But that would depend on the reader and the kind of story. I like to be surprised (though not overly confused). Some other people like to know the background before diving in deep.
As usual: a matter of taste...
The correct answer is always, use it if it works for you and your story.
Now, my opinion on prologues:
Cool stuff about prologues:
They can be a useful tool for the story to provide information before the story gets underway or before we reach the "present" timeframe for the story.
They can also be used to provide different points of view or information specifically to be given to the reader which the main character would be unaware of.
Theres more uses too. But yeah, its fairly flexible.
The downside of a prologue:
Often, people actually skip reading the prologue.
The prologue is sometimes different in tone and style to the main work.
People put too much information into the prologue and spoil things later.
Sure I'd use a prologue. But, I think I would only use it if I really felt I needed one.
DarkD Wrote: I disagree. The reason for a prologue is that the start of fictions are very slow and hard to get into the book. The prologue is actually supposed to be entertaining and allows you to skip straight to being interested if it's done right. Of course, if it's done wrong, than those other problems become magnified instead.
This pretty much highlights the reasons why I have such a stance on prologues. The only reason why a story starts out slow is because that is how you wrote it. You don't -have- to write a slow starting story, just like you don't -have- to write a prologue. Rather than write an entertaining prologue, why not just write an entertaining first chapter? Or how about a clever synopsis that intrigues potential readers? Or both?
If a story requires two intros to get a reader interested in a story, then that simply means there's still room for growth for the author in question. If an author feels they cant write their story in any other way than with a slow start and an exciting prologue, then they need to take a step back and reconsider their approach to their own story. Hence why I said rather than write a prologue, just write well.
This issue is similar to the info dump thread also currently floating around. Info dumps are also due to an author lacking experience in pacing and weaving the details of their world into their story appropriately. Rather than take the time and patience to reveal relevant information when its warranted, they are excited to show the readers just how amazing, epic and cool their world is and how much detail they've invested into it. So they end up dumping it all into a prologue or into a single chapter.
I think the main issue here is that this site is devoted to amateur writers, and when a few adopt a bad habit, the rest quickly follow and it suddenly becomes an acceptable norm. Worse yet, the majority of amateur writers here come from translated novels, 99% of which are poorly edited and chock full of what is considered inappropriate writing in the standards of the english language.
Self publishing has also contributed to this issue because our works are no longer scrutinized by professional editors and publishers to meet certain standards. Sure, books here get an editor just to make sure their works are not riddled with typos, but thats it. In fact, from inception to virtual shelves, there is no requirement to meet any standard at all, which means bad habits go unfixed. Worse yet, others see it and take it as acceptable practice.
Rather than encouraging bad habits or unnecessary practices, we should be encouraging improvements. And prologues are anything but an improvement to one's writing.
I read a book, don't know exactly the name, it's not in English, but it's about revolution of order of gunpowder mages overthrowing the king and taking control over a warring state, the worldbuilding alone is very well done, but the character and plotline in the prologue was what hooked me and that is why I had a problem at the beginning. I liked it a lot more than the MC and the rest of it for a while. I liked the slow start and thought it was gonna be about the little things on the background of major events, but from the third chapter things went epic fast and in the eye of the storm, not that it isn't good, but I just felt some disconnect from the flow I was getting into.
Otherwise prologues are fine for an introduction and if there is a need to take the reader through the first steps into the story and you feel it's better than jumping straight into it (a good way to avoid exposition dump early on if you blend it in well enough). There is no "have to", it's just one tool of many for the storytelling.