Why Prologues are Important
I’ve recently heard some readers skip prologues, believing the information within is unimportant. My reaction can be summed up as: “How? Why? No, seriously. It makes no sense. It is part of the story. It isn’t an advertisement for an upcoming book. The author did not put it there for her health. I can assure you, my health did not improve after writing any prologues.”
I did some research on the topic. Some of it can be summed up as:
1) It’s an info dump.
2) It’s supposed to hook the reader, but doesn’t.
3) Why can’t it just be incorporated into the rest of the book?
I can understand the first and the third points. The second is purely subjective, so I’m not going to touch on that. As far as the first point, sure, info dumps are terrible. But can the information be incorporated gracefully before the reader needs to know it? How well is it done? And this is where we hit subjective territory.
Some prologues can be too short simply to be a chapter. An important event might happen years before the rest of the story and might take only three or fewer pages to describe. That would be a terribly short chapter and the scene might lose impact if it’s summarized. I often think of a prologue as that first death in a horror movie. It’s short but yes, it sets the tone. It should convey relevant information that comes into play later. If you do not read the prologue, you may be confused later.