Prologues have been getting both sides of the barrel lately with many writers stating that you shouldn’t add one, and the other half who swear by them. When I came across prologues, I wanted to know a little more about them and what the requirements were if I added one to my work in progress. So this post covers the dos and don’ts of writing a prologue, as well as some exceptions to this rule.
What is a prologue?
A prologue can be seen as a small story that takes place before the events of the main plot and has a direct connection to the story. Prologues should be short. However long your average chapter would be, I suggest writing about half that amount for a prologue.
The exceptions to the prologue
A prologue is defined as an event that takes place before the main story begins. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. They are:
- If the prologue is the ending of your story and the remainder of your book is actually a flashback. I.e. Twilight.
- If the prologue is viewed from a POV that you’ll never use again in your story. I.e. the protagonist’s ancestor.
- If the prologue starts with some form of documentation that is critical to the story. I.e. Contract, grandmother’s will.
P.s. Note that all of the above points are directly linked to the main plot and in some way enhances the story.
The don’ts of writing a prologue
- Don’t include a prologue if it doesn’t have a connection to the main plot and doesn’t enhance the story in some way.
- Don’t use a prologue as a way of dumping information on your readers, such as the rules of your world or backstory. You should sprinkle this information throughout your story using the narrative, not a prologue.
- Don’t make your prologue 5 – 10 pages long. Remember that the prologue will be the first thing your reader sees when they open your book. They don’t want to be reading about events that cover 10 pages before they even get into the main story. Keep it short and sweet.
The do’s of writing a prologue
- If it shares critical backstory that directly links to your main plot and can’t be told throughout the rest of your story, you can add a prologue.
- If it covers a time gap in your story. An example of this would be if an event took place years before the main story begins.
Questions to consider before adding a prologue
Kristen Martin did a vlog that covered some very good points to ask yourself before adding a prologue, and I wanted to add them here in this post. I highly recommend you check out her vlog on how to write a prologue, I’ll leave the link here.
Ask yourself this:
- If the reader did not read the prologue would they still understand and enjoy the story?
- Can the information in the prologue be introduced to the story through dialogue, action or thought?
- Is the prologue too slow to be considered an opening in your story?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above then you may be able to tell your story without adding a prologue.
GOLDEN RULE: only add a prologue if it is directly linked to the main plot.
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