Chapter zero, beginning of the beginning, history of what is yet to be said and argurably the most boring part of a story. A prologue isn’t needed, many books are better off without them. But there are times when it is needed.
1) Keep it short. Zero to three pages should be about your range.
2) If the prologue exceeds the length of your average chapter, then that’s a problem. Most people skip over the prologue, hence why it should be your shortest “chapter,” if it even qualifies as that.
1) WORLD BUILDING: Keep it short and sweet, give the basic concept and let the story show the rest of it.
Ex. “Dragons lurk through the forests, roam the gray skies, stalk the ocean depths here,” RATHER THAN, “In the east side of the forest, are the green dragons. They roam freely there. In the west end, that’s the village [place name]. North end holds darker green dragons and south has some red-green ones. In the ocean are spooksters. They’re blue, gray or white dragons. Above it all, dragons can fly. They’re all kinds of colors from all kinds of places. Now, let’s get started on how they all came to be...”
2) HISTORY: Readers don’t want a history lesson to start off a story— unless it’s interesting. If you insist on having the prologue be of history, let it pull up some questions, give all the answers, but spare the details. Let the story itself fill in the rest.
Ex. “Blood runs through the canals, fresh and old, dripping from the reopened scars of our people. Some things are best left unseen, don’t you think?” RATHER THAN, “In 1645, April 6th at 8:35am, there was a murder. Josh went after Rose with a butcher knife, got to her this time. That was the eighteenth murder on that street. In 1645, June 7th, a lady had her idenity stolen. Then she killed the man who took in. Strange. Our story takes place is 1932, where everyone has solved and forgotten those murders.”
3) CHARACTERS: If you’re introducing characters or bloodlines, you’ll still want to keep it short. Mention the name(s), wealth status, social class/rank, tribe, clan or village, political status, occupations, etc. Not all at once, but whatever you feel is absolutely needed.
Ex. “Tigerlily was born with the eyes of the beast— a sparkling gold and black slits for pupils. She wasn’t the first of her kind, wouldn’t be the last either... but she was the only one here,” RATHER THAN, “There’s an ancient power that runs through this tribe. They take on the eyes of a predator, and when old enough, take on the shape. The story of how it came to be died with the last generation of them... but here she is, the newest of beasts. They call her Tigerlily, and for good reason. Pretty as a flower, strong as the predator her eyes show. She’ll be wanted by many soon... they should sell her while she’s young. Easier to let go, better money for the kits; less likely to be rebels.”
4) PSYCHOLOGY: Personally my favorite to write. It’s easy to keep short; simply tell the mindset of protagonist, antagonist or (once again, personally my favorite), the contagonist.
Ex. (Contagonist) “It’s never my fault, no. He’s the one who dares try to defeat something that is immortal. I’m not the one to blame for how this tale goes, no. It’s all on him for not letting me stop him.”
5) ALL OF THEM: No. Just no. Maybe combine vague world building with vague history, or vague history with character, or some other combo, but never them all. Just trust me.
Prologue and Common Genres
1) ROMANCE: No. Your regular romance doesn’t need a prologue. From highschool to work, to medieval, prologue just doesn’t seem needed for this genre.
2) MAGIC: Possibly. Origins of the supernatural could be interesting, it might just become difficult to write in a short and intriguing way.
3) ADVENTURE: Possibly. World building as to where the main character(s) begin, go through or end up in may be fun to do. Just don’t take my word for it.
4) MODERN WEREWOLF/VAMPIRE: No. Just a simple, flat, no.
5) [POST] APOCOLYPSE: No. The story should explain how it all happened... or how they think it happened.
6) MYSTERY: Possibly. Some psychology and maybe character or character history would give some needed context, but keep is very short.
7) HORROR: Nope! The less context, the better.