A while back, my daughter clued me into something important… not everyone reads prologues. So, I’m a reader of prologues, so I admit to being quite surprised. I’m afraid I’ll miss something crucial by skipping the prologue. As an afterthought, I guess a prologue is not supposed to be filled with crucial information.
It’s the nice-to-have details that are supposed to enhance the story but not make the story.
Why bother with a prologue?
Prologues are rather tricky. As I mentioned, it should be filled with non-crucial information. So, if the information isn’t important, why bother? It just means folks (like my daughter) will skip all the hard effort you, as a writer, have put into the story. The other thing about prologues is it’s typically just backstory. And really backstory should be kept to a minimum. Because less face it, info dumps are boring. So to save everyone the bother, avoid starting your story with a dull info dump disguised as a prologue.
If you must
I’m not a dictator. If you want to use a prologue, go ahead. It’s not as if I can stop you. So here are a few items to consider before including a prologue.
Does the story stand alone without it? Remember… the prologue is not meant to be an info dump. If the story stands alone without it, perhaps it’s better to exclude the information all together. One alternative to info dumps and prologues is to use it as bonus material. Add a page on your website with inside looks into your story. If your story is captivating enough, people will visit your website to learn more.
Can you turn it into a first chapter? One of the main reasons for writing and publishing a work is to have folks read it. There’s no point in going through all the trouble of slaving through (editing, formatting, publishing, etc) a piece that few people are going to bother reading. As I mentioned, many people skip the prologue. On the other hand, who skips the entire first chapter of a novel? Put your hands down. If you’re skipping the first chapter, you’re weird. In reference to “normal folks”, if the information is important enough to include, why not make it the first chapter?
It’s a must. So you’ve decided your backstory (I mean prologue) is a must. If the backstory is important (absolutely necessary) and can’t be interwoven within the story effectively, consider a prologue. Just keep in mind, a lot of folks my skip it. Ask yourself: Is it worth my time and effort to create a prologue which will be skipped by many?