The Fine Line of Prologues
To be honest, I never had a problem with prologues. Most of the time, I barely noticed their presence and read them duly as I felt I was supposed to. Now, true, some were less needed than others. One that particularly comes to mind is from the book ‘Timebound.’ In it, we just get a flash-forward to an event near the novel’s end. It felt overdone and left me lost.
In practice, though, that is what a prologue is supposed to be. It must stand outside the main story somehow—either set far into the future or past—or give us a teaser for events to come. And despite others who say they tend to skip them without looking back, I never do so. I just feel that if the author put it there, then there must be a purpose.
But now, I feel differently.
In the past year, I’ve sent multiple manuscripts to publishers, reviewers, and agents. Most all of them have their own unique requirements and demands in how to present your written work to them. Attach it as a file. Put it in the text of the e-mail. Synopsis. No synopsis. And so on. Hey, we all have our peccadillos and preferences. But all of them zero in on one specific part: give us the first ten pages of your manuscript, the first twenty pages, the first chapter, the first two chapters…
Now you begin to see the problem.
If you’ve written a prologue, this is one part of your novel you send along to them and the bad thing is that it takes up quite a bit of that lethal area where readers are thrilled or repulsed by the book. A prologue gives the reader more time to decide to put your book down. And that’s exactly what happens when you send it to an agent or publisher. With a requirement of only ten or so pages, they will only see the prologue and get zero story. Yikes!
For this reason, I am now a convert of the ‘hate prologues’ cause…but it’s a limited membership. I wouldn’t write one again, but I will read them. After all, the writer intended it, and if your name is known enough, you can get away with it. So, get famous first, then prologue the crap out of your books.