OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
In writing my first novel, I am struggling with the prologue, so thought many others would find this information useful as well.
What is a prologue?
From Robert McKee, author of ‘Story' : A prologue is a single event or sequence of events that has no direct cause or connection with the story. It could basically be cut out and the novel would not suffer. It is a closed section and stands alone. It can be set up or sub plot and can add to the quality of the story.
How do you use a prologue?
- To set a mood or tone for the book, or to hook interest. This is used by many thriller writers, like James Rollins in order to pull you into the novel.
- To establish a unique setting or to dramatise exposition before the story really gets going
- To introduce an element that you wrap up in the epilogue, in order to bracket the main body of the text
- To recap events if the book is a series and the reader needs a reminder of events prior
Why am I considering a prologue?
James Rollins is one of my favourite thriller writers and he often uses a prologue to introduce the horrible evil/event that will be central to the novel. It might be set centuries ago, or only a few years but it always draws me into the story and makes me keen to find out how it relates to the present day where the action is set.
My novel is a religious thriller set in the present day, but the artefacts at the centre of the book come from Pentecost, when the 12 apostles of Jesus were given the gifts of speaking in different languages, healing and powerful communication. The book is not a Christian book per se but uses the story from Acts 2:1-12 as a basis. I am thinking of using the Pentecost event as my prologue, rewritten in a way that emphasises what I will use in the main body of the story.
My concerns are that this will brand the book as only for a Christian audience (which it is not), or that people will be offended because I am rewriting the Pentecost story. It is just a prologue, aimed at dramatising exposition that I would have to explain in the main body of the text otherwise.
What do you think? To prologue or not to prologue?
Image: Flickr CC Markus Rodder