The Prologue Debate

Anonymous asked: “Should I write a prologue? I’m not sure if I should make this scene a flashback or a prologue and what I have in mind is quite melancholy compared to the rest of the story.”

Generally speaking, no. Don’t include a prologue just to have a prologue. Prologues are more helpful when you know what direction your story is headed in but the first few chapters might not suggest it. Slower openings might be better off with an exciting prologue.

The prologue should also be unnecessary to the book. There should be no facts that won’t be explained later or anything like in it. Some readers skip prologues all together. Prologues are one good way to start with excitement, and good for implying either events to come later on, or to suggest the conflict that will soon enter the protagonist’s life. 

Recently, I read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese which had a great prologue. It introduces the main character and narrator and reveals that he’s a surgeon and a little bit about his life. We get a few clues and that’s amazingly helpful because the next 200 pages that follow lead up to his birth and without that prologue, you might not have guessed that this story was about him. It’s also about his relationship with his father, but still, that’s a lot of pages without the protagonist. The prologue was necessary – at least in my opinion. 

Another one that has randomly stuck out in my mind too is The Imposter Queen by Sarah Fine. It’s a fantasy YA novel that I read a few years ago that I really enjoyed. The writing was particularly lovely and the prologue in this case I felt really worked. It showed an aspect of the novel that though it was heavily implied later on, you get to see it up front without any context. The prologue was intriguing without being extraneous.

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