Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekly Discussion: Prologues

This week we are discussing prologues. In the weekly discussion I share my thoughts on a topic and you can also share yours in the in comments. I am always open to topic ideas. If you have an idea, leave a comment. On to my thoughts ...

In general, most prologues bother me. In all the books I've read I’ve seen three different types. One, it describes an event in the middle of the story. The prologue scene may appear in the book (Books 1-3 in Dark Guardian Series) or it might just be an extra tidbit (Twilight Saga). Two, the event takes place in the past and gives the set-up or background story. These usually start the first chapter with a year or x amount of days/weeks/years later. Three, the event takes place right before the first chapter in almost chronological order. These are usually in a different point of view that the normal chapters.
What bothers me the most about prologues is the spoiler nature of some of them. Type one is the worst. I don't flip my book to the middle read a page and then start the book. But that is what they are basically doing. I feel that these types of prologues are big wastes of paper. We know there is going to be action; at least we hope there will be. Since these prologues do not enhance the story in any way, there really is no point in including them.
Type two I have a love-hate relationship with. In some cases they are essential to the story, but in others, they are not. In most cases I feel that in the first chapter when you are getting to the character it could be used as a memory, eliminating the prologue altogether. But in other cases (like The Body Finder), a prologue is acceptable.
I think type three is the only really acceptable prologues. I am assuming authors put the scene as a prologue so as to not cause confusion and I understand this. Cassandra Clare's City of Ashes tastefully does the type three prologue. The only complaint I have is it’s a bit long for prologue.
Overall I feel that prologues should be short backgrounds or other information that is essential in the story. All prologues should be absolutely spoiler free.
Now its time for you to share your thoughts. Do you like prologues? Which type(s) do you find acceptable? What are some examples of good usage of prologues? Bad usage?


  1. I've read a few prologues that have been better than the actual book lately...yikes! Not good. they don't bother me except for the ones that are from the middle of the book. Too spoilery like you said and then in the first chapter your jolted to a whole different thing.

  2. I'm not a big fan of prologues. I think in many cases, a prologue is there in place of an exciting opening chapter. If the story starts out a little slow, the prologue serves as an attention grabber. Like you said, often they give spoilers. I read the prologue and it takes away some of the mystery of the book because I already know what *that* is about.
    Richelle Mead used a prologue in the Vampire Academy series to get the reader caught up to speed on the earlier books, so you aren't totally lost by book 4. That one I liked because I'd forgotten a few things.

    Congrats on the grand opening!

  3. I do like when books catch you up in the prologue rather than the first chapter bc that way you can kind of skim through it if you don't need the reminder. But with all the different books I read I often need a little refresher.