Series: Parts of a Book

Parts of a Book: Prologues

Hello, reader, and welcome to Writer Central!  Yes, I am using a new blogging site.  I decided that I wanted a work website as well as a blog, so I created a new one.  Sorry if this is confusing any of you, but this is the new blog location (the other one is deleted, so don’t try to go there anymore).  All of my other blog posts are in a different document, waiting for a good time to be compiled in here.  I decided to give them a “fresh scrubbing” and sort of re-edit them before I move them.

Anyway, today I’m starting a new blog series called Parts of a Book.  In this I’ll talk about each consecutive part of a book, and I’ll try to update my blog with a new Parts of a Book post every other week.

The first part is Prologues.

So, to start us off, what is a prologue?  A prologue is an introduction to the story, holding some sort of meaning to the plot.  It can either be used to create mysterious connection, or to tell a back story that is vital to the plot.  Notice that I underlined “vital,” because it’s important that you notice its presence.  The reason being, if your prologue has absolutely no significance to your plot or story, then your reader will finish the book with a mix of negative feelings.  What’s the point of an introduction that doesn’t introduce?  This will just make the people who were reading your book think that you were just wanted to take up more space.  And that, my friend, is a terrible way to write any book.

Ok, now that I’ve cleared that – well, how does one know if they need a prologue?  Below I’ve made a list of three circumstances you might be in that should encourage you to write a prologue.

  1. Your plot is confusing. Sometimes a plot is unclear, and using a prologue is a good way to divide up the confusing parts and explain your world. Note: I find this very hard to do successfully, so this is not the most important reason I’ve listed.
  2. An important event happened before your story begins that you need to show the reader. If your plot is based over a long period of time, or something plot-riveting that you want to highlight happened long before the story takes place, then a prologue is the thing for you.
  3. You think you need that little spin-off. Every book needs a little hook to push the reader forward.  If you want an extra hook, then add that typical prologue to the beginning.  That prologue can give a hint to the plot to come, and leave the reader in wonder and bewilderment.  (Which can usually be used as a good thing, though sometimes backfires.)

Now I’ll explain how I personally write a prologue.

  1. Make a list of every point you need to cover in the prologue.  Knowing why you need a prologue will be a huge help, so make a list of every reason you think you need one.
  2. Make sure to plan the scene and add it to your outline.  Sometimes it can be good to add the prologue after the first draft of your manuscript is done, but usually only if you have an outline.  Make sure your prologue is all planned and you know what its significance is.
  3. Choose a tone that will fit the overall tone of the novel, or at least the tone of whoever – or whatever – is narrating the passage.  The reason I do this is so it makes more sense.  Many a time I’ve seen a prologue that doesn’t have the same tone as the rest of the book.  Now this is perfectly fine, as long as it matches the tone/voice of whoever’s narrating it.  And no, I do not mean the author; I mean the character (if it’s in first person or third person direct – if the narrator is sort of just a spectator hovering above, then it’s still necessary to have the same tone, though it won’t be as hard) whose perspective it’s from.  For instance, let’s say your book is in first person, told from the perspective of your main character, but you want a prologue told from the perspective of your villain.  Now, the protagonist and the antagonist are different people, right?  (I sure hope so.)  If so, then they are going to have distinct voices, just like people in real life.  So make sure you clarify that.

So the next thing I want to mention is my opinion on prologues.  When I read a book, I have a bad habit of skipping over forwards and other passages that come before the start of the book.  Why?  Because the book hasn’t intrigued me yet – I haven’t read enough of it to care about what happened before it.

Now, in some cases this is not so, but it is more often than not for me.  Because I don’t understand the forward, I don’t like to read it.  I don’t want to know this stuff if I don’t yet care about the story.  Only if it’s a really intriguing prologue do I usually like to read it.

That’s all for today.  I hope this blog helped you clear up a confusion you may have had, or gave you an idea as to rather you need a prologue or not.  As always, comment below or e-mail me if you have an idea or question, and I will try to get back to you.  Return weekly for new content!


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