The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues by Kristen Lamb

If you’ve read my Wind Rider Chronicles series, you know I’m guilty of prologues. Hopefully I am using them well, and not committing any of the deadly sins mentioned in this article.  How about you? Are you generally for or against them? Do you always read the prologue, or do you skip right past it?


We writers have a vast array of tools at our disposal to craft stories readers will love. But like any tool, it helps if we know how to use it properly. Theme is wonderful. It can keep us plunging a story’s depths for years when used correctly. Applied incorrectly? It just makes a story annoying and preachy.

Description! Love me some description! But pile on too much and we can render a story unreadable.

The same can be said of prologues. Now, before we get into this, I want to make it clear that certain genres lend themselves to prologues. But even then, we are wise to make sure the prologue is serving the story.

So, to prologue or not to prologue? That is the question.

The problem with the prologue is it has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, especially with agents. They generally hate them. Why? In my opinion, it is because far too many writers don’t use prologues properly and that, in itself, has created its own problem.

Because of the steady misuse of prologues, many readers skip them. Thus, the question of whether or not the prologue is even considered the beginning of your novel can become a gray area if the reader just thumbs pages until she sees Chapter One.

So without further ado…

The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues—What Doesn’t Work and What Does

 

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4 thoughts on “The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues by Kristen Lamb

  1. Renee says:

    To be honest, I try not to think about it too much. If I add a prologue, I decide when the story is complete if I want to keep it. If the story works better without it, I remove it, but if it needs to be there, it stays. I use the prologue in my Shadow Stalker serial differently though. They’re written in 3rd person (the rest of each episode is written is 1st person for those who haven’t read it) from a different character’s POV. I’ve been doing this as a way to show what’s going on with the other characters during the course of the story.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. John T. M. Herres says:

    Like Renee, I don’t really think about them, either.
    However, I have a different style of writing than most suggest. I don’t outline, sketch or plan. I begin writing whatever comes out. As I am still unpublished, it remains to be seen if it’s an acceptable process. I won’t know for sure unless readers tell me it doesn’t work.
    The first piece of my stories, I consider Chapter One, but on occasion it’s more an Introduction than a prologue. I don’t consider those two things the same, but other people might. “Introduction” just sounds a better heading than “Prologue” to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. V.M.Sang says:

    John, I too write ‘as it comes out’, then I go back and revise and rewrite. My ‘Wolves of Vimar’ books have prologues. Perhaps I shouldn’t have done it for Books 2 and 3, but as I had one in Book 1, I felt it necessary to add one to these for consistency.
    My book that is currently with the editor, Elemental Worlds, has no prologue, although I could have had one to explain how the son of a farmer became best friends with the Crown Prince. However, that did come out in the main part of the book.
    When reading, I don’t skip the prologue. I think the author put it there for a reason, so I read it. (Then again, I read the acknowledgements, and long lists of ‘thanks to…’ as well.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. weavingword says:

    I’m a hopeless planner in terms of plot, but all the lovely nuances just come out once I start the actual writing. Not everything can be plotted. 🙂 My prologues give my narrator (who is actually a character, yet to be revealed) a voice of his/her own for a brief time, For the rest of the story, the narrator’s voice fades into the background as it should so that you can live out the story in the moment, through the eyes of the main characters. The prologues also set the stage for each book, and help give some continuity to the series as a whole. At least that’s my intent. I hope I’m pulling this off successfully, but only my readers can tell me that.

    Like

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