I was having this discussion with a fellow author today and thought it would be a great topic for my next tip. To help my discussion along I looked up the definition of Prologue on www.dictionary.com. This is what they have as the definition.
1. a preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel.
2. an introductory speech, often in verse, calling attention to the theme of a play.
3. the actor or actress who delivers this.
4. an introductory scene, preceding the first act of a play, opera, etc.
5. any introductory proceeding, event, etc.: Appetizing delicacies were the prologue to a long dinner.
Now that we know what it means when would you use one. I would be careful with a prologue and not let it be confused with the first chapter of your work. If you are trying to truly introduce something that will be separate from your main story, but explains something that relates to the story then I would use a prologue. For example, I use a prologue in my novel Haunted Destiny. In the main part of the novel, Amy (antagonist) receives some furniture that is haunted by a trapped ghost and the demon who is holding her. In order to explain how the furniture became haunted, I used a prologue set back in the 1800’s with completely different characters than appear in my novel. The prologue explains how the furniture becomes haunted. Then the first chapter is in modern times introducing the main character Destiny Dove and how she comes to live in a new town with a strange grandmother.
If you find yourself writing a prologue that is about the main characters in your book, you probably don’t need it. I would just turn that into your first chapter instead. A prologue is truly something that precedes your story -something that comes before.
Many agents and publishers do not like them so I’d proceed with caution.
Please add your thoughts and ideas on when to use prologues.