It was a dark and stormy night… but where do you put this opening line? in the prologue? Do you want to start at Chapter 1?
Recently, I came across a debate on social media regarding the merits of including a prologue in a work of fiction. The general consensus is: “don’t use it”. Apparently, if you can say it in the story, or throughout the story, it’s best not to include a prologue.
Here’s my take on this: “best” according to who? Again, we must remember that writing is a creative endeavor, giving the Author the freedom to write as they choose; sans rules.
I do sometimes use prologues, and epilogues as well. My prologues usually have a bit of foreshadowing in them and I like the way they “set the mood” for the reader, just as a candle-light dinner sets the mood for the rest of one’s evening. Why don’t I just call it Chapter 1? It’s because the action doesn’t take place until the “real” Chapter 1, and the Prologue is more like a preview with a few hints thrown in for good measure: like a literary treasure hunt is about to begin. Also, there are many factors to consider. I’ll use my newest release as an example: It is book 4 to what was supposed to end as a trilogy. Rather than have the protagonist repeat events that happened in books 1, 2 and 3, throughout the entire book, I summed everything up in the prologue and, yes, threw in some foreshadowing to grab the reader’s attention. Because of this, even though the book is part of a series, it reads as a stand-alone novel.
Epilogues are what tie everything together and if the scene is set into the future, then it works nicely titled that way, as opposed to being titled “Chapter 43”.
The other thing to consider is, just as no two snowflakes are the same, no two writers are the same. The way one writer pens his or her prologue, may be vastly different than their fellow Author. The lesson here is, don’t judge anything until you’ve actually read it. Besides, what we are talking about is a simple chapter heading. As long as you allow the reader to start reading at page 1, does it really matter how you label the start of the story?
If you’re a reader, consider the prologue an invitation, if you will, into the world you are about to enter. I don’t recommend skipping the prologue, nor the epilogue, because if you do, you may miss an integral part of something you just invested in, emotionally and time-wise.
Again, the number one rule of writing is, “there are no rules”. Therefore, don’t allow snippets of conversation on social media, or otherwise, to dissuade you from doing what feels right to you.
It’s your story, after all, and we are merely the readers. Reel us in… whichever way you choose.
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Barbara Avon is a multi-genre Author. She has written since she was young, pursuing her dreams and vowing to write for as long as she can. She has worked at several different media publications and will continue to publish novels until “her pen runs dry”. In 2018 she won FACES Magazine’s “Best of Ottawa” award for female Author and Spillwords “Author of the Month”. She believes in paying it forward and you can read about this belief as the theme is given voice in most of her books. Avon lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, Danny, their tarantula, Betsy, and their houseplant, Romeo.