Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To Prologue or Not to Prologue

When beginning my YA fantasy I had many questions and fears. One was should I have a prologue or not. My gut kept telling me "yes" considering the considerable background of my heroine. However, I kept the reading from top agents and editors about the importance of that first chapter. I read somewhere that unless you were an established author that prologues were frowned upon. So I wrote my YA without a prologue. The result, when I reread it I could see that the readers would be lost. Now I'm a huge fan of suspense and twists and turns but you can't confuse that with just keeping them so in the dark that it results in them throwing the book at a wall.

Back in November I attended a Warrior Writer workshop with New York Times Bestselling author Bob Mayer. When discussing prologues he pointed out that movies do them all the time. Take 'The Peacemaker,' we see the nuclear missiles stolen before we meet our protagonist. Now I seem to notice this in so many movies that I watch and movies, as we know, many times are books adapted for the big screen.

So the bottom line, write what is best for your book. I'm now revising and rewriting my YA to get it ready for submission. And yes, it has a prologue. It is important to keep your prologue short. Don't bore your reader with information dumping before they meet your main characters. However, in my case a few pages of back story told through the hero's eyes has made my story much richer.

Does your book have a prologue? As a reader/writer how do you feel about them? I leave you now with a video of the prologue for 'Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.' Knowing the beginning back story of the ring set the stage for this film beautifully.

The videos that I kept finding had disabled embed codes.



  1. Natalie your prologue ROCKS! I think it is my favorite chapter out of the whole book so far :-) Defintely made the right decision

  2. Every book I've ever written starts with a prologue, at least in the draft. Many times I just need to do it to get the key aspects of the backstory out there. Often, in the published version the prologue has been edited out. Prologues are one of those things that sometimes they are good, other times not so much.

    As far as embedding video, I know how to do it on wordpress and it's pretty simple. If you google "How to" for blogger, you'll find the instructions. Good Luck

  3. Thanks for that comment Rachel. Jenni I couldn't find an example from the movie on Youtube that had an embed code (that's what Google said I needed for Blogger) so sadly I just have to have a link. BUT I love this as an example to prologues!

  4. My book has a prologue. I agree that we shall write what is best for our books - and sometimes a prologue is a must! The first book of my triolgy has a suspensefull prologue, that probably will make the reader curious about that story developed there. It was something he knows that will happen, but he wants to find out how it will happen.

    I don't think all books have to be prologues, as sometimes they don't need it. The second book I'm writing has no prologue - as the suspense is all inside and there is no need to trigger more anxiety to the reader ahah!

    But I'm overall a fan of prologues and epilogues, and now I definitely want to read your novel, Natalie!! :) Can't wait! :P

  5. I'm writing a young adult fantasy too, and it has a prologue that tells a little bit of backstory. My prologue is not an info dump though, which I feel is the reason why so many agents hate prologues - having a giant info dump right in the beginning of your book kills reader interest.

    Also, fantasy is a genre where prologues are practically a tradition. So I say "Long live the prologue!"