Ouch. To prologue or not to prologue?

About three months ago I submitted Vokhtah to a review site, a good review site, and every day since then I’ve read the daily review that lands in my inbox. Sadly, I have yet to see a review of Vokhtah.

After reading one of the reviewer’s criteria for selecting a submission to read, I’m beginning to think I never will. You see, there are about 1500 titles to choose from. In a word, there is a slush pile. Once submitted, a book remains on the slush pile for one year. If none of the volunteer reviewers select it, that book will eventually ‘time-out’.

Now I know Vokhtah has no mechanical errors – spelling, punctuation, grammar etc – which would automatically turn reviewers off, but it does have a prologue, and these days prologues are… frowned upon. And I can understand why. Who wants to wade through paragraph after paragraph of general narrative before they even meet the first real character?

Well, the truth is I’m one of those readers who does find prologues interesting, but I’m in a minority these days. With the advent of cheap ebooks, readers have an awful lot of choice, and consciously or unconsciously, they want to jump straight into the story. To see if it will be the kind of story they like. Making them wade through reams of explanatory stuff first is not going to endear them to the story.

I knew all that, sort of, but I chose to put a prologue in there anyway because Vokhtah is so different, so alien. It needs some scene setting. Unfortunately, by making Vokhtah so different, I have backed myself into a corner. Without the prologue, the basics of Vokhtah are hard to understand, thereby putting readers off. With the prologue, the beginning of the story is not quite such a shock to the system, but the prologue itself is likely to put readers off.

So what do I do? Dump the prologue and throw readers in at the deep end? Or keep the prologue and continue to see Vokhtah ignored? 

I wish the Amazon ‘look inside’ feature would let me choose an exciting scene from deeper in the book. But of course it doesn’t, and I’m back to the only two choices I have – prologue or no prologue.

I know a lot of you have read Vokhtah already [thank you!], but can you remember back to how you felt in the beginning? Did you find the prologue annoying? Did you skip it altogether? Should I skip it as well?

Any and all comments/suggestions gratefully received.




About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

31 responses to “Ouch. To prologue or not to prologue?

  • TermiteWriter

    For goodness’ sakes, the prologue to Vokhtah is barely over one page. If you can’t read that, you’re pretty lazy! Several of my books have prologues and they aren’t all that short, but they have an integral relationship to the plot. Maybe I should have just called them “Chapter 1” and nobody would be put off.


    • acflory

      -giggles- welcome to the blog, and yes, while I do agree, the original prologue was much longer. I cut it down because I realised I could drip feed a lot of it to readers as the story progressed. In fact, I snuck a lot of it in via the Blue thinking about the failure of its life…in chapter 1 😀


  • marcus hamlett


    Some people say that moments before you die, your entire life flashes before your eyes. I never believed it until this very moment. As I lay on the cold coarse sidewalk, my eyes can only see a blanket of darkness covering the night sky, the sparkling stars sprinkled all over. I struggle to sit up but I’m instantly frozen. An excruciating pain in my lower abdomen forbids me to rise. I slide my hand down to my side and feel what I think is sweat at first, but soon realize the liquid is to thick and the smell of copper leads me to assume it has to be blood.
    What happened? How did I get here? Why is this happening to me? As all these questions start rushing through my mind, I realize I can’t grasp reality. This all feels like a dream, but the pain is far too intense.
    The stars begin to lose their lustrous glow, and I feel myself becoming drowsier. It’s as if I consumed some sort of drug, but I’ve never done a drug in my life, and neither does Samantha she… “Oh no Samantha”! I yelp loud enough to send an extreme stimulation of electric current throughout my entire body.
    Where is she? I think to myself. I was just with her wasn’t I? How long have I been laying here? Am I dying? It’s as if I’m the last person on the face of the earth. Samantha might need me, but the increasing punishment to my body from the pain is enough to make me vomit. How can I help her if I can’t help myself?
    Then I start to think about my family. I remember when I was a child my mother would always tell me to be kind to people, to love them as Jesus always does. Could this have been my greatest flaw? Has someone abused my kindness for my greatest weakness? Am I dying?
    I revert back to all the pain and agony my father put my mother and I through. That stormy night when he threw all of his belongings into his suitcase and selfishly left us, never to return again. I remember the last moment I saw my younger brother alive before the car… The thought makes me quiver all over only to find the physical pain is more unbearable than the mental pain. The first time I met and instantly fell in love with Samantha. I will miss her when I fade away from this life, or will i? What will happen when I die? Will my brain just shut down, blocking out 18 years of memories? Will my spirit travel to heaven or hell? Am I really dying?
    The pain becomes my greatest enemy at this point. I’m ready to give into my instinct and close my eyes one last time. Cold chills begin to flow throughout my body with each beat of my heart. Then I hear what sounds like footsteps coming towards me. Could this sound be deceiving my mind into believing there is still hope?
    The footsteps come closer and closer. Each step echoes throughout the dark scene. My eyes are fighting to stay open to see if possibly this could be help coming, But why hasn’t the pace of the steps quickened? Are they in no hurry to come to my rescue? Is someone coming or has there been someone here the entire time? Waiting, watching, plotting. For what reason I ask myself.
    Then with blurry eyes I see a dark silhouette of a man. Could this be a hallucination? As the man approaches closer into a nearby street light I believe I recognize him. I try to speak but no words come out because of the lack of moisture in my mouth. This can’t be who I think it is could it? What is he holding in his hand at a pointing gesture? My acknowledgment of the object makes my blood run cold.
    I begin to pray in a light whisper. “Our father, who art in heaven”… He interrupts me with a word. His voice is malicious, sadistic even. It’s the last word I hear before my eyes close and everything goes dark.


  • Colin

    “No prologues” is one of them “rules” is it? I don’t get that particular rule. Or rather, I do get it, actually. It is a self-serving “rule” perpetuated by new writers that are absolutely mortified by doing anything that might make their work uncommercial.

    Or, specifically, not acceptable to agents. So they perpetuate a lot of different “rules” that you are under absolutely no circumstance permitted to break, because then you will forever languish in the slush-piles.

    I am being sarcastic, yes. Sorry. But I don’t like that rule. I only like the rule, “If it works, put it in. If it doesn’t, don’t”. 🙂 Your prologue works.


    • acflory

      lmao – thank you kind Sir! I agree with every word, I just… got a little wimpy somewhere along the way.

      Thanks to all of you I’ve pumped up and ready to face the world again. -hugs-


  • metan

    I am a fan of prologues, especially when the story is one where we are introduced to entirely new concepts or worlds (like your book). When I am getting my head around something new like that it helps to have as much information to put me in the right frame of mind.


  • TD McKinnon

    Personally, I’m a fan of the prologue, and I think it’s a sad thing that they appear to have gone out of fashion somewhat. One of my favourite Sci Fi writers of all time, Isaac Asimov, nearly always had a prologue of some kind; if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

    I’ve tried with and without, making it a first chapter, making it a second chapter after leading right in with an action sequence. One thing I have learnt, Meeka, in my humble opinion, is once you decide to go a certain way and structured it that way, for whatever reason, stick with it.


    • acflory

      Hi TD! You know I haven’t had a single response that has been negative to prologues. And I think “once you decide to go a certain way and structured it that way, for whatever reason, stick with it.” is very good advice. 🙂


  • Candy Korman

    In mysteries, including some of my own attempts, there is a way to draw the readers immediately into the action — start with the BODY! Then you have to back track into the story. I’m not sure if this would work for introducing the complex environment of VOHKTAH, but… maybe in the second book you can jump directly into a particularly action-oriented scene?


    • acflory

      Oh! Now isn’t that funny? I’ve never consciously thought about that pattern in mystery writing – i.e. start with the body.

      It is a great way to get the adrenaline pumping. I’m starting book 2 with the Six’s POV. It’s not exactly ‘action’ but there is a bit more happening. Maybe I can start book 3 with a bigger bang. 🙂


  • medmcn

    I avoided anti-prologue bias by calling my prologue “chapter one.” It’s been that way for years now, and I don’t think any reviewers have actually noticed. A lot of the prologue hostility seems almost like a “fashion” to me, as in some people just don’t like seeing the word prologue because they think prologues are bad. If they don’t see the word, they don’t know if they are reading a prologue or not. 😉


  • pinkagendist

    I like prologues too, especially when they seem to come from someone who isn’t really part of the story, as if it’s an insider view of what’s to come. Have you considered selecting a particularly interesting part of the story and including that in a presentation letter? I did that and got responses from three out of the five publishers I sent my now defunct book to.


    • acflory

      That’s actually a good strategy Pinky. I won’t send to publishers but next time I send out for review I might just send something with a bit more action in it .:D


  • lorddavidprosser

    Your prologue was no problem but if you’re worried about it and unhappy that it’s what people sample when they go to Amazon, why not move it to the end of the book so people struggling with the story can refer to it? OK so it’s now a post-logue but who’s goin’ to argue about that small detail?
    Your prologue is merely scene setting and as such is very helpful. I hope one of the reviewers gets to it soon.xx Hugs xx


    • acflory

      Thanks David. 🙂 A post-logue huh? You know I’ve been thinking about adding a Vokhtahpedia to the end. Such a pity graphics don’t show up that well on the ordinary Kindles. -hugs-


  • EllaDee

    Prologues are fine by me. I like scene setting, and if often refer back to the prologue, inside or back cover summary to get my bearings while I’m reading. I thought Vohktah’s prologue worked well.


  • laurieboris

    I love your prologue! But generally I’m a fan of them, when used well. A good one can pull a reader into the story.


  • Jon Jefferson

    I am a fan of prologues. They are just as important to a story as the rest of the story.


    • acflory

      Thanks for your input Jon. To be honest I was expecting to be told I’d be better off without it! I’m kind of stunned by the responses I’ve read so far. Stunned in a good way!


  • Kathryn Chastain Treat

    I think the prologue helped me with the book, especially because it isn’t in a genre I usually read.


  • Jo-Anne Teal

    I haven’t read your book (yet!) but I have read the ‘look inside’ on Amazon. I think you’ve chosen well with starting with the prologue. To me it’s like the sweep in of the camera in a David Lean movie. The setting is a character in your book, isn’t it? Giving it its due early on does let readers know there will be some complex issues in such a world.

    Also, I don’t think your prologue is very long so it shouldn’t be off-putting to the majority of readers of your genre.

    Best of luck with it!


    • acflory

      Thanks Jo-Anne, and welcome. 🙂 You’re spot on with what you say about the setting. It /is/ one of the characters, just doesn’t have any speaking parts. And I love the comparison to a David Lean film. He’s one of my favourite film-makers.

      As I said in one of my other replies, I really wasn’t expecting so much positive feedback. You have all given me a much needed boost. 🙂


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