To be totally honest, when I first heard that many agents HATE prologues I kinda rolled my eyes. Oh great, something else to nitpick over. But when I read up on it a little more I got it, sorta. Agents and editors must be incredibly discerning and prologues, unfortunately, are often done wrong.
This is terrible news because the book I am currently trying to pitch has a prologue that there is no way I can cut and is completely out of format with the rest of my book if I just make it into a chapter.
So what is a prologue supposed to do? Done correctly it sets the tone, gives a little insight on the story that is to come, outside of the general flow and format of the rest of the book.
Why do people in the publishing industry hate it? Incorrectly used, it acts as an info dump. All the backstory in a chapter that isn’t good enough to be a chapter. I have read there is a general consensus that people don’t even read prologues (I always do).
So if you’re trying to decide if you should keep your prologue, make it chapter one or cut it completely here are some things to consider.
-Is it an excuse for backstory dump? Cut it and incorporate the info into the rest of the story.
– Does it fit with the timeline of the rest of the story? If most of the story takes place in 1989 but the prologue is in 1488 keep it.
– Does it contain your hook? Make it chapter one.
-Does it tell a slightly related story that never comes up again? Cut it
-Is it a different format than the rest of your story but is very relevant to the rest of the book? Keep it.
So what’s the solution to that hate in the publishing world? How do you prevent your manuscript from being tossed before it’s even given a chance?
Well, in my case I know my prologue is needed. But it could well be that when it gets to an editor they decide to make it into chapter one. I’m not comfortable making that decision as the first part of my story follows a specific format with POV of characters and the character in the prologue isn’t one of them. But that doesn’t mean when I submit a sample with a query I have to label the prologue as the prologue. With only 10-25 pages submitted, the format isn’t established yet.
What are your opinions of prologues? Do you read them? Do you write them? Do you hate them?