Prologue – Use it or lose it?

The Greatest……not really

Prologue 1

A couple of years ago I wrote the world’s greatest prologue. It was an amazing piece of art. Trust me, why would I lie? Yes, you may doubt me all you want but I knocked this baby out of the park.

All twenty pages.

My world’s greatest prologue was woven into a maze of intrigue, adventure and suspense.

In a nutshell it was freaking wonderful.


Trouble on the Horizon

Not long after I wrote this epic piece I focused my attention to my on-line writers group. There were eleven in that group and at the time I was certain their positive replies were a mere formality.

It took about a day for their feedback to trickle in and as they trickled the foundation to my world’s greatest prologue slowly chipped away.

All of them were confused. All of them said no. And in the end all of them questioned my sanity for writing such a piece.


But….it’s great….I know it is…

Convinced they all had issues….what are the odds…I took my masterpiece across town to a writer’s group looking for a new member.

Prologue 4

The group consisted of seven writers looking to add one more to their group. They had the choices narrowed down to three. It was an excellent group. Full of well-respected writers from the valley. They had a wonderful eye for detail. One was a published author and none of them, I was certain, were dealing with issues from my silly on-line group.

By the end of the evening all seven passed calling my prologue an unnecessary piece. They also passed on me.


So there I sat

The world’s greatest prologue went to bat 18 times and struck out every time. For those of you good at math one thing is certain: Numbers don’t lie.

Prologue 2

The following day the prologue was cut. I still have it and I still love it but someday it may be turned into a short story.

The entire experience led me to a question: Do prologues work?

Even though it failed I still liked what I was trying to do. My goal was to give the reader a bit of a flashback of the protagonist’s life long before the story was told.

But the reader said no and that is who we listen to.


What do we do?

Even though mine failed does that mean prologues fail? Does the reader need it?

Does it make the story better?

At first I thought a 20 piece prologue was way too long but after a looking at it a little closer 1 page would have been too much.

Some stories just don’t need it which is a bummer because they’re fun. I know, as a reader I like to be in on a few things before I dive in. Kind of like being prepped before meeting the girlfriend’s parents.

So maybe it comes down to the story or in my case it all comes down to the writing. As you can see I still haven’t figured this prologue thing out yet.

Someday I’ll get it right but when I do it’ll be because the reader and the story wants it. I’m beginning to see how closely tied those two are.

It is a mystery I’m sure I’ll never solve. How is it possible I went 0 for 18? You would have thought one would have liked it but writing groups are important and this here is the best example.

prologue 3

Lesson learned.


8 thoughts on “Prologue – Use it or lose it?

  1. I love prologs, but I’m the kind of person who also enjoys bonus material on DVDs, directors’ cuts, and the post-credits teasers in Avengers movies (seriously, the credits in “Infinity War” are almost as long as the movie itself!).

    For me, prologs set the tone and give hints that can’t be directly stated in the story. I use prologs as a way to get the reader information that the characters can’t have. And as a way to work out the story’s jitters.

    I’m sure your prolog was every ounce as genius as you think it was. Maybe it just wasn’t right for that particular story…?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was from Dempsey. Did you see it before we worked on it? If not, maybe I should have kept it in. You might have been the only one who liked it. Nuts!!!!


  3. I’m just surprised 18 people decided to be brutally honest with you. That’s rare! I’m not sure how I feel about prologues. In the context of blog posts, I try and avoid prefacing my posts with anyone because I don’t want to prime the reader for what they’re about it read. I’d rather just let my words hit them when they’re unprepared, so they’re forced to react in the moment.

    That being said, I’m sure your prologue wasn’t 0 for 18 level of bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think their honesty was the silver lining. It grounded me and made me realize that a writer doesn’t always know what works and what doesn’t. If I had simply given them chapter 1 or a short story that my current writer’s group liked things might have turned out different.

    Looking back it was a perfect learning experience.

    Thanks, Paul.

    Liked by 2 people

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