Earlier this year, prologues were the topic of conversation amidst one of my writing groups. I thought the topic particularly interesting because my book, Out of the Sea, begins with a prologue. I thought I would share with you my thoughts on prologues, developed both as a writer and a reader:
1. Prologues can take place at any time.
2. Prologues longer than ~1,000 words often seem excessive.
3. A successful prologue is one or two scenes, tops. Any more than that, and it’s giving away too much, too soon.
4. Prologues are designed to give your reader necessary background information, or to bait your reader into diving into the first chapter. If your prologue doesn’t accomplish either or both of these goals, it’s not yet finished.
5. Finally, ask others to read your prologue. Share it with as many people as you care to know their opinions and ask for honest feedback. Share it with a varied group. Ask them if anything seems unclear, too draggy, uninteresting, or if they don’t feel compelled to read more of the story. This will allow you to not only improve your prologue, but also to have a base of readers who will want to read your book.
A few weeks ago I posted my prologue up on my blog. Feel free to take a peek if you missed it the first time around. This prologue is the result of several rounds of drafts and critiques.