Another issue with prologues is that they usually don't start the book with the protagonist (the main good character(s) of the story). Jeff Gerke in his Tips for Writers, suggests that the first 40-50 pages be dedicated to the protagonist. Ultimately, as a writer, you want the reader to fall in love with your protagonist, or at the very least know them well enough to care what happens to them. I probably should say that I envoked his "Stop Being Teachable" tip, in which he says, "You sift through all the 'truths' about fiction writing you hear and you hang on to the ones that make sense to you."
Often in the books I read, authors use the prologue as a high intensity, set-the-stakes, mysterious opening to their story. This can have a couple issues. First, the reader gets engaged in fast-paced excitement and then the brakes are hit when the first chapter begins. This can make the necessity of description and backdrop seem boring and slow-paced. Second, many times this suspense building technique gives away mystery content that can lessen the suspense.
The final point about including important information in your prologue is that often readers don't even bother to read the prologue. If the info is important, what happens when the reader just flat out skips it?
So, if you've read my book In The Image of Man, you might be saying, "wait a minute, didn't you start with a prologue?" Or, maybe you're not, because you skipped it. :)
Despite considering the various reasons not to include a prologue, I ultimately chose to use one for one primary reason. Honesty. Image is a supernatural thriller that looks at both the physical and spiritual realms. And I wanted to strongly introduce the reader to my protagonists, Chris and Sarah, starting with Chapter One. This left me feeling that a prologue would best serve the purpose of letting the reader know exactly what they were in for, rather than popping the spiritual realm on them more than a dozen pages into the book.
What do you think, good choice or not? To help you out, especially if you haven't read Image, or skipped the prologue, I've included it below.
'Till next time.
Saturday, June 3, 1995
Mael stood in the shadow of a modern-day castle. Roses, shrubbery, and white-stone statues lined the courtyard here a fountain bubbled in the center of a dirt walkway. An absurd image of a chubby angel perched atop the fountain. Humans possessed such a weak view of the heavenly creatures. If only his angelic opposition were so inept. He stepped to the center of a manicured flowerbed and unfurled his mighty black wings. Beneath his deformed claws, raindrops pounded frail petals into the mud. A low satisfied growl echoed deep within his chest.
A presence approached. “My liege—”
Mael spun and scowled at the pathetic excuse for a demon. “Yes Leon, what is it?”
The disfigured assistant bowed to the ground. “The first has been born.”
“No my lord. The girl.”
“Pity.” Mael withdrew his electric-blue sword and etched a circle with a plus in the dirt. “I should have liked our plan to begin with a first-born Adam.”
“If it please you my liege, I will dispose of her.”
Mael swept his sword back and forth erasing the symbol. Indeed, it would please him. What would please him more would be to deprive his wretched assistant of such satisfaction.
Leon licked his lips as he stared at the decimated symbol. Drool ebbed from his snout.
Mael exhaled a long sulfurous breath. “No. We will find a use for her.”
Leon bowed and stepped back. His lip began to tremble.
“Have the princes arrived?”
“Most my liege. They await your presence.”
“Show them to the bone room.”
Leon bowed then spread his black leathery wings and arose like an eagle soaring on a mountain wind. He vanished over the edge of the building to retrieve the others.
Mael descended into the ground. Rose bushes wilted as his wings passed through, leaving only thorny stems behind. Beneath the garden, he strode through dirt and stone until he reached a concrete wall. Beyond the twelve-inch foundation of the building, the pleasing aroma of death and decay greeted him. The perfect atmosphere to discuss Lucifer’s plan.
Excerpt from In The Image of Man - Copyright © 2014 by Robert Roush