"How good was the beginning of the book?" I asked my boyfriend. Recently we both started reading A Game of Thrones together. We love the HBO series and figured it would be fun to read simultaneously You know, a couple thing. So I asked how he liked the beginning.
He answered by talking about chapter one and how he liked it was from so-and-so's point of view. I paused thinking back to the beginning remembering the prologue. I asked, "What about the prologue? Did you like that part?" Now, this book's prologue is pretty long. It's the length of a chapter so it's hard to miss. He proceeded to tell me how he skipped it.
I cringed because I have a prologue on my book. I love my prologue! I would hate for someone like Chris to just skip over it. It adds a little something to the book. It sets the scene and lets you know what is to come in the story. So my question is...
Who really reads a prologue?
Here's the thing. People think the prologue has nothing to do with the story so they skip it. They find it unnecessary and want to dive right into the book. PATIENCE PEOPLE! When and if a prologue is done right, you shouldn't want to skip it.
I found a page that explains prologues very well. There are three questions that someone should ask themselves if they're writing or contemplating using a prologue.
ONE- Can I call it chapter one and work? If the answer is yes then just do it. If it can flow by being called chapter one then just do it. You don't want to risk someone skipping it so make them think it's chapter one. That's a great way to still have the ideas from your prologue but in the story making sure it's read.
TWO- Does the reader need background before the story? If yes, use a prologue. I can't stand it when chapter one starts with a major info dump. We don't care what color the grass is and that their house is brown. We don't care if five years ago her sister left. Well we might but if it doesn't necessarily have to do with the story maybe a prologue is a better way to give the reader the information. I swear an info dump in chapter one turns me off from the book and may make me not read it.
THREE- Is the prologue just there to hook the reader? If yes, ditch it. Why would you want to hook the reader in a prologue and then hook them again in chapter one. That makes no sense at all. Just hook them once and keep them! It's much easier to hook with the actual story then some crazy event that has nothing to do with the present day book.
How do you make someone not skip it?
If you're revealing something from the past, do it well. Make it something that the reader needs to know. Relate it to the characters. Make it stand out.
DO NOT INFO DUMP. Not sure how many ways I have to say this but I will for sure skip the prologue and possible the whole book if it's all info dump. Gradually get the reader the information through dialogue or reflection.
If you're setting the stage or feel for the rest of the book, it better be good. If you are writing a paranormal but the aspects are introduced until late in the book, show it in the prologue. Give us a hint what the book is going to be about.
WARNING: The word, prologue on the page may be enough to turn someone off. Just seeing the word makes people skip the pages. There's really nothing you can do for those readers. The best thing to do with a prologue is- make sure you need it, scrap it or make it damn memorable.