What is a prologue?
According to Literary Devices: “The prologue, Greek prologos (meaning: before word), is an opening of a story that establishes the setting and gives background details. Generally speaking, the main function of a prologue tells some earlier story and connects it to the main story… In its modern sense, a prologue acts as a separate entity and is not considered part of the current story that a writer ventures to tell.”
Should you use one?
Writers love writing prologues, epilogues, and flashbacks. Readers hate reading them. Readers want to get into the story immediately. Only once they have established a bond with your characters should you introduce backstory.
If you insist on writing them, make sure you know how, and when, to use them.
Prologues can be used when the opening scene of your novel:
- Occurs long before the main story.
- Is the ending to your story – making the entire novel a flashback.
- Is written from a viewpoint that is never used again.
- Is presented as a ‘real’ document, such as an auction notice, diary entry, or letter.
- Is integral to the whole of the story, but is not immediately obvious.
Prologues must be powerful. The opening scene and the prologue must be able to stand alone. If your prologue takes anything away from your opening scene leave it out.
Suggested reading: 13 Ways To Start A Story
© Amanda Patterson
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