Tuesday discussion

It is that time of the week. Thoughts, ideas and questions are exchanged from blogger to author; writer to reader. A weekend of consistent editing and late night reading sparked a topic that is heavily debatable in the literary world – prologues.

Prologues are a double-edge sword

There are two main points for me not using one:

  1. A lot of books use it as a space for world-building and information dumping. These should be spaced out over the narrative – overloading the reader can determine their motivation to finish your novel.
  2. The first chapter should hook the reader; why have two hooks?

However, there has been excellent prologues e.g. A Game of Thrones – it has little world-building and information dumping. It plays a key role into what is expected and acts a mini chapter not paragraph after paragraph of waffled on info.

As a reader: what are your thoughts on prologues?

As an author/ writer: do you use a prologue? why/why not?

Post your comments and answers below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view and answer, please invite them or share this post to them.

#DWTSmith #prologues

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24 thoughts on “Tuesday discussion

  1. Speaking from personal taste alone, but not a huge fan of prologues. I’m glad you mentioned Martin though; I think the prologue of AGoT is one of the only ones that I don’t mind reading even now, after having read the series a couple times over

    • That’s good to hear the perspective of readers. Got is one of the only ones I thoroughly enjoy and it is almost a chapter instead of a prologue, I think that’s why it works so well.
      Thank you for expressing your perspective πŸ˜ƒ

  2. First off nice image! I think it depends on the story. Most stories don’t need a prologue. Like you said info dumps, yet some stories a prologue can work really well. I think the best answer is determine this while creating a story. Maybe separate the script and read each over to see how it comes across?

    • Thank you!
      I agree, the first chapter should hook the reader and intrigue them wanting more.
      That could work as well, like you said, it depends on the story .
      Thank you for contributing your perspective πŸ‘

  3. This is such a tough, debated topic. As a reader, I don’t mind prologues as long as it’s necessary and meaningful. If I feel like the prologue could be cut and started at the first chapter and I wouldn’t lose anything in the overall story, yeah, I would probably feel cheated. However, I’ve seen some really effective prologues, too. Steelheart comes to mind. That was a really effective prologue, and the story wouldn’t have pulled together as well without that, I feel.

    As a write, I try not to write prologues unless they’re absolutely needed. The book I’m querying now does have a prologue. Why? Because my protagonist is a very sheltered 15-year-old who’s never been outside her tribe and the problem she’s about to face is a global problem. I wanted to set the stakes early, and the prologue flows naturally into the first chapter, where the conflict from the prologue spills right into the protagonist’s lap. Now, whether that ends up being kept or whether it’s effective or not, I can’t say. xD We’ll see if it gets picked up and what the editor has to say. πŸ˜›

    • I completely agree with you. There are prologues that have been pulled off and run smooth into the first chapter with an intriguing amount of info-dumping. However, the majority of prologues have made me suspicious, reading and writing one.
      Good luck with it and fingers crossed the editor sees the potential you do πŸ™‚

  4. I’m on the fence about prologues. I think it depends on the genre – for me, anyway. As you say, A Game of Thrones works. To me that is because it is an epic fantasy series, so I welcome some info-dumping. I think the time gap is also a factor. If the scene set in the prologue is quite a while before the main story, then a prologue might be necessary to avoid confusion and such. Other than those instances, prologues aren’t exactly needed. I much prefer epilogues!

    • It does depend on the genre and in fantasy and sci-fi prologues are more evident than fiction.
      If a prologue is in a novel there are two elements it should feature: time difference; or distance from the protagonist plot.
      Epilogues are interesting as well, for me as I have only seen them in the fantasy genre, they feel like a quick some-up of the aftermath like LoTR.
      Thank you for the contribution πŸ™‚

  5. I’m usually alright with prologues if it’s some kind of special, personal introduction or just a page of mysterious happenings to be referenced later, something like that. I’ve seen some that work and some that don’t though, as I think is the case with most things in writing.

    As a writer myself, I’ve used them once or twice before, usually something very brief to be referenced later, with an entire shift once the first chapter starts. An example of a great prologue in my eyes as a reader was the one in “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen.

    • Short and sweet prologues with quick references help set-up the world, either fiction or fantasy/sci-fi, can hook the reader. Water for Elephants is another perfect example of a prologue used properly. Thank you for reminding me and thank you for commenting πŸ™‚

  6. Fully agree that most prologue are huge info-dumps that kill the momentum of the story. The only time I wrote a prologue, it was not exposition, but a narrative story about a character who was not a lead for the book, and for an event that was related to, but not part of, the core plot. It’s purpose was as a hook, and to show something that would be important to the story later on. It didn’t work as a chapter 1 because of the framing device I was using for the book.

    • I should add, that even the word “prologue” can be problematic in this day and age. I had one publisher reject the book mentioned above, one of the criticisms being “books shouldn’t have prologues.” It was clear from the comment that the reader didn’t actually read my “prologue” to see it was really just a chapter external to the core plot.

      • This is something I worry about, too, given that I’ve begun querying my story and it also has a prologue. I always wonder how many agents will look at the word “prologue” and immediately reject it. But you know what? Someone like that isn’t someone you want to work with anyway, so they’ve just saved you a ton of grief, so there’s that. xD

      • I think you have the right attitude. An editor who just follows a list of rules without understanding them is not someone I want to work with. And I have encountered a few.

      • I think prologues have been over-used and misused which made authors and writers use them correctly.
        Like Sammie said, those are the editors you don’t want reading over your novel. Hopefully the editors you seek cross your path πŸ™‚

      • I did eventually find a publisher for that particular book. Recently, so work hasn’t yet begun on getting it ready to publish, but should happen in the coming months. One of the hardest things to learn is that reading submissions and queries is all subjective. A big part of it is finding the right person to read your work.

  7. Here I have some points to offer. Prologue and epilogue in my understanding, invite the reader to have a glimpse of what could have been a “prequel” or “sequel”. The aim of the successful writer is to give that experience in the fewest words.

  8. May I join the you? I recently discovered your Tuesday discussions in JM Williams’ response to your Sunshine Blogger Award.
    I’ve always loved prologs, and I use them frequently as a way to tease, hook, or provide information a reader needs to have before the main story starts. Of course they have to be done well.
    A prolog can split the necessary up-front information into more manageable chunks. A well crafted exposition of setting, for example, can set the stage before chapter one introduces the character. Prologs can carry backstory, almost like a mini-prequel. They can also bracket, particularly if a character is going to change greatly during the course of a story. You may need to hint that this seemingly unpalatable fellow is going to be worth your time as the story progresses.