I’ve read an array of fiction, mostly fantasy or sci-fi, with prologues. I tend not to be impressed by half of them. They feel like info dumps or pointless backstory that could be weaved into early chapters as the reader needs to know them. And it affects my own prologues while questioning other authors’ motives for their prologues.
Firstly, I believe short and sweet works best for a prologue. That’s not to say I shy away from reading a longer one if it feels worthy. And I’ve read both great and disappointing prologues from three pages to seventeen. I’ve even had critiques on my own prologues start with “I hate prologues and this should be chapter 1.” Okay, that’s not my fault you don’t like prologues. And it’s not chapter one for a reason.
I work hard to make my prologues meaningful. I don’t put it as chapter one because it happens in a time long before the main story starts or is a short scene that doesn’t warrant a whole chapter. Yes, you could skip it and not lose the bigger sense of the story. But I put it there to set the tone, background in an active scene, and something I feel needs to be clear before the main story. It’s short and sweet, so suck it up.
If previous authors have failed to let their prologues appeal to readers, that’s not my fault. If they overdid backstory or world building to the point it was more like a history lesson, again, not my fault.
So to writers and readers, please give prologues a chance just as you give chapter one a chance. Some of us writers put it there for genuine reasons. It’s not our fault other authors failed you.
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