Prologues

When I was a kid I usually skipped reading the prologue and dove right into the first chapter. I thought prologues were a waste of time. As an adult I rarely read a prologue that works the way it should. A prologue should contain information that happened BEFORE the story starts (pro meaning before). And the information should be critical to understanding the story. But too often writers use the prologue to show part of a later scene that has a lot of action in it. When the writer does that he is saying my beginning is too weak to capture your interest so I’m showing you there is some good action coming up and you should stick with my story until you get to that part. The sad thing is they are usually right. Their beginning is weak. Often it’s because they started their story too soon. A prologue is not the way to fix it. You need to figure out where your story starts and make it compelling. Look for the point where inciting incident happens. What changes in your main character’s life? What happens to force them to take action? You may not find it until chapter three or even later. Look for it and start your story there. (If you can’t locate an inciting incidence then you’ve got more problems than just a weak beginning.) Use action and dialogue as a way to draw the reader into your first chatper. Make your main character dimensional right away to create reader empathy. We have to care about them if we’re going to be engaged in the story. If you make your beginning strong you won’t feel the need to tack on a prologue that’s basically a cheat. Only use a prologue the right way—to show necessary information that happened before the story starts. That way it will enhance the story. A simple test is to ask yourself if  you are using it to show a scene that happens after the story starts. If you are, then you aren’t using a prologue correctly. If you still aren’t sure if you’ve used it correctly then just avoid it and start with chapter one. Kids are probably going to skip reading it anyway.

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