I recently re-tweeted (I’m on Twitter as VictoriaMBell , O any tweeters out there!) agent Kristin Nelson’s blog post on “Why Prologues Often Don’t Work“, because I think it makes for a succinct and clear discussion (her blog is great generally, btw!).
I was also interested to see her reiterate something I’ve heard elsewhere: “This is why almost all the agents I know completely skip the prologue and start with chapter one when reading sample pages. A beginner writer might actually be able to do good character, dialogue, tone, pacing, and whatnot but it’s more than likely not going to show in the prologue.” I realized something, reading that — I often skip (bad) prologues too, when reading for pleasure: they feel disconnected from the main meat of the book, and they frequently don’t make any sense to me until I’ve read a good portion of the novel. Then I’ll loop back.
I also wanted to touch on Kristin’s point number 1: “When the sole purpose of the prologue is to fill the reader in on the back story so the real story can begin” (go to the blog and read her example of a good prologue, too). To veer slightly away from the topic of prologues, this reminded me of one of those elementary craft lessons: don’t put a big clump of back story up front. It just slows down the action at a point where you want to keep the narrative moving, and 9 times out of 10 the reader doesn’t care about the character enough yet to wade through it all. I was taught, and this has been really helpful to me, that when revealing significant moments of back story, it’s important to think through your chosen point of view. Is it natural for your POV character to think or not think about something in this particular moment?
But back to prologues (see? I looped! Sorry for being all over the place in this post, though). How about you? Are you anti- or prologue?