How to Use Prologues, Part 3, Prologue Dos and Don’ts

open book with sketch of 3D pirate and treasure on the left and a sailing ship on the right.
Image courtesy of Tumisu via Pixabay

Hi SErs! It’s a day of Harmony here at Story Empire 🙂 Today, I’d like to talk about prologue dos and don’ts. Here’s a link to the previous post on What A Prologue Is and Isn’t

One of the reasons prologues have fallen into ill repute in recent times is because far too many authors make a mess of them. They use prologues as a crutch for a weak story beginning or to dump backstory and/or information, which tells rather than shows. In short, such authors do not know how to use a prologue.

Prologue Dos:

  1. Use a prologue to cover a time gap in your narrative … either in the past or in the present
  2. Use a prologue to cover a vital element of backstory that needs to come before your main narrative opens
  3. Use a prologue to show a key event, either from the past or present, that is significant to the narrative
  4. Use a prologue to provide any necessary context for the rest of your narrative
  5. Use a prologue to insert clues
  6. Use a prologue to introduce an outsider’s report, which will show events from an alternative point of view
  7. Keep your prologue short and to the point
  8. Make your prologue gripping and leave your reader with questions

Prologue Don’ts:

  1. Don’t use a prologue as a vehicle for a massive information dump
  2. Don’t use a prologue that has nothing to do with your main story
  3. Don’t use a prologue with the sole purpose of hooking your reader. It isn’t there to prop up a poor first chapter or three
  4. Don’t write the prologue in a completely different style and/or voice than your main story
  5. Don’t write a whole novella as your prologue
  6. Don’t dump a whole backstory or build a whole world in your prologue. There’s room for that to get folded into your narrative as you go
  7. Don’t write a boring prologue … I mean, what would be the point?

TOP TIP: When you write a good prologue, and have a valid reason for using one, it will enhance your story rather than detract from it.

Remember: There are NO hard-and-fast rules. You can do anything you want, as long as you do it well and with good reason.

That’s it from me today. I hope you’ll find this series of posts useful. I’ll see you again on Friday 17th June, when we’ll take a look at Does Your Book Need a Prologue? 🙂

Bio Box for Harmony Kent that links to her website

The prologue series so far:

Part One, Prologues Overview

Part Two, What a Prologue Is and Isn’t

©2022 Harmony Kent

57 thoughts on “How to Use Prologues, Part 3, Prologue Dos and Don’ts

  1. Pingback: How to Use Prologues, Part 6, Spoilers Ahoy | Story Empire

  2. Pingback: How to Use Prologues, Part 5, Backstory Delivery | Story Empire

  3. Pingback: How to Use Prologues, Part 4, Does Your Story Need a Prologue? | Story Empire

  4. Okay, I feel better about my prologue now! As a writer, I am always questioning my own abilities and when I read something like this and I go, “oh, apparently I’m doing something right!” It’s a good feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent post on prologues, Harmony. Your “dos and don’ts” cover it well. A good prologue sets a tone and captures the reader. I don’t bother with the story if I’m not hooked by the prologue. Your #7 of the “don’ts” is right on! (BTW, I love your sense of humor!) 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great list of Dos and Don’ts, Harmony. (I loved Don’t #7 Lol.) It’s amazing to me that some authors think prologs are a waste, and worse yet, skip them when they read. If done well, they’re important elements of the story. Your post is a great example of why prologs have been a staple of writing for centuries. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent writing tips, Harmony. I have read books that have both good and bad prologues. Most of the time, unless I am dedicated to that author, I won’t continue with the book after a bad prologue. Mainly what I’ve seen that causes me to want to put the book down, is a big telling info dump. Great posts!! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love a good prologue, but I’ve also encountered a few that made me waffle on whether to continue reading. One thing I do NOT like is a lengthy prologue. It feels like waiting for the story to get started.
    Great list of do’s and dont’s, Harmony!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Since I read the first of these posts, I’ve added a prologue to my WIP. It was the perfect answer for showing a character who is important to the story but will not be given a POV at any other point. Thank you, Harmony. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love Jaye and Anita taking this excellent good writing sense into life in general. Like Joan, I always read a prologue but it can stop me reading further if it isn’t done well. Good, clear information, Harmony – many thanks! xx

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Pingback: How to Use Prologues, Part 3, Prologue Dos and Don’ts | Legends of Windemere

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