Home » Random » Everybody hates prologues.

Everybody hates prologues.

Why?

Someone, please, tell me why.

I’ve heard it before. I read it somewhere a long time ago and have seen multiple things on that subject over the last several years. What’s bringing it up right now is that I read an article about it again a few days ago. I can’t remember from where, though I’m assuming I somehow found it by tap-tapping away on Twitter, as Twitter and Instagram are really the only things I check somewhat consistently. They’re both right next to each other on my phone, what can I say?

Anyway, I’m not really one to take things that I read on the internet at face value (WTF does that even mean? I’ve never even questioned the saying until right this second. Maybe it’s the Writer in me, but seeing something in front of your face doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re looking at it in the right way. Just saying!), but there seems to be some general consensus that agents, and the like, hate prologues.

Again, I ask anyone out there in the vast expanses of internetdom who can actually communicate back with me . . . WHY?

As a reader, I have no issue with them if they’re done well enough. The only one that’s ever made me stop, tilt my head, and make some sound that Scooby Doo tends to make (at least in my head), is the book that I was complaining about in a previous entry, which you can find here. It was out of place and made no sense whatsoever to what I actually got through in the book, but that’s neither here nor there and is only relevant whatsoever right now in me saying that, as a reader, I’ve never had an issue with them (apart from that one instance, at least that I can remember, which – knowing my memory – isn’t saying very much).

In fact, AS A READER, I tend to like prologues.

Take for example the beginning of Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. The first few words in the actual BOOK part of the book are, The demon exploded in. That’s enough to get my point across, I think. That was enough right there to make me smile and think, “Yeah, I’m gonna like this book.”

Prologue.

Don’t smack me if I’m wrong in saying that it was a prologue, but I’m almost positive that it was. That book is currently in a box right now so I can’t take two steps and check for sure. I’d rather make an as– *cough* . . . butt out of myself.

Anyway, perfect use of a prologue right there. That scene was extremely relevant, but did not fit perfectly with the beginning of the STORY story.

I loved it.

Now, as a writer, I will also say that I CANNOT understand the issue with prologues.

When I was sitting down several years ago, writing the first scene of my first book . . . Well, um, I wrote it. I wrote it, and then I went to the next CHAPTER and, after the fact, realized that – while one could not be done without the other – they did not exactly . . . mesh, you could say. Hence my first prologue was written into existence.

Every single book that I have ever written has a prologue, and an epilogue.

In my (we’ll say HUMBLE) opinion, I think they’re great. And that has absolutely nothing at all to do with the fact that I write them, and everything to do with WHY I write them.

I can understand the issue with them when they’re used forΒ info-dumping, but at the same time . . . I don’t know.

Maybe I’m the only person seeing a difference between bringing a story up to speed in a way that doesn’t fit 100% WITH the story and info-dumping. I know some people are fond of flashbacks (one of my very good friends is fond of them, in fact), but I only am to a certain extent. The first book in my first series has flashbacks out the as– *cough* wazoo. I hated it. I absolutely hated it. I would rather have a prologue with JUST THE RIGHT information than those flashbacks. That’s personal preference, both in writing, and reading.

I just don’t understand why a book would be entirely disregarded (as that was the statement made in the article I read) for having a prologue. A prologue doesn’t mean that it’s info-dumping. A prologue doesn’t mean that the story will be horrible, or the writing atrocious. Where in the world is that stigma coming from? Can anyone out there fill me in? Because, honestly? I just think it’s a load of bulllll- *cough* bologna.

Am I the only one that thinks bologna is a funny word?

I’m giggling a little right now, I’m not gonna lie.

My Point:

When written well, and done well, a prologue can add fantastic things to a story, in my opinion.

That’s all.

And did anybody get the whole Lost reference? Or no?

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25 thoughts on “Everybody hates prologues.

  1. I think the general idea about prologues is this: they should a scene that doesn’t otherwise fit in with the timeline or character set of the book, but are still relevant to the actual story. The problem is, a lot of inexperienced writers use the prologue for what should really be the first chapter, or as a flashback / info dump.. and that’s just not the correct way to use them. Hence, publishers have become reluctant to pick up on a book that contains a prologue. I think they can be done well, and can be relevant to a book… but 80% of the time they’re used incorrectly.. which is why they’ve gotten a bit of a bad rap. personally I like prologues. it’s epilogues that drive me insane.

    • I agree on the prologues. If not used correctly, they can be confusing and distracting.

      I usually love epilogues, though. Especially if there isn’t going to be a follow up book, or there are a few vague questions, or I just want a happily ever after. I suppose if all of that can be wrapped neatly into a final chapter, then there’s no need to separate it out and give it a fancy name, eh?

      • haha true. i think my problem with the epilogue is it’s always the “happily ever after” which.. is nice sometimes.. but… every single epilogue is the same in the books I read (romance) couple gets married, or pregnant, or both. it’d be awesome if an epilogue brought up a cliffhanger instead.

      • Oh, yeah, the wedding epilogue. I tend to groan at those, even if the little tiny voice somewhere in the middle of my hardened heart is squealing with joy.

        I think in modern romance “happy for now” is a better solution. More realistic. And a cliffhanger would be cruel and awesome.

    • I wish I’d been taking place in this conversation while it was happening, rather than a few days after. I’m horrible at this sometimes, and I apologize.

      I agree with everything said by both of you. 100%

      The purpose of a prologue is not to just spill stuff out – it’s to say something relevant that doesn’t quite fit.

      And maybe it’s just that I don’t read romance novels or whatever – or that I have some twisted sense of humor (and I kind of do where it comes to writing books) – but I do NOT use epilogues for happy endings. I think maybe . . . 1 or 2 of 13 have been happy. I don’t like happy endings in general, and especially not for the first however many books in a series. I’m a big fan of cliffhangers. Nearly all of mine end that way.

      I get frustrated READING books with cliffhangers (I suppose this is where the twisted sense of humor comes into play), but I know those are the endings I remember the best out of all the books I’ve read. They definitely make you pick up the next book in a series.

      • Even when reading a book that is part of a series, I like that volume to be a wholly satisfying experience. Ideally, the story and the characters should compel me to look at the next book. There should be a hook. But I have little patience for novels that can’t stand alone.

        To go off on a tangent, I really enjoy series where you can jump in at any point, become hooked and go back to the beginning to learn the history of the story and characters. It’s not necessary, but you do it anyway because that single book did it for you. πŸ™‚

        An epilogue that messes with the happy ever after or happy for now should also make sense, in my humble opinion! πŸ™‚ It can be done well. And if done really well, it can hint at another story, leaving the details to the reader’s imagination, without requiring another book to follow up. A suggestion, instead.

      • I totally get what you’re saying. You want every book you read to be satisfying in some way or another – be it story development or character growth (or whatnot and what have you). There’s gotta be something to make you WANT to read.

        Whew. I know some people can start in at a series on the later books, which is something that I always try to keep in mind. I just cannot do it when reading. But it makes sense with the way that I am, I guess. I’m an, “EVERYTHING MUST BE DONE IN ITS PROPER ORDER!!” sort of person. I’m like that with everything.

        I just try to look at it as, part of a series or not, you want every book that you read to be a fulfilling and enjoyable experience. It can’t be if there isn’t diddly to it (which is why I haven’t yet finished reading a few series that I’ve started).

        You’re totally right. I think all aspects should make sense even if they’re separate in some way or another. And if they don’t make COMPLETE sense, then they should at – the very – least be PLAUSIBLE. Everybody likes different things and does things different ways. I guess it just gets so confusing with, “WHAT DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY LIKE?!”

        Hard business out there, and I don’t even have a book released yet, haha.

      • Longest comment thread ever? Hehe.

        Yes, yes and yes.

        I’m just wrapping up edits on the second draft of a novel I hope will be the first part of a trilogy. A friend and I wrote it together. We agreed, from the beginning, that we wanted this novel to be a complete story. We hope that the story and characters inspire people to investigate further as we’ve a lot more to write. There is always the chance that without a cliffhanger, people will put the book aside and say, well, that was fun, and not look for the next volume. I’ve done that myself. But, I have also enjoyed a book so much I’ve looked for other titles by that author. Or news. Or, even if it seems implausible, because the book was so complete and satisfying, word of a sequel or another book set in the same universe. I think if you write something GOOD enough, it sells itself, eh?

        (“NOT SO” cries the PR team. We gotta sell, sell, sell this baby)

        Sorry, it’s still kinda early. And a Saturday.

        Series started in the middle: I’ve done it by accident and design. A reading group has picked a book half way through a series, or the beginning of a trilogy/story arc in the middle of a greater saga. Then I’ve gone back to the beginning. I’ve done that with Drizzt and with Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Saga. Those are just the first two that come to mind. Usually I like to start at the beginning, though, with one notable exception. I’ve been reading the Skolian Saga in order of publication. It makes sense to do it that way, trust me. πŸ™‚

      • I think it’s getting that way! haha

        Oooooh. I’ve always wanted to write a book with a friend. I guess it’s just such a lonely process going at it alone that I think the other brain and the company (and also a mouth that can speak as much about it as you can, rather than be an ear to listen to speaking about it) would be fantastic. How has the entire experience been thus far?

        I really do like the idea of that – that a book could COMPLETELY stand on its own, even if it’s part of a series. And yes, I think (in that situation) that if a book is done well enough, people will keep checking for news of another regardless of whether or not they think it’s an actual standalone. I’ve definitely done that with authors before, and bought books of theirs that had nothing to do with the ones I’d already read, just because I liked their writing style.

        PR teams would say nothing ever sells on its own, I’d imagine. I reckon it can, once it gets out there and is pushed far enough. At least I’m naively hoping . . .

        It’s an early Saturday for everyone else, but it’s a late Friday or Saturday for me. The days blur and I have a difficult time figuring out which day I want to call it. Such is one of many issues with being nocturnal. I’ve been out editing all night and my brain is fried (and frazzled, as is standard for calling it a day . . . er . . . night).

        Again, I have NO idea what books you’re talking about. Time to whip the Shame Fan back out and wave it in my face. I can see that though, if it’s like some hugely scaled epic saga of massive proportions with mini-series things going on throughout . . . Yeah, I can see it.

      • Agreed, cliffhangers are awesome. it’s a shame that in the genre I read the most (romance) they’re very rarely used. Things are almost always tied up in a pretty little bow.. and i think in part that may be why epilogue’s have gotten such a bad rap in certain circles. (and who cares if you’re a few days late… this is the internet.. where time is irrelevant :D)

      • I was sitting here for a second, trying to figure out some way that a cliffhanger could actually be used in a romance novel. I’m sure if there’s anybody in this world who can think of a way . . . it would be you. SOMETHING TO THINK OVER WHILE YOU’RE FINISHING ONE OF THOSE TWO MILLION BOOKS YOU’VE STARTED (so I can read it). Just saying. πŸ˜‰

        That’s a very good point though – about why epilogues may possibly have their own little stigma, with people using them to tie their bows.
        I’d never even thought about it that way.

        And I’m totally going to regret admitting this, but I’m trying to just embrace the fact that I can be a bit of a moron sometimes.
        But where you said something about being a few days late, I was still associating it with romance novels, so I’m sure you can imagine a few of the random things that popped into my head before I realized what you were talking about.

        I always feel guilty for not getting on this as much as I should. Time is like . . . well, I guess some people feel it’s irrelevant because it’s the internet and the internet is all WORDS. I just feel like I don’t have enough of it and I’m always rushing around trying to use it before it runs out.

    • I don’t either. It really makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to me. There, I whatsoevered again.
      As Sam said below, the work really does dictate whether or not they’re appropriate, I guess. I just don’t see what the problem is.

  2. I think if an author uses a prologue well, particularly in mystery novels, it can be a good tool to inject more intrigue into the tale. I have no troubles with epilogues either, if they tell something important. However, if either one is not essential to the story, or doesn’t answer questions readers really want to know, then they should be avoided. I have used prologues and epilogues in some of my works and not in others. The work dictates, in my opinion. But to blanketly dislike prologues, I don’t get it. And you can “whatsoever” however many times you want, girl!

    • You see, that’s the point – they can be so beneficial to a story, I think. Maybe people really do just use them wrong, but at the same time . . . is anything WRONG when a person is writing a book? Well, I mean, yeah, we’ve talked about that before, but that’s not what I’m saying. Just . . . people want to write how they want to write. If someone wants to info-dump, then by golly, I reckon they can. It’s all a matter of how people respond to it, I guess.
      I just don’t see what the big freaking deal is.

      Thanks for the permission to whatsoever. I guess it’s better than orange juicing or averigiditying. Wow that does NOT look right with the -ing at the end. If you can’t tell, my brain is a little overloaded at the moment. I’m rambling. But hey, I know I can ramble with you Sam, and that’s all that matters.

      I don’t know if I said anything even REMOTELY relevant to what you said in your comment. If I didn’t, I apologize. PLEASE FORGIVE ME!!!! You know how I ramble-rant. πŸ˜‰

      • You? Ramble? No way! Seriously, though, I know what you’re saying, and I think if the prologue is too far apart from the actual work, since it’s read first, it might send possible readers away.

      • Yes way. I have no idea why you ever ‘enjoy’ talking to me.

        I get what you’re saying as well. If it’s too far away from what the book actually is, then when they get into the meat of it, it’s not going to make any sense at all.

  3. Prologues serve to set the tone for a book and shouldn’t feel separate from the story that follows. They shouldn’t be an info dump (or info summary in the case of an epilogue).

    They are very common in fantasy: I just pulled “Daughter of Light” by Morgan Busse off my shelf. The prologue, set some time before the events in the book, establishes the tone of the story, a bit of what is at stake and the hook to read further. These are what a prologue can (and should) do.

    Prologues are very popular in film (Lord of the Rings, and most famously, the Bond films). So “hate” them? Not when they are done right.

    • I agree, but I also think that if it fits COMPLETELY (and I’m talking a seamless fit with the beginning), why not make it a first chapter? There’s got to be something a little off about it – a POV, a time-frame, SOMETHING just a BIT different from the actual story, you know?

      I also agree. That seems like (in my opinion) what a prologue should be used for. Setting things up. What’s the point of it if it’s used for anything else?

      I definitely don’t hate them. I just don’t understand why anyone would hate them pointlessly – if they’re done right, as you said.
      πŸ™‚

  4. Cool article! πŸ™‚

    I guess for me the first few pages of a book, and especially the first few sentences of a book, should try to pull the reader in. It’s the sales pitch for the rest of the novel, and should ideally entice the reader with a sense that really cool stuff is about to happen. Whether this is done with a prologue or a traditional chapter 1 seems secondary to having that initial hook that draws the reader into the book’s world.

    • Thanks!

      I totally agree.
      What does having – or not having – a prologue matter, as long as a book is good?
      Being pulled in is all that matters.
      πŸ™‚

  5. Pingback: My Writing: Day Four | Firefly's Journal

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