Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Prologues: DO YOU NEED THEM?

Definition of PROLOGUE
1: the preface or introduction to a literary work 

prologue (Greek πρόλογος prologos, from the word pro (before) and lógos, word) is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information. T

What writer's Digest says: March 11, 2008

Q: When should a prologue be used? Is there a difference between prologues for fiction and nonfiction?

A: A prologue is used when material that you want to include in the opening is out of time sequence with the rest of the story. 

For example, let’s say you’re writing a book about a woman getting married. While your story focuses on the year leading up to the big day, there’s a funny anecdote from her childhood about her idea of the perfect wedding that foreshadows the actual event. Because this section is seen from her perspective as a child, it’s out of sequence with the rest of the book—which is shown from an adult’s perspective—and might work better as a prologue.

You can use a prologue in fiction and nonfiction, but it’s used only to explain key information that doesn’t follow the time flow of the rest of your book. So if your “prologue” doesn’t fit this criterion, either cut it or change it to Chapter 1.

What I say:

When you are querying for your novel, don't use a prologue. After reading hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of query letters, I have learned to skip them. I go right to the first chapter. 

Newbie writers who include a prologue typically seem to do two things:
  • the prologue sounds completely different than the actual work : meaning the voice is not the same
  • the prologue goes on and on and on and on, and does not really give key information out of sequence

When either of these happen I assume that my agent has rejected the work, and when I check, I am correct. 

**Remember I am interning, and learning how to be a literary agent, so I have some insider insight.**

I agree with writer's digest: If your prologue does not fit what a prologue really is supposed to be, cut it. 

If you are at all questioning your prologue, cut it. Especially when you are querying, because time is the issue here. You want a potential agent to read as much of your manuscript as possible. If your prologue is in a different voice, or lacks the info it's supposed to have, she/he may not even scroll down to the first chapter. 

Leave your prologues for publication. By then, you probably won't even need one anyway after all the revising you will be doing once you land an agent. 

Good Luck.
And as always,


  1. Great post Angie! I agree with you. Personally, I found prologues (in my writing) ended up being backstory and not needed once I finished the first draft.

    The only thing I would add is I like writing a prologue but never using it. I end up taking bits of it and sprinkling it into the story as it unfolds.

    But, heck, I'm still learning!

    I am a loyal fan of your blog!!!