How important to you as an author to have a prologue in your book? Do you feel you need to have one or not?
I have written one book with one and one without one. I decided in my third book not to have one. I am also an avid reader and sometimes I skip pages that have the prologue in it.
If I feel the prologue is two long like three pages then I feel like they might give the away the book. It shouldn't take two pages to hook your readers.
Pardon my french, but dammit, I like prologues! Wrote a post (not a rant but almost) defending them on my blog (under "Astral Musings" - the main blog is a review blog)
Can you imagine The Fellowship of the Ring without Concerning Hobbits? Or Girl with the Dragon Tattoo without the framed-flower teaser?
You know, on further consideration, I think it's worth noting that there's nothing really limiting or definitive about the word "prologue." It's just a label that a writer can choose to slap on the opening section of a book. Or not. I've seen a number of different sorts of "prologue."
Although I guess the assumption the word "prologue" sets up in the reader's mind is that this is something that it would not be appropriate to simply label regular old "Chapter One." And that's because something differentiates it from the main body of the story. Maybe it describes events that happened earlier in time or in which the protagonist did not participate. Anyway, whatever you put in it, I stick by my previous assertion that you lead with it if it provides a strong hook for the book as a whole and omit it if it does not.
With all respect to Prof. Tolkien, I think the kind of prologue that's almost always dreadful is the one that consists of a big old info dump. Here's everything the reader needs to know about the background because the author doesn't have the skill or the patience to work it into the narrative bit by bit as needed once the plot gets rolling. Those are almost always deadly.
I lke them.
I write too and in every Adult/Mature Fiction book that I have written so far, I have included a prologue. My latest YA fiction book doesn't because I didn't feel the story needed one. It just depends on the story you have to tell.
Coming at this from the perspective of a book reviewer, I feel like whether you like them or not, you really have to read them. Prologues aren't all the same -- some of them are basically chapter 1, and if you skip them, you're not going to know what's going on in the rest of the book. So how can you review it? I do think it's very fair to say, in your review, whether or not a regular reader can/should skip the prologue, but if you're going to give a book an honest review, you ought to start at the beginning.
I have a first chapter of one of my novel that I am currently considering turning the first chapter into a prologue. The information is about the events surrounding the birth of the main character, which is part of the mystery of the entire book. Who are her parents. So I am thinking about changing it to a prologue.
I too have skipped prologues that I don't feel are necessary, and this is the only book I have written that has a prologue. All my others do not.
Thanks for the feed back. I love all the comments about this question.
I like reading prologues. Especially in a mystery or horror novel but I don't like if they are too long or tell too much about the story. A good prologue can get me instantly hooked to the story.
I actually like Prologues because they give me the backstory all in one neat little place. I like knowing a bit of the history before diving into the present.
Thanks for the feed back!