Last week we explored the second unwritten law that Science Fiction authors should never use Third Person Omniscient as the Point Of View in their stories. This week, I’d like to take a look at the third of these taboos – Prologues – and share my thoughts on why I think more writers, especially Science Fiction writers, should use them.
Here is the third Science Fiction Taboo Writers Should Break
A prologue, also known as a preface, is basically an introduction at the beginning of a book or story. It is informative text giving the reader the ability to understand what is to follow in the main body of the work. It could introduce the setting, preview the characters, or even establish a theme or moral for the story.
Many agents and editors say they stop reading immediately if they see that a book has a prologue. The reasoning is that many writers will use a prologue as a shortcut instead of doing the work it takes to weave backstory and plot into the book. Truth be told, it can be a lot easier to write an info-dump scene than to slowly unravel the information through the main plotline over the course of the book.
Here’s why I think this Science Fiction Taboo needs to be broken.
Prologues can be very useful, especially if you are trying to set a mood or establish some crucial backstory before the introduction of your main characters. Like everything else in writing, prologues can be done well, or they can be done poorly.
Most authors use prologues to deliver information they believe readers must have to understand the rest of the story.
Authors who use prologues are not being lazy. The prologue is the best way they have found to weave the necessary information into the story as it happens.
George R.R. Martin starts every one of the Song of Ice and Fire books with one. He uses them to help set up the conflicts of each book via the experiences of a throw-away character.
What do you think? Should writers use a prologue to introduce their story? Or, should they slowly and methodically unravel it all in the main body of the work? Would you write a story using a prologue?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can leave leave a comment here…