As an editor, I have never liked prologues. As a writer, I’ve never written one. As a reader, I skip them. Yet they keep appearing on my Flogging the Quill blog for criticism. I post the opening lines of the prologue plus the opening lines of the first chapter. Just about all the time, the chapter opening works best.
Yet writers persist. So I did a little survey of opinion on prologues given by blogging agents.
Agent Jessica Faust on the BookEnds blog
Well, I can tell you from conversations with colleagues that many agents hate them. Frankly, I never had much of an opinion about the prologue until I started talking to other agents about them and reading some of them more carefully.
The truth is that many writers use a prologue as a convenient way to introduce backstory without doing the work it takes to weave it into the book. Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to write a scene than to slowly unravel the information through the main plotline. I think prologues can often be predictable and lazy. Lazy for the reason I already stated; predictable because I see the same prologue over and over. Thriller writers, for example, love a prologue that introduces the killer making a kill. I’ve seen it a million times.
I don’t think there’s a hard-and-fast rule for or against prologues. I think you just need to make sure it’s as important to the story as every chapter you’re writing and not something you’re doing because it’s easier than the alternative.
A couple of quotes found on the Internet:
“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”
—Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency
“Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!”
—Laurie McLean, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents
Here’s what literary agent Kristin Nelson says on her blog:
Kristin’s incomplete list of why prologues don’t work: [Read more…]