It's official. I hate prologues. Okay, okay, I know. Hate is a strong word. But before you stop reading, or curse my very existence, let me explain.
Perhaps I've cracked open your book, or loaded page one of your Kindle edition and see you've decided to begin your fantasy with a prologue. This is your incredible hook - that powerful scene embedded deep in backstory that needs to exist to catch and hold me, your reader. I understand the power of these scenes, truly I do.
But I hate them. And here's why.
When you begin a story with Character A, I assume the story's about Character A.
My reader brain automatically assumes... this is important! Pay attention! Here's your hook! Here's what and who this story is about!
So when you start your story with a prologue - BANG- with this drool worthy, brain clenching, teeth jarring action sequence, or compelling, tear-dripping scene, and then begin the story someplace entirely different on chapter one, you leave me confused and well, hating you (sometimes a lot!).
I can't tell you how many prologues I've loved - too many to count. It's just so heartbreaking when I love them that much and then the real story begins someplace else on page one, chapter one. Worse, in my mind, is when it switches to a different protagonist altogether! I've read those. Listen up: DON'T DO THAT.
So, I've said I hate prologues. Let me give you an example. I'll leave out the book's title in hope of avoiding getting sued. No one likes getting sued. It sucks. I digress.
I recently opened a young adult fantasy book which, of all things, started with a prologue. This wasn't any run-of-the-mill prologue. This one captured me from the first sentence. The story was in medias res... the hook, incredible. I devoured it, turned the page to... wait for it... Chapter one nothing, blah, blah, blah. Total blandness. The protagonist didn't remember the scene that had just happened - she'd had her memory erased. So now I have to read and plow through dress descriptions and a clueless character and wait umpteen pages before the character remembers she's in love with this fantastic boy with incredible powers.
Maybe my next post should be - NEVER START A NOVEL WHERE THE CHARACTER HAS THEIR MEMORY ERASED.
If you're going to write a prologue, do it well, but keep that momentum going with the opening sequence. Make it as strong, if not stronger than that stinking prologue. And please, please, don't confuse me by starting with one protagonist only to switch to someone altogether different in chapter one. It confuses me, and a confused reader is a no-reader (that's a real word. Look it up).
If you HAVE to use a prologue, ask yourself, do you really need it? Can you intertwine this backstory or ghost incident into the story itself? Do I, as your reader, really need to know this up front?
I'll leave you to ponder my hatred now. Just don't hate on the hater-