Why Prologues Should Be Banished

Look, I know most readers can probably think of a famous author who has used a prologue. But until you have mastered the rules, you aren't allowed to break them. So novice writers, here's the reasons you shouldn't write a prologue:

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1. Backstory Dumping: You can't dump backstory in your manuscript so some writers get the idea that it's acceptable to do it in a prologue. It isn't. Editors will nail you for it. Publishers won't be impressed. Please, please, please don't have a prologue fifty years in the past, and then never allude to it until Act Three and then expect readers to be surprised / impressed. It won't work.

2. Inciting Incident Confusion: I used to judge writing contests and I've been critiquing work for many years. The sure way to tell someone you're a novice is to misplace or incorrectly identify your inciting incident. A prologue will do this. Usually, the catalyst for the story is mixed somewhere in the prologue when it should be in Act One. And when the prologue is misplaced, the action, tension, character development all stumble to line up before Act Two. It isn't pretty.

3. It's Lazy. Seriously. I know I'm being harsher in this post than others, but I have very strong feelings about this topic as someone who has been subjected to reading them for so long. A prologue just says, "I couldn't figure out how to incorporate this into the body of the manuscript so here you go!"

4. Readers Skip Them. And if they think the information can be skipped (and honestly, most of the time it can be) then it isn't worth including. Most people see a prologue and think, "Ugh...why do I have to read it?" After all, if it wasn't important enough to include in the bulk of the book, who cares?

5. Black Moment Issues. If the prologue isn't dumping background, confusing the inciting incident or putting readers to sleep, then it's revealing the protagonist's black moment. And who doesn't love to know the protagonists deep dark secret before even officially meeting him or her? I mean, it's not like that secret is the driving force of the character, the reason that character is partaking on his journey. So what if the reveal would have been super dramatic if it were placed in the end of Act Two or beginning of Act Three, where it should be placed. Let's go ahead and spoil all the fun before we officially get started.

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Okay, you get my point.

I've argued with so many writers over this point, but please...do your readers a favor and get to the story as fast as possible. No prologues!!

Nico BellComment