The famous prologue. Some love it. Others hate it. So, should you use it? Depends. Does your story really need a prologue or could you jump right into chapter one?
The problem is that many writers don’t understand when to use a prologue or how to properly execute this controversial beginning. A prologue must stand apart from the rest of your story since using it creates a double beginning for your novel. The prologue needs a hook and must raise a question. Without those two elements, a reader won’t appreciate the necessity of those extra pages.
Often, a prologue will show the future or past life of the protagonist. Translation, some time must pass between this beginning and chapter one. The prologue could reveal events that will have a weighty effect on the story, and sometimes it’s told in a different POV, like that of the killer or his victim. Because this isn’t the true beginning of the story, it’s important to keep it short. No more than ten pages, but preferably closer to five. Plus, tension must be throughout the entire piece. This is not a place for a backstory dump.
The biggest thing to take away from all this? Make us scratch our heads. We need to question actions, events or characters we’ve just seen and wonder how that information pertains to the story. If we don’t care, the prologue isn’t needed or hasn’t been written properly.
Do you have a prologue in your story? Does it have to be there? What would happen if you removed it? Have you read prologues in best selling novels that you liked or hated? Why did you feel that way?