Do Your Books Have a Prologue?

I have to be honest, very few of the books I read have prologues. And these aren’t all post-2000 published books, they’re from about the last 30 years. Mostly. And even the rare book that does have a prologue, it really doesn’t. On several occasions an author has used a very intense scene from later in the story as the prologue and just left you with a cliffhanger to start. Sometimes this is apparent and others it is not.

Now I’m just wondering what more current writers are doing. Cause obviously I’m not able to read every book or author writing today, so my experience with a lack of prologues may or may not be the norm. But personally, I don’t know that a book having a prologue makes any difference to me. Here’s my process when I initially begin reading a book…

1. Make sure that the book follows my rules of reading.

2. Steal it away from my TBR shelf.

3. Read the back cover cause it’s likely been waiting to be read for months.

4. Start reading.

See, it’s simple. At no point in time do I want to be distracted by a prologue that I’m likely to forget.

Now ask me this question as a writer. Do I include a prologue before my stories? Ha. No. Obviously. The real question is, do you?

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52 thoughts on “Do Your Books Have a Prologue?

  1. I think a prologue can be a great tool to get a reader engaged right away since writers always have to fight with limited attention spans and the need for instant gratification. I don’t think it’s a necessity. Sometimes they can give too much away.

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  2. No. I’ve written them, but they always get cut in first edit. Whatever plot elements a prologue might hold always become stronger when peppered throughout the story either as back-story or foreshadowing.

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  3. No, I don’t include prologues in my books, at least I haven’t so far. On the other hand, if there are prologues in other books, I will definitely read them. It wouldn’t occur to me not to.

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  4. I find prologues are most common in series, they’re a good way to recap what happened in the previous book. But other than that I find them mostly unnecessary.

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  5. I’m only writing my first novel but I’m not writing a prologue for it. It’s like having to do the beginning where you hook the reader twice. So I won’t be writing one.

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  6. I’m using a prologue – as it’s a part of the story (the only part) that takes place somewhere else from the land that I created. Things that happen in the prologue are referenced throughout the book so it’s not something they’re going to forget, or have to go back and read – the prologue is still part of the story and if someone didn’t read it the rest of the story wouldn’t really make any sense.

    I can’t imagine not reading a prologue. The fantasy genre uses them quite often but they’re never something you can just skip. They give you something, or begin building something that you’re going to need at some point in the story. I also don’t think whether or not a book has a prologue should be a reason to judge whether or not you read the book.

    Now if you’re reading a series in order and realize that the prologue is merely a recapping of the previous book you can certainly skip the prologue but I wouldn’t make that a habit.

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    • I don’t read fantasy and I never said I skip them or that I decide whether or not to read a book based on it having a prologue or not.

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      • I apologize – I didn’t mean to accuse you just misread your post!

        And yeah, fantasy genre can be pretty heavy handed with the use of prologues, epilogues and interludes…especially Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.

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  7. For the 3 stories I’ve written, they contain prologues and epilogues. Although a prologue may not be essential, I’ve decided to include them because the first chapter provides background to the main story to help the reader understand the behaviors and actions that will take place in later on in the story. This background is usually related to something that happened in the past. I don’t want to treat this information as the first chapter because it is something that may not be address specifically or in great detail for the rest of the story.

    But sometimes I feel like there’s a fine line between what is a prologue and the first chapter. Sometimes I feel it won’t matter much to the reader if I call the beginning of the book a prologue or chapter.

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  8. I have contemplated a prologue for one ‘novel’ but unless it’s like the Harry Potter thing, I’m not sure it’s necessary. I don’t know. I’m neither pro nor con for prologues. I do like epilogues though. It’s like a glimpse into the future and that the story ends better. But meh, I can take or leave them.

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  9. I would say 90% of what the books I read do not include prologues. Often, the prologues are too long and too boring and I just skip to the first chapter anyway.

    If a prologue is only a page or two, I don’t mind it, but I feel they’re unnecessary. However, as a writer, I can see why it’s tempting to include one. It gives you a chance to set up the story if you can’t find a way to do it later on.

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  10. Um, I do, but now I’m self conscious about it :/ πŸ™‚

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  11. Whether a book has a prologue or not is not usually of any consequence to me; if I’m going to read the book, I’ll take the time to read the prologue too.

    At present I’m writing a travel memoir and originally put in a prologue, then took it out, but just re-wrote a new one. The prologue gives back-story that isn’t included in the rest of the book, plus introduces me and my reasoning behind my trip in the first place. The main part of the book is all about the trip though, so the prologue is handy.

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    • Well I think a memoir would be different from a work of fiction. I’d say a prologue is more appropriate for a memoir, though I’m not sure that I’d say they’re necessary. Of course, what do I know?

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      • Oh, I don’t think they are absolutely necessary either John. In my case though, the people that have been critiquing for me pretty much begged for it. They wanted the backstory and it didn’t fit in with the bulk of the story.

        And you know what works for you and your writing, so you know plenty. πŸ™‚

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  12. I was always told that Prologues keep you from getting to the story as fast as possible. That you want to start as close to the heart of the story as you can. Prologues get in the way of that. That being said, I’ve read quite a few books whose Prologues help set the stage for where the story’s going and who characters are. One of my favorite novels has a Prologue, and it’s a really powerful one. It happens before the rest of the story, helps characterize the main character, and then makes his change in the first few chapters more poignant.

    I’d say most writing “rules” are more like guidelines. And so, sometimes, a prologue is just what you need.

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  13. My first novel has a short, half-page prologue. During the early drafts it went in and out of the manuscript like a yo-yo, but the main reason I decided to put it back was because chapter 1 starts with what seems like an historical event but turns out to be a description of a performance of an historical play. Many of my beta-readers said they thought that if readers didn’t normally read historical novels they might not read further, and thus miss what was a contemporary mystery/romance novel about a play’s set designer. So my prologue is a foreshadowing event that lets the reader know that the book is set in the modern day, then they can relax and enjoy the unusual beginning of chapter 1.

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  14. Prologues are pretty unpopular these days. The gimmick of showing your reader something – 1) interesting from the middle of the book, only to throw you into 100 pages of boring stuff, or 2) with characters that die off in the prologue and aren’t your protagonists or 3) murky and short and mostly just about theme – has been beaten into the ground. If your prologue truly is important, make it the first chapter. (As a side note, I think prologues became popular in the thriller genre because of shows like CSI and Law and Order. You know, you see a crime done in the first minute and then you jump to the investigators/main characters. Authors kept copying this formula, but it works much better in TV).

    I am fond of epilogues, though. They’re a nice way to tie up loose ends without dragging your reader past the third act. Or they can be like the book version of an “after the credits scene”.

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    • I think you accurately described every prologue I’ve ever read. Which just goes to show how unnecessary they really are.

      Good point about thrillers. I’ve never really thought of authors copying that format. But you’re spot on.

      My only issue with epilogues is that when I finish a book, I like ending where the story ends. I always read the epilogues but I feel like they’re just throwing additional information at me that maybe I don’t want.

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  15. Sometimes, a prologue is quite all right and very necessary. Sometimes it can even hook you.Best example of this? Game of Thrones.

    Now, I’m not a prologue fan. I didn’t like the GOT books, but understand that whatever George did, it worked. So, to prologue or not to prologue? I never do, but can’t say it’s a totally bad idea either.

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  16. Pingback: February Sets a New Standard | Write me a book, John!

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