Fact: Prologues in fiction should be avoided.
This may be unpopular advice but there are reasons why agents and editors alike refrain from keeping prologues once they begin working on material.
- Prologues are often backstory and backstory can be added anywhere.
- They can be distracting when the reader doesn’t know the characters yet and so the reader may skip it entirely.
- Prologues often show that the writer doesn’t know where to start the story.
- If the material in the prologue is important, why isn’t it in the body of the work?
- The prologue may turn readers off from the novel before it even gets moving, so why put yourself at a disadvantage?
You might wave your most-loved book or WIP at me and say, it worked for so-and-so therefore it can work for me too! Alas, this is very rare. It’s a subtle strategy that needs to be reworked countless times, not a writing tool that can be tacked on for clarity. Are you the rule or are you the exception?
Tip: Use an epigraph instead! If you are trying to set up themes or a frame of mind when readers enter the novel an epigraph is a great succinct way of getting this information across.
Agent Kristen Nelson discussed prologues on her blog PubRants.