prologue: [proh-lawg, -log], noun, verb. A preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel. An introductory scene, preceding the first act of a play, opera, etc.
So you may ask yourself why I am starting today’s post with a definition, or you may have guessed that today I’m in the mood to talk about prologues. The reason for this mood is the fact that the prologue to April’s novel, almost finished, is longer than any of the chapters in March’s novel…probably longer than a couple of them combined. Which got me thinking, as usual, about the arbitrary distinctions in breaking up a book into different parts, chapters, sections, acts, what have you. Sometimes, I think way too often on it. Sometimes, I want to do away with chapters all together; other times, I used them as devices to distinguish when we’re in one person’s head and when we’re in another. They’re nice for the reader to have if they want a nice clean spot to stop reading for a while, and they can also signify shifts in tone, events, or character.
And then there are things like prologues and epilogues. Usually, I don’t get far enough in something to consider an epilogue and, if I do, it’s usually to give either a final note of closure, or set things up for the following book in a series. The prologue, meanwhile, I usually use as a way to set the book up. I try to make them brief; a little spurt of action to get things going and, of course, something that happened before the main events of the book but are still key to what is going on in the main events of the book. Usually, it’s about three or four pages. After that, part of me wonders why I don’t just make it a chapter. But this one is on page twelve (granted, page twelve in the smaller notebooks I use) and part of me is wondering if it should just be another chapter, but, for the most part, I feel it has to be a prologue.
It takes place nearly fifteen years before everything else in the book; it would stick out as a chapter and not fit the tone of the others. I’m reassured by dictionary.com telling me “The ancient Greek prologos was of wider significance than the modern prologue, effectually taking the place of an explanatory first act. A character, often a deity, appeared on the empty stage to explain events prior to the action of the drama, which consisted mainly of a catastrophe,” which is exactly fitting for what occurs in the prologue of the current book. So I will continue to keep it as such, though I’ll probably consistently be concerned with it being so lengthy.
When all is said and done, though, a book will be written as it will be written, chapters, prologue, page breaks and character POVs and what have you. But it does make me wonder what the general consensus is on using prologues. Do you like including them? Do you find them unnecessary? Are you one of those readers (I’ve met a few!) who actually will skip the prologue, considering them not part of the main story? I probably spend way too much time thinking on this sort of thing, really.