Prologues:
Good? Bad? Ugly?
My Thoughts on Why I Hate Prologues




>>I’ve read that they should generally be avoided because readers are liable to skip them, and/or they’re often done wrong in the first place.

>>If it is necessary, so they say, it should be as short as possible. Thoughts?

Thoughts? On Prologues? Oh let's see. Where to begin?

I don't read them. I've never read one in my entire life, and I've few hundred thousand books. 300k. The world record is 712k. I'm halfway there.

The way I see it, if it wasn't important enough for the author to include it as part of the actual story, then I'm not gonna waste my time reading it.

I also often skip most first, 2nd, and 3rd chapters, because I get bored out of my mind with the blah, blah, blah of ye old descriptions of ye olde town and ye olde world building... I want the story... where is the story? I don't care how many shades of grey you put in each grain of sand in your world, give me some characters or I'm throwing your book in the wood stove.

I also skip all those cutsy paragraphs written in Latin, Elvish, Dwarvish, and Klingon.

I also skip everything written in italics because I'm blind in one eye and italics are just a blur because it requires two eyes to focus on italic print.

And as I wanted to read a novel and not poetry, I also skip all poems, songs, and stanzas found within the novel. I'm not a fan of Hobbits dancing and singing for 25 off topic pages, for no reason at all other then the author wanted to show off with "Hey, look, I can write poetry, watch me stick it in my novel here for no reason at all! yay!"

You want to know how much I hate Hobbits singing and reciting poetry in the middle of a novel for no reason at all?

Here, have a scene from the Quaraun series, written in tribute to Lord of The Rings:


"What is that god forsaken noise," Quaraun moaned.

The Elf was slumped face down over the table. Unicorn wasn't sure if Quaraun was drunk, tired, sick, or all of the above.

"It a wee lil Halfling," Unicorn answered. "Him signing himself up a storm."

"Make him shut up."

Unicorn slid out of his seat and went to the Halfling's table. The tiny little humanoid was dancing gleefully, in between singing and reciting poetry.

"Me Elf be wanting ya to shut ya wee lil trap," the old undead Phooka said to the Halfling.

A few moments later, Unicorn returned to Quaraun's table and once again sat down beside the Elf. Quaraun was still slumped over the table and had not yet looked up.

"I can still hear him," Quaraun muttered through his hair.

"Aye. Him say ya was nothing but a no good son of bitch arrogant High Elf. Him told me to tell ya to fuck yaself."

"I won't have to, I'm sure you'll do that later."

"Of course I will."

"I have a headache."

"Dat mean I can no fuck ya?"

"It means I want that fucking piece of shit to shut up. I didn't come here to listen to poetry. If had wanted to hear poetry recited I would have come to a theatre. I'm trying to rest."

"On de table?"

"Leave me alone. I'm tired."

"We could rent a room."

"I don't want to rent a room. I'm fine, right here."

"I could fuck ya better in a room. More privacy."

"I don't need a room. I need a nap."

"I could fuck ya here at de table."

"You do and I'll ram my wand up your ass."

"Yeah. I know dat suppose to be threat, but I probably would like dat. So dat not incentive for me to no fuck ya on table."

"I just want that singing wretch to shut his fucking mouth."

"Dat be a long poem him singing. Will take him an hour to get t'rough it."

"Make him shut up."

"How ya propose I do dat?"

"I don't know. Think of something. You're a Trickster Faerie. You always think of something. You pride yourself on being the most annoying damned Fae on the planet. Do one of those things that you do. Just make him stop singing."

Unicorn got up and once again returned to the Halfling's table. This time he stood and silently watched the tiny creature as it merrily skipped and danced on the table, in the beat to it's sing-song poetry recital. Unicorn walked slowly around the table watching the little creature's every move, listening to the song, picking up on the cues of his movements.

After a minute or so, Unicorn stopped moving and stood, silently, watching and waiting for just the right moment, and when that moment came, he swiftly pulled his machete from his hakama and lopped off the Halfling's head. There was a brief shrill gurgle shriek as the last stanza of the poem was cut to an abrupt halt.

At the sound of the Halfling's dying breath, Quaraun looked up for the first time. He sat staring and blinking, uncertain if Unicorn had actually just done, what he thought Unicorn had just did.

Unicorn pranced back to Quaraun's table and plopped the Halfling's severed head in the middle of Quaraun's plate.

"Dair. Him no more sing," Unicorn said cheerfully, proudly beaming over his work.

"That's not what I asked you to do."

"Ya tolds me to make him shut up un I did."

"You cut off his frigging head!"

"Aye. Un now ya can add it to ya head collection."

"I don't have a... oh." Quaraun reached into his bag and pulled out Gibedon's head. "I forgot about that. Why does everybody keep losing their head around me?"

BeLuna entered the tavern just then, back from her errands and was about to start one of her usual conversations with Quaraun when she saw the Halfling's head.

"Quaraun, why do you have a head in your plate?"

"Why do you say that so calmly, like this is normal every day thing to happen to me?"

"Well, uhm... you know... it kind of is."

Before Quaraun had a chance to answer, Bullgar joined the trio.

"Quaraun!" The giant Dwarf boomed. "There's a head in your plate!" 

"I hate my life."

~From "The Journey Begins" (Volume 4 of The Quaraun Series)


>>I always thought that a prologue and epilogue were classy and mature marks of a thoughtful book

I always thought that a prologue and epilogue were nothing but an arrogant author showing off how big his ego was, with a whole:

"Hey, look, I know you are too damned stupid to figure out how great my novel is, so let me tell you all the great crap about my novel, that'll you'll be too stupid to figure out because my IQ is shooting out my ass and your IQ my dear stupid little reader was flushed down the gutter. So here is a prologue to prove you're stupid and I'm smart, because I know you'll NEVER figure out all those great stupendous cryptic meanings I hid all through my novel."

Every time I see a prologue I just roll my eyes and think: "Oh, boy, here's another holier then thou dip shit, I mean author who thinks they are greater than everyone else, do I dare read this book?"

These days, I'm likely to skip even buying a book if it has a prologue, let alone read it. ESPECIALLY if it's self-published, as it's become a trend of late for authors to let their egos loss in prologues.

Newer self-pubbed books these days have prologues that are insanely long. 50 pages is fast becoming the norm, and I've seen longer ones.

My belief is, if the author feels they have to explain the details of their story, outside of the story, then that author is a very poor writer and in desperate need of taking some writing classes so they can learn how to tell a story and include everything the reader needs to know, woven within the story.

I would like prologues if they did what they were supposed to do, and BRIEFLY in 3 pages or less, introduce the setting of the story. But I don't want to read 50 pages of an author explaining how they did their research to ensure that we stupid readers know the difference between a cave man and a Neanderthal, followed by explanations of all the hows and whys of the ice age and its effect on the story, followed by the author listing off all their degrees in anthropology, and which digs they dug at, blah, blah, blah. I bought the book to read the story, and if I want to know the history of how and why they wrote it, I'll head to their website and read their "About Me" page.

And yes... I recently read a book, that started with a 50 page "prologue" that was nothing but a list of the author's degrees, what digs he went to, and how Neanderthals were different from cave men, and how his were the greatest cave man ever created because of this... and what the fuck did any of that have to do with a prologue for crying out loud! What good do all your degrees do if you don't even know what the word prologue means!

Far too many authors use their prologues as a way to talk down to their readers and, I wanted to read a story, not be lectured by an arrogant author.


It's June 3, 2021 and we have an update to this page...

Prologues?




>>>What is your stance on prologues? I've noticed that when I was younger, I would include prologues in everything I wrote, whether they were needed or not. Now, however, I rarely - if ever - write a prologue, and also almost never read them with my full attention. So, I suppose I'm just wondering what you all think about them.

>>>Is it something you find draws you into the story or turns you off? Is it something you would consider important? If you do enjoy reading prologues, what do you enjoy about them? If you don't, why not?

I hate prologues.

Or rather, I hate the fluffy ass shit that gets called a prologue, when it's not.

I find that 99.99% of the time, they are nothing but world building drivel that the author could have easily wove into the story and is not any way, shape, or form an actual prologue by any dictionary definition of the word.

If you look at books published before the 1980s, you almost never saw a prologue, and when you did, it was actually nessacarily. 

But since about the mid-1990s everyone and their 2nd cousin thinks they MUST put a prologue in their book, but than they have no clue what a prologue is, aren't well read enough to know how a prologue should be written, and just use the prologue as a massive info dump, usually a world building info dump. It's a lot of tell the read this and tell the reader that, yap, yap, yap, yap, oh look, I'm an author with big brains, let me show you how high my IQ is by detailing all this long boring fluff you didn't need to know about how the alien tech I created works, I have to put it in the prologue because it was never useful for my plot so I couldn't use it, but you just have to know how great I am for coming up with it so here it is even though it does nothing for the story at all and oh, by the way, let's tell you how I designed this great mountain range that will never be in the novel, but I created it so I have to tell you about it, blah, blah, blah.

ARGH! They wouldn't know a prologue if one hit them in the face!

pro = happened before

logue = a log of events


prologue = a log of events which happened before the story began


A writer is supposed to use words for a living, so they should at least know what words mean, but one look at pretty much every self-published prologue says the author has never opened a dictionary in their life and has no clue the meaning of words or even how to use words, otherwise they would know what the word prologue meant:

*a log of events which happened before the story began, told in 3 pages or fewer*

A GOOD prologue shows a quick action filled rundown of an event that took place before the story and is pertinent to the plot. For example, the story starts when the boy is 10 years old, but the reader needs to know that an evil wizard tried to kill him as a baby, so the prologue is a scene where we see the evil wizard sneak in, zap the boy, his mother fights back, she dies, the boy is scarred for life but he lived. Jump ahead now to chapter one and a flying motorcycle. You want to see how to write a good prologue, read the first 3 pages of Harry Potter.

Also, does no one who writes prologues know basic grammar rules? A prologue 3 pages MAXIMUM. And it is always a scene of a flashback of an event which happens before the story starts. It's a basic grammar rule that is taught in 5th grade: a prologue should never be more than 3 pages long and should always be a flashback of a single event that takes place before the story and is important to the plot.

World building, charts, maps, etc., belong in a concordance at the back of the book and have no place in a prologue, yet, looking at every other book published since 1994, you wouldn't know that.

I always flip through a book to look for a prologue before buying it, and read the prologue, to see: is it fewer than 3 pages long? Is it a flashback scene? Yes? Yes? Than I'll buy the book, because that author knows grammar rules.

But if I see world building, charts, maps, and page after page after page, I put the book back on the shelf. I will not buy a book written by someone who doesn't even know enough about basic grad school grammar to make their prologue be an actual prologue. I mean if they don't know grade school grammar rules about prologues, why should I trust them to know the high school grammar rules required to edit the thing? I just automatically assume if they don't know enough about grammar to write a proper prologue than they don't know enough about grammar rules to write a legible/readable story either.

I mean think about it... I have a busy life. I don't have time to edit their novel into readable condition so I can read it and understand what they are trying to say, so I'm not going to waste my time buying a book that starts out with a thing that is not a prologue trying to be passed off as a prologue. I'm not going to trust an author who doesn't know basic grammar rules and doesn't know the meanings of words, because grammar and words are their job and not knowing grammar rules or word meanings is just an author who is not dong their job.

Nitpicky of me? Maybe.

Thing is, there are plenty of people who love reading prologues, love reading world building, love reading all the fluff in Elvish poetry... there's a market for it, so, if someone wants to write that stuff: more power to them. Have at it all you want.

I'm just not the audience for that type of stuff. Doesn't mean it's nessacarily bad or wrong. It just means it's not for me.

So in the end, even though I complain about prologues, I wouldn't advice someone not to write them.

My feeling is this: it's your story, your novel, just write it the way you want it. Some people will like it, some people will love it, some people won't like it, some people will hate it.

You can't please everyone, so you might as well please yourself, write it whatever way you want it, write the book you want to read, and than, just look for people like yourself who will also like it.

So, even though I personally do not like prologues, I think, if an author likes/wants/feels the need to write a prologue, than they should. I mean, just because I don't like prologues doesn't mean that there aren't others who do like them.

To each his own.

If you like prologues, then write prologues.  And if you are like me and hate prologues, than don't write them.















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