I used to think that every book needed a prologue, basically a chapter which introduces the reader to the story. I’m not sure why, just one of those things you never really question until it’s challenged.
I was sent this article by a friend of mine. A lot of these I’d heard before, but the ‘Avoid Prologues’ one stuck with me. I always started a project with a prologue; it was what I thought I was supposed to do.
This resulted in a number of conversations with friends and family, and I realized that a prologue, like any writing convention, isn’t always useful. Most of my prologues were really just first chapters, with nothing but a POV shift into the book.
A prologue sets up the story, but is separated from the core of the book, either by time or distance. The point can be world building, establishing the conflicts and challenges for the character, or just an awesome hook, but if it rolls directly into the meat of the book, it’s probably just a first chapter.
(On Basilisk Station is a good example: the prologue is a ground of politicians who appear only in the prologue, and make a decision that impacts the main character for the rest of the book. )
Most of my books don’t have prologues anymore, they’ve all been renamed to Chapter 1. It’s become something of a challenge with a project, to consider any prologues I might write for it that could be separated enough to work. Most of the time, nothing comes of it. Which is okay. If anything, it’s a fun exercise in creative thinking.
Any examples of a nice prologue, let me know, and as always, keep on writing!