How to Write a Prologue (and whether or not you should)

To prologue or not to prologue?

Either you’ve asked this question before, or you’re wondering why I’m asking it now.

I was part of the latter group until about a year ago--I had no idea a debate on this topic even existed.

Boy does it ever, and boy is it a big one.

Largely, there’s two types of readers: those who read every page of a novel, and those who skip to the meat of story on Chapter 1.

I’ll admit, I’m part of the group that reads every page of a novel. It’s been difficult for me to understand why someone wouldn’t read a prologue because, to me, it’s part of the story. I also always read the acknowledgements because I’m weird like that...

But there’s a large population of people who skip the prologue completely (and sometimes the epilogue if there’s one at the end of the novel). While I’m not part of this group, I understand everyone has their own reading preferences.

While not everyone will read this bonus chapter at the beginning of a book, a prologue serves as a sneak-peak to the drama that awaits the reader. It doubles a palate cleanser before the five-course meal.

But does your novel need a prologue? Often, the answer is no (there are some who believe NO novel needs a prologue, but I’m not so extreme).

I think the better question to ask is “Would your novel benefit from a prologue?”

This depends on a lot of things.