Prologues: people either hate them or... die on hills for them. And I'm sure a lot of you know, there's a large side of the writing community and industry that hates them to the point they automatically whine about any book that has a prologue and refuse to touch it.
But why? Why do people hate prologues so much? Why do people skip reading them entirely?
Because prologues are one of a book's most widely misunderstood, misused elements. Writers are more confused about prologues than Andrew trying to figure out how to split the 725 oranges he bought between his 5 friends in your math book. The answer is 145 by the way.
Even I myself have a prologue in my book and I hate reading other people's prologues most of the time. People use prologues to either info dump or treat them like the first chapter.
Or, some of you are so uneducated on prologue etiquette, you write two or more "prologues" and don't see the issue or understand why your first chapter probably has more reads than your five prologues (and yes, I have actually seen books that 5+ prologues so I'm not exaggerating here).
bUt a PrOlOgUe iS a BoOk'S iNtRoDuCtiOn!1!!! Yes, it is a book's introduction, but you know how you shouldn't open your book? By telling us all the details of just how unique™ your fantasy world is or just how tragic™ your character's life used to be or whatever else you think is necessary for the prologue that probably shouldn't be a prologue to begin with.
The purpose of a prologue should be to introduce the story without introducing the story. Confused by that? Lemme explain.
Well for starters, I and the general advice for prologues don't mean info-dumping backstories, world building, or turning your damn book into a brief history class. To readers, this feels like walking into school during a lesson, sitting down, and trying to actually pay attention to the heaps of information immediately being shoved at you and remembering it.
Stop worrying, I promise you'll get to show all of your fancy little world building throughout the actual book, okay?
wELl iF I cAnt mAkE iT aLl AbOUt mY uNiQuE™ mAgiC sYsTem tHaT i wOrKeD sO hArD oN, wHat ShOuLD i iNclUdE?
By introducing the story without introducing the story, I mean showcasing a crucial or relevant event in the storyline. The event can be either from the future or the past, but it needs to be important so the plot will either wrap around or build up to it.
The way I personally like to think of prologues, is an extended blurb, except instead of a narrative summarizing the story, we're in it. Because similar to a blurb, a prologue should:
Introduce an important character(s) ~ you don't have to do a full introduction (love of all things living, don't do that), but include just enough to show readers someone they should/need to remember.
Foreshadow ~ Add some foreshadowing to whatever's happening. Fucking tease them already. Readers are masochists, they'll love it.
Add some conflict ~ Prologues can be bad enough, but an absolutely dead, boring drone of a prologue is your book's casket smothered in rotting, flowery mundane bullshit.
Only a little world building, it's not a construction zone ~ Again, tease readers. Let them hold your precious world in their grubby little mitts, but only for a brief second before you rip it away and make them (hopefully) want more.
It's not a chapter either ~ The shorter the prologue, the better and easier for people to digest. Yes some sites will say prologues can be 1,000-2,500+ words/just a little shorter than the first chapter. But, the prologue to my novel is less than 600 words yet people still skip right over it. So, considering most readers already hate prologues and just want to skip to the actual start, I'd say keep it closer to preferably below or at 1k.
Although I just gave tips on how to improve your prologue, I still think it's important to ask yourself if your book even needs a prologue to begin with.
What can your readers gain from it? Can it's information be included in a better, easier to absorb way? What're the pros and cons of a prologue for your book?
Many see prologues as useless crutches and while it greatly varies between books, a lot of books actually don't really need their prologues to be understood by readers.
I believe if your readers can jump straight into the story and finish the book without missing a beat from the prologue they didn't read, its probably a mantel piece that you're telling yourself is important, but really you just wanna keep it because you're proud of it. Totally not calling out myself a little bit here too lmao.
This is another reason the main advice you'll see for prologues, is to not write them period and if we're talking from a professional standpoint, I can agree.
But despite this and because this is Wattpad, I'd say it's fine to experiment with them. Just remember that a lot of readers will probably ignore it completely.
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