Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Prologues - good, bad or just plain lazy??

I've been playing with my story that did well in the Emmy, Mummy Makes Three. It has a prologue and I've been debating cutting it. I've read that prologues are lazy writing and they generally don't help the story.

In this case we have a lovers reunited story. The prologue is the dramatic birth of their child nine years before the story starts. All the crits I've had, only one person has disliked the prologue. Most feel immediate empathy with the mother giving birth.

What do you think?

Prologues - are they a waste? Is it a sign of laziness? Is it just the worst kind of info dump?

Am I just asking this question to avoid editing?


  1. Well, not sure re prologues. Probably the way to figure it out is to ask yourself what the purpose of the scene is. What are you trying to convey in having that scene happen immediately for the reader instead of via dialogue etc in the main part of the story? Is it crucial we know this before the story happens? Or is it info that might be better held back in a slow reveal?
    I had this problem in deciding on whether to an epilogue... Tricky eh? Sorry, that doesn't really help!

  2. This is a really difficult one. In stories that involve a reunion I've seen them done much more frequently than any others. I think sometimes they are needed otherwise the first few chapters don't make a great deal of sense for the reader. Kind of like trying to swim with your arms missing.

    Then again I can see how they could also be used as an info dump. I think as Michelle Styles would say, it's all in the execution.

    So sorry, I'm no help either :-)

  3. I love a good prologue and skip a bad one does that help at all? LOL! I think they're great if they're written properly and with a proper purpose but I have to admit that I personally avoid them out of pure terror ;) Jackie and Jo said it all :)

  4. I think they can be good if done well too. I recently read the first chapter of a Sarah Morgan online and quite liked it and the characters. When I bought the ebook I realised there was a prologue to it and after reading it I found myself liking the characters a whole lot more, especially the hero. I think they can be used to good effect to give us the reasons behind the conflict which makes the story immediately involving. Sometimes if the backstory is being shoehorned into the first chapter it can feel a bit clunky (in my opinion, depending on the author of course). I like prologues for this. It can keep the 1st chapter purer with the current conflict/event without having to drag back to the past to explain itself as it goes along. Clear as mud? Hope I haven't made things worse :) Only my personal preference of course.

  5. I know this story so it's easy for me to say GO THE PROLOGUE!!!

  6. Thanks everyone!

    Jackie, I think you said the key - does the reader need to know? I think yes...

    It IS all in the execution Joanne, i just need to hope I'm executing it ok. Or even better than ok preferably!

    Lacey - so if it's good it's good and if it's not it's, ah, not?

    Thanks for the comment Kristy. I think if i nix the prologue then it will make for a worse info dump later or the reader won't understand.

    Thanks Rach - I think you're right!

  7. Oh I'm coming in here so very late!! But yes, I've only just recently learned that prologues are a big "no no" according to some big name authors. Me, I truly think it's just another tool to be used to take the story to another level (or am I making excuses cause I have one too!! lol) seriously though, I think a prologue can be crucial to a story if written well and if it helps the reader get a better sense of the H/H

  8. Oops, chiming in even later than Mel but I have to say I can't see anything wrong with a prologue. After all, there's bo shortage of very successful authors who have used the technique and I doubt they'd consider themselves lazy writers or info dumpers.
    If you think it works, go for it!