Prologues - Cons

I discussed the Pros of Prologues on Monday.  Today I'll examine the cons.

At the moment, there is a lot of bad feeling towards prologues.  At least it certainly feels that way when you float around the blogging world.  Well, I float around.  Perhaps you prance or frolic through the Internet.


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaanyway!

I have read bad prologues. I read one when I couldn't work out why it was there and forgot about it until I remembered it 300 pages later and still didn't have an explanation for its existence. It was all BOOM! ACTION!!!!!!! in a book that wasn't particularly action orientated.  To me, it read like a very blatant hook... although sometimes I read too much as a writer and maybe that's why I wasn't so keen.

So, here are some cons of prologues

  1. Complicated prologues can bombard the reader with too much too soon.  Some mysteries don't need explaining straight away.
  2. They run the risk of being infodumps.  (Check the comments on the post for some really interesting points!) Some people like infodumps and others don't.  I believe you can't escape them completely, but I also think it's important not to get too bogged down in them.  And personally, I feel if a prologue exists solely to explain backstory, you should consider cutting it.  You can sew the seeds of backstory in the rest of the story here and there.
  3. Your story structure may not be conducive to a prologue. For example, my manuscript always moves forward and never looks back.  A prologue wouldn't work.  If a huge event in the past triggers the events of your story, a prologue might be useful.
  4. If it's going to be a hook, make sure it exists for reasons other than to be a hook.  One of my favourite examples is from Charlie Higson's Double or Die.  The prologue occurs before the main story and sets up the whole book.  Something very, very important happens, and it doesn't feel like it's there just to pull you in as a reader.  His book Silverfin also has a good prologue (uuuuugh eels!)
 So, any other pros and cons you can think of?

Comments

  1. I am definitively anti-infodump. Although...this can cause problems since I tend to under-describe and under-explain. I suppose that might be better than the other way around, but it's a pain to go back through a manuscript and add that stuff!

    And as far as prologues go, I think you can usually decide whether it works by asking one simple question: "Is this necessary to the story?"

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    1. (Oh, and from now on I will be doing exactly THAT around the blogosphere. Lol...)

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    2. It's so hard to strike the right balance between too much and too little. I swing back and forth far too much ^^;

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  2. Fun gif. :)

    I have a scene in my WIP that is ~2-3 pages of something that happened in the past that my MC needs to understand now in order to move forward with what he needs to do in the story. My crit group wants me to pull it and place the scene as a prologue, but I just can't do it. If I did, when I get to that part of the story, what am I going to do? Have the one guy say to my MC, "Go read the prologue for the gist of the backstory."?

    Can't do it.

    However, I have read a book where the 1st Ch was SO CLEARLY a prologue retitled "Chapter One" because from Ch 2 through the rest of the book, Ch 1 didn't really matter. I thought that was kind of annoying.

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    1. Oh my gosh, it would be so awesome if a character did actually break the fourth wall and tell the reader what to do. Like "Are you telling me you skipped the prologue of MY story?!" :P

      Alas, there's a good reason characters don't do that. And I totally understand your reasons for not pulling the scene out.

      That's another con you've pointed out too - if the prologue becomes irrelevant, ditch it.

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  3. Using it just as a hook is irritating as I'm waiting for it to become part of the book. One case where this didn;t happen was in James Lovegrove's The Age of Zeus. Grrrrr.

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  4. Well, if your prologue is relevant, needed and doesn't pull the story down, I say use it. Then again, I have a prologue and an epilogue to the novel I'm currently querying. My prologue is about a page long, and I fight everyone tooth and nail to keep it. It helps the reader understand my MC's thoughts when the first chapter starts.

    I pretty much get mean and nasty immediately when people say "agents hate prologues" as if it's a standard that's never going to change. We all know it depends on the agent and the trends of the industry at the time.

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  5. Hopped over from Jaime's blog - LOVE your posts - I've had so much fun reading and getting inspired by your pics! New follower!

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