Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Prologue or no prologue. That is the question.

Last week, I had a blog post where I touched on the use of prologues.  I then decided to touch on it a little more here.

Some people lately have expressed a deep hatred towards prologues--and have even said that they'll never read a book that has a prologue.

What is a prologue?  Quite frankly, I'd say a prologue is a part of the story that sets up what the rest of the story will be about.  One could argue that instead of having a prologue, you could just have a chapter one.  That's true, in a simple sense.  Take a thriller, for example.  In the beginning, you see from the POV of a killer.  It ends on a cliffhanger, thrusting us into the rest of the story where the POV is from the cop or detective or whatever the protagonist is.

Could it still be chapter one?

Sure it could.

Recently, I started back into my alternative military history novel.  As I re-read the nine chapters that I had written previously, I came to a startling conclusion: I needed a prologue.  Could I have just made it chapter one?  I could have, but it wouldn't have the same impact.  Here's my reasoning: the prologue is during the present day, and involves the President of the United States (the one who is in there right now) coming across a soldier in a military medical center.  Then, he is told a tale that has been kept secret regarding the war in Iraq.  As we go back, enter chapter one.

I could have easily made it chapter one, but I feel it has more of an impact as a prologue.

Like James Bond movies?  The entire opening scene is a prologue, because it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.

Take the opening scene in every Star Wars movie.  The words as they scroll up the screen is, in fact, a form of prologue.

Does every story need one?  Certainly not.  But if your story can be enhanced by it, put it in.  Try it as a chapter one first.  And if it doesn't work, change it to a prologue.

Okay, okay, I'm biased when it comes to prologues, I admit.  Sorry I'm just not one of those who will skip a story because of it.  It's just another tool in the storyteller's toolbox.

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