Should You Write a Prologue ?
The pros and cons about writing one
Writing a Prologue
There's a lot of debate over wether prologues should be included in books or not. Plenty of readers skip over them. Personally I always read them because if an author has written a prologue properly, then there's normally little bits of plot info in there. Unfortunately, a lot of authors don't write them properly and make the prologues extremely boring and unnecessary. And plenty of authors use prologues instead of properly worldbuilidng because they seem to think that an “info dump” in a prologue is not an “info dump”. I'm here to tell you that a big info dump in prologue form is still a big info dump. Your readers really don't need to know everything that writers know about their characters and their lives in order to enjoy a book, and a bad prologue will make people not like your book. Trust me. I always read prologues, and if a prologue is really bad, I will put that book down immediately.
Still, there are so many pros and cons to writing a prologue, so lets get into it!
1. Prologues can help introduce plot elements that are difficult to introduce through dialogue or through exposition without a boring info dump.
2. They can reveal character motivation that your primary narrator might not know.
3. They can help quickly establish the tone of your work.
4. They can quickly set up questions in the reader's mind.
5. They can provide story direction or focus with only a few words.
1. They delay the start of the current story.
2. They force readers to think about elements, characters or events that might not be a part of the main plot but still have some significance.
3. They can divert and divide the reader's focus from what is actually important.
4. They can accidentally set the story off in a direction different from the one that you intended to write.
5. They keep readers from becoming fully involved and invested in the story as they try to figure out what the prologue has to do with other story events.
Immediately Hook the Reader
You have to hook the reader pretty instantly. Like I said, lots of readers do skip prologues, so if you include one, make sure it's unskippable. The prologue functions to captivate the reader and promises them a good story.
This is the introduction to your story: use it to draw the reader in and make it impossible for them not to turn the page to Chapter One. A good prologue includes key information the reader needs to understand the story, is intriguing, and is an integral part of the storytelling structure.
A skippable prologue, on the other hand, lacks important information, is unengaging, and is not integral to the story. If your reader can skip the prologue and not miss out the essence of the story, then it should be cut. Don't forget that the prologue, not Chapter One, contains the opening lines of your story, and there is so much weight held on those opening lines. Make these lines completely compelling.
Make sure to Provide Important Information
Like I said above, every single word of your prologue must be essential to the telling of your story, or the prologue just doesn't work. The significance doesn't have to be readily obvious, but it has to be vital somewhere down the road to the plot, characters or overall structure of your story. Writing random lines to get in some quick world-building or to introduce some characters, or to ease readers into the story doesn't really work. If they aren't important, your reader will feel cheated later on because why did they just read five pages of this if it has absolutely no significance to the story later on. Your reader will appreciate it if you only provide relevant facts in the prologue and get on to the main story quicker. But, even though we want only relevant info in your prologue, remember guys, do not info dump. Filling pages upon pages of backstory even if it is important to the story, is not fun for anyone to read.
Short and Sweet
No 10 or 20 page prologues. Longer prologues just delay the start of your story, so unless there's a very good reason, I wouldn't have a prologue longer than like 5 pages. Technically speaking, your prologue should blend in with the rest of your story. If your story is divided in chapters, there's absolutely no reason why the prologue should be any longer than the rest of your chapters. I always try to read prologues, but if a prologue starts dragging on for more than 10 pages, even if it is interesting, I'm going to start wondering why this wasn't just the first chapter. The perfect prologues are long enough to hold the reader's attention, but short enough that the reader is eagerly anticipating that first chapter!