So why all the prologues lately? Do authors (or publishers) think they make the books look more cerebral, more literary, more dignified, or what? Personally, I find them annoying, an unnecessary delay that keeps me from the real story. In my opinion, the only time a prologue should ever be used is when it contains or sets up the big conflict that will carry throughout the entire story. Even then, the scene should take place with a significant amount of time passage between it and chapter one. Not fifteen minutes (as was the case in the book I've mentioned but shall not name).
Having said all that, I have to confess that I've just written a prologue onto the beginning of my manuscript. Believe me when I tell you, I didn't want to, but it had to be done. The setup of the central conflict needed to be shown. I wanted it there so that when the reader begins page one of the first chapter, BAM!, the story unfolds and the fireworks begin without the need for a lot of explanation in the form of backstory.
And speaking of backstory... This prologue came about because I hit the wall this past week with my backstory. The incident that sets up the big conflict was too deep to bridge the gap. No way could my hero come out of the story looking heroic or even remotely sympathetic. But I couldn't figure out how to change it because there was another factor involved that's much too complicated to try and explain, but is integral to making the conflict work. If I took away the hero's actions in the past, it killed the conflict and turned it into a big ole misunderstanding. It was one of those damned if I did and damned if I didn't scenarios. I was ready to pull out my hair! Or shelf the story. I was beginning to question my ability to reason out any sort of plot twist at all. Then today, I did it! And right now I'm feeling pretty darned pleased with myself. :o)
Hope all of you had a productive writing day!