A prologue is an event or action that leads to the beginning of a story. For instance, our mothers giving birth to us are the prologues to our lives; it is what happened before we were born and our actual stories begin.
From the previous blog (The Very First Sentence), the paragraph I wrote about the five-year-old-girl committing murder could easily be a prologue, and chapter one could be set twenty years in the future when her childhood crime catches up to her. Wouldn’t she be an interesting character to follow and get to know?
Whether you write a prologue or not depends on your story. They are not necessary unless you need it to build the story and provide important background information, and some agents dislike them.
An event that happens in the past, for example, can be a made into a prologue. What you don't want to do with a prologue is dump a truckload-worth of information on the readers head. Only provide the information that is pivotal for them to know before you begin the story. Otherwise, try to pepper the background information about the protagonist throughout the first few chapters. Also, a prologue shouldn't be long. About 2-5 pages makes a good prologue.
Now, if you believe your story needs a prologue, then what are you waiting for? They are fun to write. But don’t forget to make that first sentence shine!
QUESTION: Do you like books with prologues?
I do because they always bring something extra to the story.