The prologue is an introductory section in a book yet is totally different, and everyone has their own opinions about this. So, here I will discuss what a prologue is and if it is vital to read a prologue or not.
Reading books has given me the pleasure of entertainment, knowledge, and wisdom for many years, and I continue to do so. But, during the early days of my reading, I always wondered if I should skip the prologue if it was there in the book. What could be missed if I don’t read it? I wonder if you have the same queries about the prologue.
The prologue contains information about the story in the book. It could be substantial, and sometimes it may not. Prologue prepares the reader with the hint or a background check of the story, what could possibly lie in it. It may not be as crucial in all books while important to some. It’s mainly used in sci-fi, adventurous, horror, fantasy books, etc. It must be read by everyone as it gives an idea of what the author has included in the story.
Before moving further, do look at my previous article on how to enjoy reading more(add the link). In this article, we will discuss the importance of reading a prologue and when it should be skipped. Further, we will discuss the prologue, how it’s different from the introduction, and how it should be written.
What is a Prologue?
The word prologue is derived from the Greek word ‘prologos‘ where ‘pro’ means ‘before‘ and ‘logos’ means ‘word or speech‘.
The prologue is basically an introduction mainly used in fiction stories just before the start of the chapter where the author describes the plot, characters, their roles by providing a background or the foreshadowing of the story to get the reader a rough idea as to how the story will proceed further in the book.
It is entirely different from Introduction, foreword, preface, and epilogue.
Reasons Why Prologue is Important to Read
Personally, I read all the prologues and will continue further because it makes me feel guilty about missing one of the chapters. Reading the prologue makes me feel comfortable, and what is the point of ignoring it if it is there. The author must have thought it thoroughly and added some key points that might relate further to the story.
1. Background of Story
The prologue gives you a background check making it much more helpful for the readers to read—background of the characters, story, plot, etc., spices up the story.
For example: In a fiction story where the story is of a different world. The prologue must provide the background check of the characters since directly reading the book can create confusion for the readers.
2. Foreshadowing of Events
Foreshadowing of events means that the author hints about the future or past events as to what may come in the story. They may not be welcome every time but creates a lot of suspense if written well.
Some questions asked by the author in the prologue also hook readers with the book to find out their answers.
3. Point of View
Reading a point of view in the prologue of either the main character or any character important to the plot can help the readers understand some actions that may be difficult for the reader to realize.
4. Sets the Tone for the Story
A prologue gives away some of the critical points necessary for the reader to get engaged with the plot and get it hooked. As you end the prologue, a rough idea of the story or suspense is created in your mind, making you eager to further read or complete the book.
5. In Medias Res
In Medias Res is Latin for “into the midst of things.” This is one of the curious types of a prologue, and I prefer reading these where the author explains the effects first and then slowly dwells into the story to tell you the cause of the incident.
Some people don’t like it, while some find it exciting. This kind of scene is also used in some movies where they show the incident such as murder during the start of the film and then leads slowly to the story about what led the person to murder another.
These tend to attract the readers and keep them curious throughout the end.
When to Not Read a Prologue?
Even though I prefer reading the prologue, I do not advise everyone because everyone has a different mindset. Reading a prologue if excites some readers to complete the book, it may demotivate some to not read the book. So, let’s discuss when you can skip reading a prologue.
The prologue doesn’t fit in every book. Instead, it makes it dull if the author forcibly places it in a book. If it seems boring and you can’t get past it, you should probably skip it to chapter 1 and get to the main story.
2. Dump Information
Authors sometimes use every kind of information in a prologue. They feel it to be essential for the reader to know. If a prologue is written in essay format instead of a story, it should be skipped because all information is not required beforehand. Some things need to be kept secret and let the readers get it themselves.
3. Breaking your Pace of Reading
Some of the readers prefer reading books at a fast pace. Such as mystery novels where a reader expects a fast-paced story. Starting with a prologue may slow your pace and may even bore you to start with the book. If a book has a prologue you feel unnecessary to read, you can indeed skip it.
4. Lengthy Prologue
In some cases, writers write a lengthy prologue to engage the readers with the story, such as in the book series ‘Game of Thrones. Though it was necessary as per the context of the story. It creates a dull appearance as well as making it hard for the readers to read.
5. Non-Relatable Prologue
If a prologue feels like going away from the main story and is made for the sole purpose of engaging the readers is a wrong way to start for writers. Any prologue that seems different than the actual story is worth leaving behind and moving on to the next chapter.
How to Write a Prologue?
Before writing a prologue, you must decide if your novel really needs a prologue.
Is there something your audience must know before reading chapter 1?
If there is something, you must write it, but you must be aware that a prologue isn’t a brief summary of the story nor to tell the facts, nor for describing a scene from the story.
The prologue is a way to stop your readers to interact and get connected with the rest of the story. It should read like a story rather than an essay and include some exciting hints to make it more attractive for readers.
Now, let us get back to the original question, and let me tell you as a reader what I expect from a prologue and how you should write it.
1. Immediately Hook the Readers by Introducing Main Character
A prologue is written from the point of view of the main character or another strong character where he/she speaks and introduces other characters.
This kind of prologue is intriguing and engages the readers to involve in the story.
2. Add only Relevant & Limited Information
Think like a reader about what kind of information I should have before the book’s main story and write the prologue according to it. Adding any irrelevant information will make the reader quit reading the prologue and, in some cases, the book.
The prologue’s main task is to enhance the story and make it spicy to eager the reader to engage with the book till the end.
Also, it shouldn’t have much information more than hints to understand the story. Any excess information can make it boring for the reader to continue the book.
3. Drop Small Clues and Background Information
Add some clues for the readers to create suspense and develop the curiosity to continue chapter 1. The foreshadowing of events of past and future could well increase the interest of the reader.
Add some background information of the story and the main characters, which could spice up the prologue.
This kind of information is sufficient for a writer to avoid any tedious nature of the prologue.
4. Length of Prologue
The most important thing to keep note of is the length of a prologue. It shouldn’t exceed more than 2000 words. It is perfect for a reader to have all the information and for the writer to include everything necessary in it for the reader.
Some would suggest below 1000, while some would suggest otherwise. It can be of any length as there is no rule for a minimum or a maximum number of words to place in a prologue. But a maximum of 2000 words is appropriate for any kind of book.
5. Maintain the tone of the language
If your story is a mystery novel, you shouldn’t mix it with humor or dry language or formally; instead, it should include the same tone as the story.
The prologue should work as an enhancer to keep the reader’s interest intact as the reader dwells in the first chapter. Using different tones may create confusion about the story in the minds of the reader.
Holding an ominous tone in a horror novel and a mysterious tone in a mystery novel is very important.
These 5 steps can create a perfect prologue for a novel because many readers look for these essential points. However, many people confuse it with the introduction, yet it is quite different.
To know how the prologue differs from the introduction, let’s hop on to the list of differences between them.
Difference Between a Prologue and Introduction
|It is mainly used in Fiction novels.||It is mainly used in non-fiction novels.|
|It is informally written which means it is read like a story.||It is written formally like an essay.|
|The prologue gives us the background information, point of view or foreshadows the events.||Introduction expresses the goals and purpose of writing the book by the author.|
|It gives us a brief idea about the story.||It gives us a brief idea of whom is it for or why should we read the particular book.|
|The story starts from chapter one but the prologue helps us to understand the characters, plot, and why should we care about them.||Introduction unpacks the subject topic as a whole and then divides it in sub-sections to describe them. (Not always necessarily in the same manner.)|
|It is not always necessary in any kind of book.||The introduction is almost always necessary as it sets the expectations of the readers from the book.|
|It is usually written from the point of a character’s view.||It is written by the author mostly from their point of view.|
As a reader, I always look for a prologue in a fiction novel to have a rough idea before the story as to what kind of story can I expect from the author. It’s important for me to read as it creates my mindset according to the prologue.
The prologue of the books series, Game of Thrones” used to describe the background of the story and also foreshadowed some of the incidents and used prologues from the point of view of different characters.
It was one of the best prologues, I had ever read then which included everything in it, one could expect.
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