Wednesday, May 11, 2011

WRITER WEDNESDAY: To Prologue or Not To Prologue

I'll admit it, I'm a fan of prologues. I have one in my last three manuscripts (each from a different POV character than my Main Character). My current one does not.

But some people do not like prologues, agents included. At several conferences I've heard agents suggest you to rip it out of your manuscript. A select few don't seem to mind.

As Nathan Bransford says:

What is a prologue? Typically it is 3-5 pages of introductory material that is written while the author is procrastinating from writing a more difficult section of the book.

Ah, I'm kidding.

The most common question I get about prologues: are prologues necessary? Personally I think the easiest litmus test is to take out the prologue and see if your book still makes sense.

If you can take out a prologue and the entire plot still makes perfect sense, chances are the prologue was written to "set the mood".

I thought I'd take a glance through my bookshelf and take note of the YA novels that have a prologue ... and those that do not:

  • Red Glove (Holly Black): No
  • Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare): Yes
  • Across the Universe (Beth Revis): No
  • Blood Magic (Tessa Gratton): No
  • Like Mandarin (Kirsten Hubbard): Yes
  • Divergent (Veronica Roth): No
  • Between Shade of Gray (Ruta Sepetys): No
  • Starcrossed (Josephine Angelini): No
  • Twilight (Stephenie Meyers): Yes
  • Fury of the Phoenix (Cindy Pon): No
  • Paranormalcy (Kiersten White): No
  • Hex Hall (Rachel Hawkins): Yes
  • Enchanted (Heather Dixon): No
  • Fallen (Lauren Kate): Yes
  • Incarceron (Catherine Fisher): No
  • Cryer's Cross (Lisa McMann): Sort of

I could keep going, but you get the point. Does your favorite book have a prologue? Do you write prologues?


  1. I'm not a fan of prologues, and only occasionally do I like even the ones that make it into print. I'd rather get right to it, if you know what I mean. :) I think it's like any other rule in writing - know how to write without a prologue, and then when you're confident of their use, you can decide if a particular book will be enhanced by one or not.

  2. typically, I don't mind prologues. it's not like they aren't labeled, so I know what I'm reading. As long as they're short and pique my curiosity, I'm okay with them.
    But, as Nikki & I have learned, it's often better to query without them.

  3. It's not that I have anything against prolouges, it's just that I'm not really into them. They don't bring much to the story for me, in the beginning, but the confusion that can often muddle the storyline.

  4. If it's done right, then yeah, I like prologues. Otherwise I think they're a waste of time and should just be titled chapter one or skipped entirely.

  5. As a reader, I don't care for them. Unless its really good. And there are a few books that had awesome prologues as well as first chapters that rocked. However, after reading most of those books - I realized that they didn't really need the prologue. Now before I started to write seriously, I would usually skim them to get to the first chapter.

  6. I don't think there should be any rule about prologues - except this: if they make sense, include them. if they're not needed, don't!

  7. In general, I am death on prologues. I've seen far too many that are nothing more than self-indulgence on the author's part. Prologues can provide a beautiful effect by framing the story, introducing characters, plots, themes, etc., but they're so often used unnecessarily that writers lose sight of how, why, and when to use them. When in doubt, leave it out, I always say.


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