Prologues have been a sort of hot topic for a while now. Are they good? Are they bad? People can’t decide between vehement hatred of them and sheer adoration. It’s remained a subject for division in the writing community for a long time.
Me? I’m more of a middle ground. I can be okay with them… if they’re used right. The problem is not many of them are.
So what do I think are the keys to a good prologue?
The first note is they need to be wrote with the same quality as the rest of your book. If you have a prologue, it’s the first bit of writing anyone will see from you. As such, it needs to be just as good as the rest of the book. You cannot afford to slack.
The second note is it needs to have a purpose. As in, if you removed it, would the story change at all? Would it be worse off? This should be obvious, of course, bit also depends what kind of purpose. All too often, I see “prologues” that just serve to infodump the lore of the world. It’s boring and it’s not the best approach to have. And this is coming from someone who loves being steeped in the world a fellow writer has created.
The third note is that not all stories in fact need a prologue. This ties to my second point, really. Some writers add prologues for one reason or another, but all it does is drag out the word count and hamper your story. The general consensus I’ve seen from writers is if they see a prologue, they will skip it. What is it about your prologue that makes it unskippable? Can it not be implemented elsewhere?
I personally used to be 100% against prologues. I would skip them every time I saw them. I have since come around from this, but I still find myself wary of a prologue when I see it. It makes me wonder about the rest of the book – and, in the case of a prologue, not in a good way.