Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.

― Maya Angelou

Now you and I both know she wasn’t writing about prologues, but the aspirations of an author who uses a prologue are still subject to much prejudice.

Some writing teachers or mentors will threaten you with physical harm if you show them a prologue.  But some stories call for them.

I’m even going to go so far as to indicate I believe any editor worth her red pen would not let an author send a prologue to press if it wasn’t necessary to the story. I can support that argument with examples: I have read each of these books,

  • Abarat: Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker
  • Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
  • A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

These three books are taken from a list provided as examples of excellent, enticing, engaging openings given to me by a writing instructor who plainly states “prologues are usually unnecessary and provide nothing more than backstory”.

Yes, they do provide backstory.  I have read each of these books, all difficult to put down, and all authored by seasoned and successful storytellers.  Trust me, the backstory was necessary.

I generally don’t argue with an instructor.  Everyone has their opinion, and often the opinion is nothing more than that; opinion.  In this case, why give examples to support the opposite of what you are teaching?  Why not just admit,  prologues can be useful, and should be used with caution and only when absolutely necessary?

Too easy.

Sometimes we need to take the advice of others with a great deal of caution.

The new rule of thumb in my writing is when someone strenuously objects to the use of a literary device, it could be because they do not know how it should be used.

If you are a fan of prologues, or one who is adamantly against them, just remember every literary device has its use, and its place.

But I’m sure if we checked with Martin, Harris or Barker they might say just sometimes, the prologue is necessary.

Do you use prologues?

Tell me what you think.

2 thoughts on “Literary Prejudice

  1. I’ve never used one…but I’ve read some great ones. And some bad ones. It’s the writer who makes it work, not the prologue itself. What’s in it makes it either necessary or a waste of words.

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