To prologue or not to prologue

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I hadn’t realised I’d cause consternation by saying I don’t think prologues or teaser scenes are a good idea.  I’ve had some worried-sounding emails saying “I hope you won’t dismiss this instantly because…”  Of course I wouldn’t reject something on such slight grounds, but it intrigues me that most of the submissions I get start with a prologue or a teaser scene.

Have we all been brainwashed by pre-credit sequences?  It works for James Bond movies, but what possesses writers to give away all the good stuff at the beginning is a mystery to me.  We’ve all seen movie trailers that feel like we’ve seen the whole film in a few minutes and now don’t need to go to it.

When is a prologue useful?  Only, I think, when it’s telling us something about the story that we absolutely need to know right now, to make sense of the first scene. Otherwise, what’s wrong with dropping us straight into the action?  I’ve paid my money, and now I want to get on the ride.

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