How To Determine If Your Novel Needs A Prologue

Prologues are such a hit or miss. Some people love them and some people hate them… though I tend to see more people hate them than love them.

I personally don’t mind prologues. As long as they’re done the right way.

How to determine if your novel needs a prologue

What is a prologue?

A prologue is the pre-chapter of a book. It goes before the first chapter and acts as an introduction of sorts. Prologues can try to accomplish a few different things:

  • Peek into the future
  • Delve into the past
  • Shine some light on a certain character

Prologues can, I believe, do more than that, but those are the most common I’ve seen. (They’re also the types of prologues I’d prefer.)

Do you really need a prologue?

Before you write the prologue, ask yourself,

  • What will my prologue accomplish? How will it contribute to the story?

If the answer is anything that I stated above or something else reasonable, try writing the prologue and see what happens.

After you write the prologue, ask yourself,

  • Did the prologue accomplish what it was supposed to?

If the answer is yes, feel free to keep it in. If the answer is no, take it out.

Still, people may get annoyed by the prologue.

Is your prologue long? Is it purely for information purposes?

Don’t make your prologue too long. A prologue is supposed to be an introduction of some sorts. If it’s going to be ten pages long, you might as well just title it “Chapter 1.”

You also don’t want to info dump. Yes, prologues are to shed some light certain aspects of the novel – a character, the setting, background info for the plot – but you don’t want to give away too much at once. You also don’t want to bore your readers will too many details at once before you even meet the protagonist.

Then again, you can’t please everyone.

Remember when I said that prologues can be used to look into the future, look back on the past, or shed some light on a character?

Do that. That’s good.

(Well, in my opinion, anyway.)

Feel free to take a dip into the past. Maybe something happened way back when that caused the plot of your story to happen.

Looking into the future to foreshadow may be a bit difficult, but I believe it’s been done before.

Of course, there is always the background for the main character or some other important character. Give a brief introduction.

Just be sure to save the bulk for the first chapter.

Do you like prologues or not? Do you typically write them for your stories? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!
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23 thoughts on “How To Determine If Your Novel Needs A Prologue

  1. I really like this post, Rachel!

    Personally, I have a prologue in my NaNoWriMo WIP, simply because it’s essential to the events that take place in the actual story. But generally, if a prologue doesn’t add any purpose to the rest of the book, I think it should be removed, or worked into the story itself.

  2. I’ve used prologues twice now and thought carefully each time. I decided to write them only when it was clear I needed them to set up the rest of the book. Excellent post, Rachel.

    • Yeah, I think that’s always the way to do it! There are some important things, of course, but I think it’s more fun for the reader to discover as they go along.

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