Why "Three Bridges" is getting a prologue

While writing Aundes Aura, it went through a number of stages where it either had a prologue or it didn't. By the end of the first draft, I'd decided the prologue was unnecessary, showing a scene many years before that could have easily been referred to in the course of the book. So the prologue went, and I had my characters talk about the events instead. For the final book I added in a new prologue as suggested by the editor.

When I planned out Three Bridges, I felt it didn't need a prologue. I often can't stand prologues, especially if they're twice as long as the average chapter. A short one's not so bad. Some authors write prologues just because they're writing fantasy and that seems to be standard. I'd rather get straight to Chapter One. One might argue, "If you're only adding a prologue to give it an action-packed start, forget the prologue and make Chapter One action-packed instead!"

There is a problem with that, though. If you burst right in with all guns blazing, there's nowhere for the action to go, and much more importantly, you don't care what happens because you've had no time to meet the characters.

In Three Bridges, I avoid this. We spend the first four scenes getting to know the character a little before the inciting incident which turns everything on its head. Then I build the character some more. Through the first three chapters, while there are some big things happening, much of the time is spent learning who the three main characters are, what makes them tick -- what they really care about. Without this, why should we care?

Right now, I have two characters with strong motivations. The other's isn't as strong. He's loyal, but that doesn't explain why he does certain things later in the book.

So why are you adding a prologue?

There are a few benefits.
1. Starting with a short, somewhat intriguing chapter to kick things off nicely.
2. Introduces the motivation for the third character.
3. Makes a promise of things to come.

I feel all of these are important, and will greatly help the flow and depth of the book. The first two points are bonuses, but just as necessary. The third point is the fundamental reason a prologue should exist. If the prologue isn't foreshadowing something, it probably shouldn't be there.

George R.R. Martin achieves this by taking the point of view of a different character and showing us something we couldn't otherwise know. His prologues create a sense of foreboding. After reading it, this lets the reader know bad things will be happening. In the meantime, they can start to care about the characters so when the bad things happen, it actually means something.

What's your take on prologues? Love them? Hate them? Don't care?


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