Posted by: anitanolan | November 9, 2009


A prologue can be used, but carefully.  A lot of editors and agents say they don’t like a prologue, but I think it’s because they see poor or unnecessary ones so frequently.  There are a number of examples of popular books containing prologues.

Prologues should be relatively short, no more than a few pages.  The Book Thief’s is only a few words.

There are a few reasons to consider using a prologue.  An example follows each.

  • Show how desperate the character is that something not happen. Wringer, Jerry Spinelli
  • Show the reader  what a character is about to lose.  Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Give historical context.  Ophelia, Lisa Klein (in this case, in the form of a letter)
  • Set tone of the story.  The Winter Room, Gary Paulson
  • Introduce the story problem. Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr
  • Demonstrates the book’s voice. The Book Thief.  Marcus Zusak
  • Hook the reader.  Twilight, Stephenie Meyer.
  • Lets the reader know what the story is about and who the main character is.  This might be used if the first chapter doesn’t contain the main character or the main conflict of the story.   A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly also The Missing: Book 1  Found, Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • A prologue  can frame a story (when used with an epilogue.)  Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli

So, if you’re considering a prologue, decide why you think one is needed.   If it’s an easy way to dump backstory, stifle it.


  1. Short and sweet and perfect for me!

    • Glad it helped, Mimi!

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