Prologue, Anyone?

GotPrologueThere’s this little rumor going around that agents despise prologues. If you send your manuscript by snail mail—and include your prologue—then you might be giving agents free lining for their hamster cages. Hyperbole aside, there is so much controversy around this issue, I’ve vacillated a half-dozen times on whether or not to include one in my WIP Epiphany.

A few reviewers in my critique group said they thought I had a great prologue, but I still doubted my original vision for my novel. Now that I’ve decided to go the self-publishing route, I no longer have to worry about an automatic rejection from an agent. But I do have to worry about the readers’ reactions. Will they read the prologue? Hate it? Love it? Or skip right over it?
 
Whether traditionally published or self-published, writers have to think about the reader and what they are hoping to convey. Is a prologue necessary? Better yet, how do you know?
That is a question I’m still trying to figure out. On the one hand, my original prologue set the stage in a certain way. Readers knew the protagonist recognized the killer (because the prologue was set toward the end of the story, whereas chapter one began several months before), so they had fun guessing who the killer was right up until the final reveal. In a way I guess you can call this a hook. The problem with my first draft was that I failed to provide a hook at the beginning of chapter one. But that is what second drafts are for…and third drafts…and so on.
 
I still haven’t settled on adding a prologue yet, though I am leaning toward it. The story can stand on its own from chapter one, but I believe including a prologue in this instance adds something to the readers’ experience, should they choose to read it.
 
What do you think about prologues? Do you read them? I’d love to hear your comments! Also, I found an awesome post on Kristen Lamb’s blog about prologues, and really, she covers the topic more in-depth. Go take a peek and see what to do and what not to do—unless you want to line the cage of an agent’s hamster!

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