Prologues; or beginning before the beginning



So, I’ve started writing again, and I’ve started blogging again. I stopped doing both back at the start of the year, and I’m not entirely sure why. I think that ultimately I was a bit frustrated – I was doing a lot of typing, a lot of short fiction, but almost no work on my novel ideas (which was the purpose of the blog in the first place).

But here we are at a new beginning, and having now hit the first thousand words of my new story idea, I’m inclined to think about the concept of ‘beginnings’, particularly whether ‘prologues’ in a novel are a good or a bad thing. Personally I kinda like ’em, but I’m interested in your view.

Why am I thinking about prologues? Because I’ve just spent 1000 words writing the start of one.

Apparently (i.e. according to my limited research) prologues have suffered a decrease in popularity – theory being that readers have limited patience and you should just start your damn story at the latest possible point. People are busy, get to the meat already. And this makes a lot of sense on the surface – no-one likes to be bored before they get to the good stuff.

The prevailing advice is, “Prologues can eat a sack of wombat cocks, and if you use one you will be ostracized and forced to eat dust and drink urine, you syphilitic charlatan.” Harsh, but there it is. Also, wrong — a prologue should never be an automatic, but hell, if you need one, you need one. Here’s how you know: if your prologue is better used as the first chapter, then it’s not a prologue. It’s a first chapter.

25 Things To Know About Writing The First Chapter; Chuck Wendig

So – If you are going to begin, then for fucks sake begin.




Chuck says it in this paragraph – there are no absolutes here. Some of my favourite books start before the main story actually begins. Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone starts with baby Harry being dropped off with the Dursleys. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo begins with an old man receiving a framed flower for his birthday.

These soft beginnings tease at the main story without revealing much. Tiny hints of deeper mysteries. Not enough to give away the plot, but enough to get us hooked – which is what you want from a beginning anyway.

So my question is:

As a reader, are you pro prologues?

Daily word count: 358 / Total Word Count: 1,114

Today’s writing soundtrack:


Published by: wildbilbo

My name is Kristian Thoroughgood, alternately known as KT to my friends, or @WildBilbo on twitter. As of August 2015, I am forty years old. Australian. My blog is intended to be both a place for me to polish my creative writing muscles (not a double entendre) and for others to read and comment on my musings. Expect short stories, articles, essays and other brain dumps. My opinions are my own, and whilst I take care to be at least moderately informed about any topic I speak or write about, these opinions are subject to rapid change in the face of passionate arguments and greater evidence. Please note - on my blog, Evidence beats Passion.

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4 thoughts on “Prologues; or beginning before the beginning”

  1. On blogging and short pieces, you are describing a common syndrome (as far as I can tell, ain’t no expert!) They divert from the main task. Someone (published) said one needs a computer without access to internet… As a reader I love prologues, they are kinda foreplay… Good writing! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Prologue as Foreplay…I like that analogy 🙂

      It’s a little sad to have walked away from the short fiction; I did enjoy the writing and the feedback. But I think it was a little like eating candy – its awesome…provided you are still eating your meat and vegetables. But if all you do is eat candy? Less awesome.

      I know GRR Martin certainly uses a computer that isnt connected to the net. Can’t argue with results!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m pro-prologues in general as long as they’re fairly short and relevant. I don’t like chapter-sized prologues.
    Although Terry Pratchett didn’t actually use chapters as such, many of his books started with a couple of hundred very amusing words to set the scene/fill in some history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point – Keep it short, Keep it sweet.
      I’ve written 1000 words: ALL Prol0gue. It’s going to be far too long… BUT I’m not that concerned at this super early stage. If it all gets cut…who cares? And I’ve effectively detailed my Inciting event, so this should feed nicely into the rest of the story I have planned.



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