By Andrew E. Kaufman, author of Psychological Thrillers
I like prologues—actually, I love them. As a writer, I use them to set a mood or tone—a layer of emotional subtext, if you will—before the actual story begins, which I don’t feel I could have otherwise achieved.
In my upcoming release, Darkness & Shadows, the prologue is steeped in surrealism and tragedy. Patrick, my protagonist, is having an imaginary conversation with the only woman he's ever loved as she burns to death inside a building. The fire and death have actually happened, but the prologue is a product of his subconscious desire to find answers he can’t find in the tangible world. I felt there was no better way to portray this than through the use of a prologue. Sure, I could have allowed his internal dialogue throughout the book to convey his thoughts and feelings—and to a large
My last book, The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted, didn’t have a prologue. As much as I love them, and as much as I wanted to have one, I found it just didn’t work for the story, so I left it out. I’ve often read books with prologues and found myself wondering why the authors bothered, because they didn’t add anything to the story that wasn’t already there. They made the mistake of slapping the word “Prologue” across the top of the page for what is essentially just a first chapter.
Some people, authors and writers alike, don’t like prologues. I’ve even heard a few say they dislike them so much that they won’t even read them and often skip to the first chapter of a book. So as an author, for all the reasons above, and probably many more, it’s an important decision whether to include one, and even more, how to write it. I know that if not done right, it can make or break the rest of my book. I can’t control whether my readers will look at it, but I can make sure it’s as relevant and effective as possible just in case they do.
What’s your take on prologues? Do you like writing them? Do you like reading them?