Ask Daphne! What do I do with my prologue?

September 1st, 2008 • Kate

I’m not really here, of course, since it’s a national holiday. No, this is just the Daphne-bot, posting just the very tip of a shoe for Samantha, who asks:

The Guide to Literary Agents blog has been posting a great series of Agents Chapter 1 Pet Peeves, and in the latest set, Andrea Brown said most agents hate prologues, which brought up an interesting question. If you do have a prologue, should you include it in the first three or five pages you send to an agent? If the prologue sets up something later in the story, is it best to just send the first three or five pages of the first chapter, or will that look bad later if the agent requests a partial or full manuscript and then sees the prologue (especially if they hate prologues). How do you feel about prologues?

Bearing in mind that this is my personal opinion only, I think yes, if you have decided to start you manuscript with a prologue (knowing as you do that some agents don’t like them) then the first three pages you send to an agent should include that prologue. Bearing in mind that the format for an email submission, for example, doesn’t need to have lots of fancy headers, and you could just start with text without even mentioning the word “prologue.”
Because if you do hook a reader with those pages, and then you get a request for a partial, the agent EXPECTS to read the first pages again. That’s often how they refresh their memory of your book. I always specify that I want the FIRST three pages with a query — if your manuscript starts with a prologue and you don’t send that in your query, well then, you’re not following my submission guidelines, are you? I hate that.
Personally, I don’t have the rabid hate-on for prologues that some of my colleagues do, but I think they’re best taken on a case-by-case basis. Are you just trying to set up drama? Can you find another way to do that? Are you trying to trick the reader? Why would you want to do that? If you’ve considered all your options and you still want to include a prologue, then I’d rather see it than be skipped over.

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2 Responses to “Ask Daphne! What do I do with my prologue?”

  1. Caryn Caldwell Says:

    So surprised to see you posting on Labor Day! And then I saw that it was actually a robot, so that made total sense. Where can I get one? Does your robot vacuum and do windows, too?
    As for prologues, a book I recently read had an unnecessary prologue. In fact, it was a portion of a scene that ended up happening about a third of the way through the book, so when we got to the actual scene it sounded tired and redundant. I usually don't mind reading prologues, but that type annoys me.
    I have a question for you, one no one has been able to answer. It's not crucial, but the mystery is bugging me nonetheless. Lately I've noticed that every new book except, perhaps, for occasional long-anticipated new releases by big-name authors, comes out on a Tuesday. Why is that? What's so special about Tuesdays?

  2. yellowbrick08 Says:

    Thanks very much for answering my question, Daphne-bot. (I'm happy to see you were off on Labor Day, Daphne. 😉 ) As always, very helpful. Thanks, again. Sam