Last week's writing prompt focused on writers' opinions on epilogues. This week's prompt concerns prologues. Surprise!
The purpose of a prologue is to deliver the necessary background information for the reader to understand the story. Few authors do them well. Books in David Eddings' related fantasy series, the Belgariad and the Malloreon, begin with prologues that read like religious texts--as he intended. I consider those done well, as they add not only background information for the reader's understanding, but add to the tone of a story that involves the intimate association of gods.
Most prologues simply dump a boring deluge of information upon the reader. Some authors use the prologue as the hook, a device to engage the reader's interest. I think an author who does that ought to make the prologue into the first chapter.
I have used prologues. I find them handy in rough drafts. They provide me with a handy reference when I get deeper into the story and need to refresh my memory about some detail that the first round of self-editing reveals I missed or got wrong. However, by the time I submit the manuscript to the editor, the prologue is gone. Chapter 1 begins the story. If my readers cannot understand the story without explanatory description at the outset, then I have failed my job as a storyteller.
However, as a general rule, my opinion regarding prologues echoes that for epilogues: don't do it.
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