I wrote a prologue for my book this week. It kind of changes the focus of the book in general so now I'm going to need to lightly edit the 3 1/2 other scenes I had finished to match the tone. I don't really mind that. I felt they were missing something anyway. I'm hoping that my prologue will give the main story context and more driving force. I like stories that are clearly going somewhere, not stories that meander or that I can only guess what the point of them is.
But here's the gamble I'm making: the prologue (and the epilogue that will accompany it) make the "main story" essentially one long, complex flashback. The prologue/epilogue are thousands of years later than the main story. This is a format I intend to employ with a least a few books in a series. Each book's "main story" will be a stand alone story, but the prologue/epilogue from book to book will be connected.
Now, every time I see prologues discussed on blogs and forums and such the advice is "Better safe than sorry." In other words, steer clear of them. But I think that part of being a good writer is knowing your target audience and that means knowing the genre that you're writing in. As often as not, the general advice about writing that you find here and there isn't aimed at any particular genre and yet the tropes and expectations from genre to genre are so varied. I think you need to think about when such advice may not necessarily apply to you because of what you write and who your audience is.
I write epic fantasy. And while I haven't read everything the genre has to offer, it seems to me that prologues are an accepted and welcome trope of the genre. And many prologues in epic fantasy will involve some sort of inciting incident from the distant past that set the events of the main story in motion. Large passages of time are usually not an obstacle for epic fantasy readers.
Of course, what I'm doing is sort of the opposite of that. It's entirely possible that essentially making the plot of my book one huge chunk of backstory to the prologue and epilogue will be an unpopular move. I'm one of those weird people who can never get enough of backstory. I just want to know everything and anything that ever happened related in anyway to what is going on now. I fear that I'm an anomaly and that the vast majority of people aren't as obsessed with the history of fictional worlds as I am. Ah well, I can only write the kind of story I would like to read.
Alas, the prologue of 1957 words was my only progress this past week. But it's better than nothing, right? I'm going to try really hard to make more progress during the coming week.
How about you? Do you enjoy prologues? What do you think is the greatest danger of including a prologue?