So what’s wrong with prologues? I’ve read recently that prologues are in someway wrong (or perhaps old-fashioned?) I don’t know who decides these things but prologues are very much alive and well and used in many top writers’ novels, including the bestselling ‘The Secret History’ and ‘Game of Thrones’.
Prologues are often essential tools for supplying back story, tone and hints of what is to come. I often judge a book on the prologue because it gives me an insight to the story’s content, as well as an evaluation of the writer’s standard of writing and storytelling ability. If the writer can handle the prologue well – then it stands to reason I may expect the rest of the book to be equally good.
Prologues, done well, are meant to intrigue and entice. They are often far richer than a ‘jump right in’ first chapter. They add texture and depth to the story to follow. For me, a good prologue is a measure of a writer’s talent – simply because this piece of writing has to be informative and yet puzzling enough to make you want to know how this fits in with the rest of the tale. It is the ‘hook’ so to speak. It also shows that the writer knows where they’re going, where they want to take you, and what you can expect in the way of mystery and pace.
Granted, prologues may not be essential in all books – but where they are used for all the above reasons, they add greatly to the ‘weight’ of the book, in my view. I’m saddened that some people take it upon themselves to make these new ‘rules’ about writing and book structure. So much of the richness and intellectual agility of excellent writing is being undermined by this kind of short-sighted approach. Inclusion or exclusion of prologues is no more than a matter of style and opinion – it is not, and never should be, a measure of the book’s ability to sell and be enjoyed.