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Back to Basics: Prologues




Is a prologue the right move for your story? Let’s figure that out together! In this Back to Basics course, we’ll talk about prologues: what they are, what they’re made of, and why they could be the right fit for your stories. We’ll be looking at information provided from resources such as Masterclass and Reedsy and breaking them down. So let’s get started...


 

What are prologues?

Prologues are a special section at the very beginning of a book that aims to introduce the audience to things that will be important to the story. They can provide information about characters, setting, plot, or any other details that could have relevance later. Most importantly, prologues help set the scene for what happened right before the story starts.


 

What are they made of?

Prologues should contain things that are relevant. Characters are often a big part of that. According to Reedsy, prologues can introduce unique viewpoints. If the story is going to be told from the perspective of one character, a prologue could be from another character’s perspective. This can “provide some interesting insights that can deepen the reader’s understanding of the story.” You can also use a prologue to introduce background details: things that may not seem so important right away but will become relevant later on. It’s a fantastic way to naturally foreshadow something!


 

Don’t mistake prologues as an opportunity to take a dump.

If you’re a regular to Back to Basics, you may remember that when I talked about settings, I recommended not taking dumps. That same idea applies to prologues: don’t try to overload the prologue with too much information (or info-dump, as it’s called). As Masterclass says, a good prologue “enhances the story, rather than explaining it.” You can leave breadcrumbs as to what the story is going to be about but don’t try to cram in as much of the lore as you can.


 

Why does the industry hate prologues?

Many agents and editors call prologues unnecessary and advise against them because they tell, rather than show. Authors incorrectly try to pack this space full of all the worldbuilding, backstory, introductions, and descriptions. When writers info-dump like this in the prologue, there’s really no point in reading the story because the writer told the reader everything already. A strong prologue is vague, like a murder from the victim’s perspective when the rest of the story is about trying to find the killer. It’s a hint at what’s to come.


 

Why include a prologue?

Lastly, what you’re probably wondering about the most: why include a prologue? It’s a reasonable question. A prologue isn’t a necessity. So why use them? Well, a prologue is kind of like an extra way to sell your story. As Reedsy explains, prologues can “hook readers into your story.” A good prologue can introduce mysterious characters, exciting action, and set up stakes that will all pique a reader’s interest before the main story even unfolds. They’re a fun way to tease what the story is going to be about.


We’ve talked a lot about prologues, now let’s introduce the challenge!


The Challenge:

We’re going to try something a little different and narrow it down to one specific prompt.


Consider you’re in the middle of planning a story about a strong and powerful superhero protecting the city. Write a prologue from the perspective of an Average Joe living in that city. Aim for 500 to 1,000 words.




Thanks for joining us for this Back to Basics course! If you tried this month’s challenge, you can share it on our forum or on social media using #WWB2B. You can also send us your challenge on the Back to Basics page.



And as an additional note, I just wanted to share that Back to Basics is now one year old! We started the program back in January of 2022 with our first topic on sentence structure. From then, we’ve created more educational blogs. I truly hope that they’ve been a helpful resource. If even just one person has learned something valuable from this then I see that as a win. I look forward to seeing what’s in store for the future! Thank you and I will see you all next time!

-Izhan




 

About the author: Izhan Arif is a Teaching of English major at UIC who loves to write in his spare time. Izhan is also a very big fan of comic books and comic book TV shows and movies, he hopes to write his own comic books at some point as well.

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Karen Scott
Karen Scott
26 feb 2023

Thank you! I originally included a prologue with my novel but dumped it after hearing how many agents/publishers HATE them. However, I read SO MANY books with prologues and I personally love them! I might consider putting mine back in and see how it works!

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