To Prologue or NOT To Prologue? That is the Question

Excellent points, excellent article. I’m definitely reconsidering my prologues, I don’t think I’ve ever written a story without one. I usually use one to set up the story, but I know I’ve flubbed up more than one (and many more). Thanks for the advice. I’ve always figured that if the prologue doesn’t set up the story, then there’s no reason for it.

And it still surprises me that people don’t read prologues! I always found prologues to be one of the most important parts of a story, if the author chooses to have one.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

Publishing, like most other things, is not immune to fashion. This is what makes teaching craft a moving target. What is en vogue today could be passé tomorrow. And yes we are artists, but I believe most of us are artists who’ve grown rather fond of eating. This means we do need to keep audience tastes in mind when we are “creating” since they will be the ones who fork over cold hard cash.

Today we will touch on a question I get a lot from new writers.

To prologue or not to prologue? That is the question.

The problem with the prologue is it has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, especially with agents. They generally hate them. Why? In my opinion, it is because far too many writers don’t use prologues properly and that, in itself, has…

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9 responses to “To Prologue or NOT To Prologue? That is the Question

  1. I think this was one of the hardest questions I had to solve in the novel I just published.

    I wrote it without a prologue, and kept having the niggling feeling that I needed just a bit more to make people read, a lagniappe if you please, a tiny foretaste of the future to keep them going through a couple of spots where they might ask, “Where are we going?”

    It came in a flash, as one piece, 145 words in the style of The New Yorker, one more outside commentary on the story I was telling, but written by someone who STILL doesn’t have the whole story, but thinks she does.

    Each chapter of Pride’s Children has 2-3 epigraphs, and the title of the chapter can also have an epigraph-like effect.

    So I put PC up on Wattpad as I polished, asked people to note the prologue, and then asked them to tell me immediately and later what their feelings about it were.

    That got an interesting result. A 50/50 split. The people who didn’t like it said it gave away too much of the story. The people who liked it said it was absolutely essential to pulling them in.

    I kept it because I like it. I kept it because it generated that kind of involvement. And I kept it because it is important – even though you won’t realize quite why until the trilogy is over, almost a half-million words further down the line.

    And I had the best time making it look like The New Yorker for the print version, and as much as possible like it for the ebook (where you should not interfere witht he reader’s ability to choose font and size, so I had to depend on bold, italics, and size).

    If you’re curious, go to, Look Inside!, and scroll down to the Prothalamion (page 1) – and tell me what you think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 145 words? That’s quite a short (but very succinct and curious) length for a prologue. I will definitely take a “look inside”and let you know my thoughts on your work.

      As always, you as the author have the right and freedom to your artistic flair. I’m glad that despite your doubts, you kept the prologue. I have the most sincere respect for you, as well as your skills in the craft of writing! It’s always a pleasure to meet another with the same appreciation for the art of writing.


        • I just took a “look inside” Pride’s Children: the prologue is scandalous! I also took the liberty to peruse through the beginning of the book to get a feel for what the story is about. I, too, think that the prologue is a keeper. Wonderful stylistic choice that captures the “feel” of the story.

          Remember the books that contained short summaries at the beginning of every chapter? These summaries never revealed the chapter ending, but always set the chapter up nicely. The names of some of these stories escape me at this moment. But I always enjoyed watching the chapter play out to the summary. Your prologue achieves the same effect. I can envision the movie beginning with the pages of the magazine, in which the page turns to reveal the cinematic events as they unfold.

          Well done, congratulations!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Ah, Jessica – you made my day.

          To prologue or not to prologue – YES!

          I’m sorry – I don’t remember books with summaries before chapters; possibly it is because I grew up in Mexico, and my reading in English was eclectic and mostly grownup stuff (except for a Nancy Drew from my dear godmother, my Tía Nena, for my birthday and for Christmas – books which were read well before the end of the day).

          Thank you so much for looking in on PC – I don’t know if I’ve offered you an electronic Review Copy, but let me know if you’d like one, and in which format.

          Also, if you have Prime, remember you can borrow a book from the KU list (like mine) once a month. I keep forgetting to remind people.


        • IF you have Prime AND a Kindle, Fire tablet or Fire phone, you can borrow one book per month from the KOLL (Kindle Owners Lending Library) with no due date on the loan.

          If you’ve never done it, there are instructions under Your Prime. It must be done FROM the device, but after that the instructions are easy.

          The books which are eligible are in Kindle Unlimited.

          Do you have one of the eligible devices? Unfortunately, it can’t be done on the Kindle app.


        • I have the Kindle app, but only on a standard tablet. Amazon definitely knows how to make their products appealing and must-have. Thank you for explaining this all to me though, now I understand how it works. I believe KU can also be a monthly membership? For KU readers, is the author paid-per-page that is read?


        • KU is a monthly subscription; you can get a trial month free. Then you can read all you want.

          The authors of the books you actually read (not the ones you borrow but don’t read) get paid a fee for each Kindle Enhanced Normalized Page (KENP). Amazon can tell if you read by how fast you go through the pages, and only pays for pages that were on the Kindle display long enough to be read. Chris McMullen’s blog (search KENP) has all kinds of info on how the pages are calculated (generously – PC is 545 pages on the Kindle product page, and they call it 986 KEN pages). If you put a book up on Amazon, they tell you how many KENP it is considered).

          So I get about the same from the lending as from a sale, after all this is calculated.

          But my main need right now is readers and reviews, not as much sales, which is why I still give out review copies when anyone wants one – it’s all good. If they actually get as far as finishing and decide to leave a review, all the better.

          Building a presence for a book is slow (unless you want to pay a marketing firm a lot of money or do a lot of ads), and I want to go the slow way, because I trust the book.

          No rush, I tell myself, as I am daily into working on Book 2.


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