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Thread: FAQ: Prologues

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    FAQ: Prologues


    What Is A Prologue

    A prologue is a section of a novel, play, story or epic poem that appears before the actual start of the work. A prologue often offers information about events that happened before the work actually starts.

    An epilogue comes at the end, and offers information about events that happened after the conclusion of the story or work.

    A foreword also appears before the main body of the work as an introduction about the work and / or the author, but it is generally a work written by someone other than the author, and that person is typically credited on the cover or title page. In some ways, a foreword is part of the marketing materials associated with a book.

    A prologue is not required. Whether or not prologues are evil is a matter of opinion.

    Elmore Leonard advised writers to “Avoid prologues.”

    They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

    There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s “Sweet Thursday,” but it's O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That's nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don't want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.''
    Lots of successful books have prologues; you might want to look how prologues are used in them. Even more books do not have prologues. Perhaps because Tolkien included a prologue, and the necessary world building associated with creating a secondary world, prologues are especially common in science fiction and fantasy, but they certainly aren't required, and sometimes, the book might be better without the prologue.

    If a prologue can be omitted, perhaps it should be; perhaps it's better as Chapter One or even skipped. Beta readers can help with this kind of dec

    Books with Prologues

    Geoffrey Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales.
    Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist.
    Michael Crichton. Jurassic Park.
    Umberto Eco. The Name of the Rose.
    Sara Gruen. Water for Elephants.
    J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
    J. R. R. Tolkien. The Fellowship of the Ring.

    Does Your Book Need A Prologue?

    If you’re contemplating committing prologue, ask yourself:

    1. Is it necessary?
    2. Does it make the book better for your reader?
    3. What does it do? What is its purpose?
    4. If the prologue serves as an info dump, or provides too much backstory, you might reconsider including it, instead, keeping it as a useful tool for yourself.


    Previous BWQ Threads about Prologues
    Please look at these before starting a new thread asking about prologues. There are many, many more threads in BWQ about prologues, as well as threads in other AW forums.

    The definitive prologue thread
    Does Anyone out there read prologues
    The Prologue Poll Thread
    Predicament with prologue?
    On prologues...
    A simple Prologue question
    Another prologue question
    To Prologue, or not to prologue, that is the question
    Regarding a prologue
    Prologue or no prologue?
    Prologues in fantasy
    So Prologues Are Bad
    Prologues - What are they good for
    Starting a novel with a prologue

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