|Photo by Guenter M. Kirchweger, |
available at sxc.hu
Why are new writers told not to write prologues?
"This is irrelevant, but I'm going to tell you anyway." That's how prologues tend to come across. That's what a lot of them end up being. Because, honestly, if it was relevant to the story then it would be where the story began. If it wasn't a good place to start the story, it could be a flashback scene later on.
The "I'm going to tell you anyway" aspect makes a lot of prologues into an info-dump of sorts, and we've all read about the dangers of starting your story with an info-dump, yes?
But it's got lots of action and dialogue -- yes, but is it immediately relevant to the story? Does it introduce the reader to the main character? Maybe the reader does need to know that your character's older brother died tragically. But they don't know this is the character's older brother, yet; when they're reading the prologue, the older brother is the main character. And then he dies tragically. Now you want them to care about the main character and you promise you won't kill them too? (Are you GRRM?)
Why do people keep doing it?
Let's admit it: there are a lot of prologues out there. In published books. By good writers. Why do they get away with it when I can't?
Partly because they've proven that they know what they're doing, and I haven't. But he can't write his way out of a paper bag. No, it's not fair. I'm trying to rise above the dross of a vast, self-published market, so I have to hold myself to high standards.
Partly because it's hard to shake the feeling that this is important to the story, but it doesn't quite fit anywhere. It's some bit of character development, or world-building, or setting the tone of the story. It happened before the main event. Whatever the reasons are, the compulsion was there. Your gut demanded it, and as I've said -- trust your gut.
Do people read them?
I usually do, I'll admit, though I mildly resent them. Some readers skip them.
So why did I do it?
Well, it is Part IV. It's not actually the beginning of Disciple -- we're a good 165k in by now. And the prologue ended up being larger than most chapters -- it would have been awkward to drop such a large chunk of flashback into the story later on. I did introduce a character I wanted the reader to care about, and I introduced something that will be increasingly important later on.
But this is all rationalizing. Why did you commit the sin of prologue?