A Prologue Monologue

Last month, I started a few books back to back that had prologues, and it got me thinking about them enough to want to write a blog post. Which, of course, I put off for weeks, but hey we made it.

If you look at my sidebar, it shows all the books I’m Currently Reading, and, yes, I really AM reading that many books. What I do is I switch between books; if I get bored with one, I move on to the next, returning when I’ve finished a journey through my current stack to hope for improvement. The thing I noticed was that, pretty often, if there’s a prologue, it doesn’t make me want to keep going with that book; I tend to put it down and move on to my next one.

There are a few different types of prologues that I see pretty commonly in the genres and age classifications that I read. I’ve given them cutesy names, because that’s how I roll.

  • The Back in the Day Prologue: This one is pretty common, and it’s my favorite kind of prologue. In this case, the prologue is generally a full-length chapter, and it’s about the main character a period of time before the book begins, but contains crucial scenes for understanding that character later on. Sometimes these aren’t even set off in prologues, but I like it, because it’s weird when the MC is 7 or 12 or whatever in chapter one and then 19 in chapter 2. They generally get you started with the voice, and you know exactly what’s happening. Sometimes it’s not that far back, but you get a chapter of what their lives were like before something major changed.
  • The Mysterious Prologue: In this instance, sometimes it’s a full-length prologue but sometimes it’s pretty brief. This happens a lot in certain genres like paranormal or mystery. These tend to follow a set of characters peripherally related to the story. They might be set hundreds of years before the actual book takes place. Likely, you will have a long wait until you understand what was happening in this prologue.
  • The Twilight Prologue, or, the Cheap Hook: I’m not sure if I’ve actually seen this one outside of YA, and I kind of can’t believe people are still using it. Made famous (at least to me) by Stephenie Meyer, this type of prologue is almost always incredibly short. It’s basically a snippet of a later, exciting scene from the novel to try to get the reader curious about what’s going to happen. In the Twilight series, that’s generally a vampire chasing Bella. The prologue promises the reader that intense shit is coming, hoping they will wait through the non-intense beginning. It’s sort of like how a movie trailer shows you all the ‘splosions, only you already picked up the book, so you’re not sure why you’re getting a trailer.

If you can come up with any other kinds of prologues, please share! I am in no way an expert, other than that I have read a LOT of books.

In my reading, I’ve realized that I tend to switch books after all but the Back in the Day kind of prologue. The other two are often confusing, because you lack context. That’s not something that makes me want to keep reading. The Mysterious ones are often very necessary to the story, but I just know I’m not going to learn what the eff that was about until at least the halfway mark, and it totally undermines my motivation.

The Twilight-style prologues really try my patience. They feel so unnecessary to me. I remember being puzzled by them in Twilight, and I’m still puzzled today. To me, they feel like a warning that the beginning of the book is going to be slow and without action. It also just feels so lazy. I want to be hooked by the actual start of the book, not a random scene plucked out of the end like amateurish foreshadowing.

That’s basically all I’ve got. I’ve noticed that I don’t always react well to most prologues, and I’m curious how other readers feel about them. Authors, too, if you want to weigh in! In my own writing so far, I do have a couple prologues, but they’re the first type, introducing the characters a bit younger.

How do you guys feel about prologues? Let me know in the comments!

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