Monday 24 August 2020

Prologues - Love Them or Hate Them?

 By Cassandra Samuels

It is said that Editors dislike them, new authors don’t know how to use them and readers either love them or hate them. My opinion is…it depends. 

Prologues have their place, but they have to be there for the right reasons. That is where new authors often get it wrong. They often don’t truly understand the true job of a prologue and how to execute one correctly. Like a lot of writing, it is an art to be mastered.

So, what exactly is a prologue?

The Oxford Dictionary describes the prologue as: A separate introductory section of a literary, dramatic, or musical work.
Or in other words a part of the story that comes before the main story in some way.

So how do so many get it so wrong?

A lack of knowledge is most often the case so:
  • Avoid info dumps. You don't need to tell everything.
  • Avoid writing a scene that creates atmosphere but has nothing to do with the story.
  • Avoid explosions and fireworks to make up for a dull or slow first chapter
A prologue can:
  • be in a different POV than the rest of the book. 
    • It can be from the villian's POV, 
    • the setting's POV or 
    • even another character's POV.  
The significance of starting with a different perspective should become apparent at some point in the novel otherwise you are leading your reader astray.

Here are two examples of prologues that really work. I recommend you read them.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

The Dry by Jane Harper

Both these prologues demonstrate how powerful a prologue can be.

In Lord of Scoundrels it is a necessary explanation of the hero's life leading up to where the story really begins, but it is done in such a way as you are only told what you really need to know.

In The Dry it sets up the mystery of the story in a way that is evocative and chilling. Both authors have represented their chosen genre in wonderful ways.

So, do you love or hate a prologue?
Do you have a favourite? Please share in the comments.

Love to Love - finding new authors to read.
Love to Laugh - at my granddaughter learning to clap.
Love to Learn - New things at our annual RWAustralia conference. 


  1. Hi Cassandra! I like prologues, but only if they're very short and relevant to the story. I think they can be a great way to create atmosphere and introduce us to the world of the story. The last one I read was in Chris Hammer's Scrublands. It briefly describes the crime, leaving the first chapter to the arrival of the protagonist in the town.

  2. Hi Marilyn. I read that one too. A great way to set up the rest of the story.

  3. Hi Cassandra. I like prologues that give me an immediate reason for the story, such as motivation for the character to do what they do through the story. Story beginning I dislike is a first chapter showing something dramatic or suspenseful happening and then the second chapter is about events that happened days/weeks/months before, these events being the catalyst for what happened now in chapter one. Really don't like that device. Why not just feed in the backstory slowly?

    1. Totally agree Enisa. In my book Collector of Hearts I do what you said about giving the motivation for the character. I really see no point in having the chapter immediately after the prologue being some years earlier.

  4. HI Cassie, I love a good, exciting prologue that draws me in and sets up the story. But then I want that story line to continue. I don't want the final scene or something similar introduced, then we go back years and years (as Enisa commented) and hope we eventually get to the thrilling bit from the prologue. I get annoyed if the action in the prologue is right at the end of the book. By then I've forgotten all about it anyway... Lazy storytelling, IMHO.

    1. Hi Miranda. So true very lazy storytelling and not what a prologue is for at all.

  5. Hi Cassie, You've given us some great examples of prologues. I agree the prologue has its place and I'll also add I'm quite a fan of the Epilogue - giving us an insight into how the characters are going somewhere down the track!

  6. Hi Casandra, I love rereading a prologue once I'm further into a novel or even after I finish it. It's fascinating to understand its place in the story, and how the information it reveals is unfolded.


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