Prologues - Pros

I know there's tons of debate about whether or not to use prologues, so I thought I'd share some thoughts about them this week.  Today I'll share the pros and on Friday I'll share the cons.

I do believe prologues can work, although I should say the ones I've read and liked are in third person narratives.  I don't think I've ever read one in first person, so I can't say for sure how well they'd work.  Any recommendations?

The prologues I like work one of two ways - an inciting incident taking place before the main story OR a hint of what's to come for the character and how they're going to get there.  That second example is used is a lot of television shows.  You know, the episode starts and the main character is in a world of trouble, then after the credits "twenty-four hours earlier" flashes on the screen.  I think these can work in books too.

So! Prologue Pros!!!
  • Prologues can create excellent hooks by hinting at what's to come.
  • They offer the chance to broaden the perspective the story is told from.  
  • Can set up important world building backstory that needs to be told but doesn't fit in the main body of the story.  
  • It offers the chance to tell a story back to front.  You could start at the end and use the rest of the book to reveal the characters' journeys.  
I'm quite curious to know how you all feel about prologues, especially if you're using them when popular opinion suggests you do this to them:

Comments

  1. I'm having an internal debate about adding a prologue to my WIP right now. I think it would simplify some things and make them clearer, but I'm afraid of prologues because of how often I've heard they're a no-no. Plus, I like the current start of my story. Sigh, what to do, what to do.

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    1. It's tough, isn't it? I say go with it for now and see how it works out :) Good luck!

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  2. I have an itty-bitty prologue (110 words) in my current WIP, and people *still* tell me to cut it. I think it serves a good purpose by hinting at what's to come, broadening the perspective, starting with a sense of foreboding (there's a bigger problem that the characters don't know about yet), and pointing the readers to something they should keep an eye on.

    I've decided to keep it--I figure if you really hate prologues, you could just turn the page and skip it. That said, I might not include it in my sample when querying agents, which makes me question whether my decision is 100% solid...hmmmm...yes... Good post!

    The Feather and the Rose: A bizarre adaptation inspires a movie review.

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    1. See, I really like a good forboding prologue! They can really drag a reader into a book.

      As for sending it to an agent, I definitely understand your reason for holding it back.

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    2. Yep, it's staying! At least for now ;)

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  3. I really don't know why so many people are down on prologues. I've never had a problem with a single prologue I've encountered. That being said, I do think they need to be kept brief and that they should serve some kind of important purpose (like you've mentioned above).

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    1. Yes, brief is good. Rambling prologues defeat the purpse of a swift, sharp hook.

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  4. They can also set up questions and give clues to the ending or the main character. One of the writers in our group has a prologue that shows how the MC's mother was impregnated, though it's not clear until the end that this is the case.

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    1. Oooh, I do love a good question!

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  5. I love prologues! You're right about the third person aspect - my favorites are all in third person. I prefer prologues that leave us with lots of intrigue, but that aren't a direct scene from later in the book. By the time I get caught up to that scene in "real time," it's no longer a surprise.

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    1. An intriguing prologue won't fail to pull me into a book ^_^

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  6. I used to have prologues in my books, but I ended up re-working them into the first chapter or other scenes when going through my editing process. When going through crit pages for others and they have prologues, I've found them to be confusing and didn't help pull me any more or less into the plot.

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    1. I had a prologue in an really old draft and it's the tenth chapter now ^^;

      I think you make a good point about prologues not doing more to pull you into a plot, and it's one of the cons I'll be listing on Friday :)

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  7. So, my WIP has one, but I've recently been considering it Cute without an E, cut from the book (Sorry, I just had to go there). Although the feedback from my writing group is they like it in there, so I don't knoooooow! But you make great points in this and the Cons post. Lots to think about!

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    1. Prologues definitely aren't any easy decision. Good luck!

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