I write and read fantasy but not exclusively. I love thrillers and mysteries and will delve into a good romance now and then. But the first section of the book store I head to is always the fantasy/science fiction shelves. Like many of you, I usually open the book and read a few pages before I buy it especially if it’s an author new to me. In a fantasy novel I’m very likely to encounter the controversial prologue.
A prologue is usually like a preliminary act to a play. It can be a teaser, a foreshadowing or even a historical event that sets the stage for the main action. It tantalizes with tidbits of mystery and is often set in a different time or place. The characters might be different from the main characters in the novel or perhaps be from another period in their lives.
Speak to an editor or an agent and they will likely show their disdain at the hated pages many authors use at the beginning of their novels. Some will call it lazy writing, wasting pages to explain things better sprinkled throughout the novel.
I like prologues and they will often sell me a book. But back to the attitude of agents and editors. Should you use a prologue and if you do how long should it be?
Mine are usually five to seven pages long though they can be as short as one page and still grab the reader’s interest. But should there be one at all? Ask some questions of yourself. Could the prologue actually be the first chapter? Does it enhance the story or would the information in it be better incorporated elsewhere in the novel?
I’m interested in the feelings of readers and authors on the much debated topic. Do you like them or hate them as a reader? Do you use them as an author? Have you been asked the cut them by an editor?