This week's blog prompt concerns prologues: are they helpful or hurtful? Personally, I think they're overused, mostly by authors who ought to know better and don't do a very good job of incorporating them into the story. Such authors use prologues to dump a wheelbarrow load of backstory because they lack the skill to weave in the backstory without an information dump.
Yep, I can be harsh.
That said, I used a prologue in a book once. Once. (Remember Danny Vermin in the movie Johnny Dangerously?) I used a prologue in The Diamond Gate, because the book picks up where a lesser known fairy tale ends and I thought that readers ought to have a glimmer of that fairy tale before plunging into the story. I don't know whether the prologue did the job I wanted it to do. I think I've sold about half a dozen copies of the book and no one ever left a review. The utter lack of feedback as well as sales basically deserves an insouciant shrug of dismissal of yet one more literary failure chalked up to the growing mountain of experience.
Most prologues are completely unmemorable. In fact, the only prologues I can recall are those in David Eddings' Belgariad series which I read when they were first published way back in the 1980s, you know, the dark ages before the internet. Honestly, though, I don't know whether I recall them because they were good. Today's critics of fantasy disparage Eddings' work, although I always enjoyed the sardonic humor of his books. Of course, they don't think too much of Terry Brooks' Shannara series either. No matter, I liked them.
My basic thought regarding prologues is that if your book needs one, then make it the first chapter. Or do a better job of plotting out the story. The reader should not need to read the prologue to understand the story.
Of course, I feel the same about epilogues, too.
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