Craft: Writing


As a reader, I don’t like prologues. I tend to skip over them. But as a writer, I’m suffering a dilemma. I have two main characters. One’s POV is told in first person and fills about 75% of the story. The second main character doesn’t come in until much later, but I need to establish his motivations, so they are clear when characters 1 & 2 interact.

First, what is a prologue? describes a prologue as: an introductory scene, preceding the first act of a play, opera, etc. Ok. Now that we know what they are, are prologues good or bad?

Online, there appears to be a negative association with prologues. Many readers want to jump right into the story. They don’t want to be hampered by past events. Prologues are often not done well. If a prologue is done well, what should it accomplish?

A well done prologue should accomplish two things: it should explain back story without drowning the first chapter in detail, and it hooks the reader right up front. Often the questions in the prologue will resurface or becoming a pivotal point later on.

Should I use a prologue or not? I still don’t know. First chapters are hard anyway, without adding prologues.

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