s. But there’s a slightly problem in that. Nobody (myself especially) really wants to read them.

Of course, as to everything in writing and reading, there are exceptions. I surprisingly found that I like the prologues in George Martin’s A Game of Thrones series. When I was first read the books I was highly tempted to skip the prologues, but in hindsight, I was glad I didn’t. They added something extra to the story, most definitely, and considering Martin is raking in the cash with his novels, I don’t think publishers are going to frown upon him if he chooses to include a prologue in his novels.

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Yet there are those prologues which I’ve read — and it makes me think, What on earth was the purpose of that? Those are the prologues I don’t like. The shorter a prologue is, the less likely it’s actually needed in a story.

The first novel I wrote had a prologue. I thought they were cool and fancy, as pointless as mine were. Actually, the first few novels I wrote contained prologues because I thought people wanted to read them, but I received feedback that most agents/editors gave the advice to aspiring authors that they preferred if a manuscript didn’t have a prologue.

So what should you do if your novel has a prologue?

The simple answer: cut it. Get rid of your prologue. By all means, save it in alternate document if (like me) you hate deleting your writing in case something changes in the future and you might need it. (That has actually happened to me before.) Ask yourself if your prologue is really needed. If a reader were to skip the prologue (like I do) would they be missing vital information that would affect their reading of the book? If the answer is no, the prologue is not needed, then my best advice would be to cut it. Unwanted words only drags your manuscript down.

. . . But what if there is important information in that prologue?

I suppose that you could always keep the prologue. There are exceptions to everything, like I say. This post isn’t really telling you to not write a prologue . . . though from what I know, agents and editors would prefer if there wasn’t. And if you publish a book with a prologue, I’ll either skip or skim read it. You could always integrate the information in your prologue into the first few chapters of your story. I think one of the main issues with prologues is that there are an excuse for authors to info-dump. Which is boring.

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 What are your thoughts on prologues? Yay, nay? Let me know!

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4 thoughts on “Reader/Writer Confessions: The Dreaded Prologue

  1. I hate prologues. Actually I read the Ranger’s Apprentice book and put it down after the first 10 page prologue or whatever it was. I PUT IT DOWN. I nearly didn’t go back! That’s terrible! It’s one of my most favourite series…and I think that prologue was definitely pointless. I’m not a fan of prologues at all. Although the one in Lord of the Rings I enjoyed more than the rest of the book…*whistles innocently*

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