Prologues – Like ‘em or Leave ‘em?

The definition of a prologue is a separate introductory section of a literary or musical work.

For Beth’s story Fury I initially started with a prologue, but after I finished my exposition, I really didn’t think the prologue was useful as a prologue anymore. So with some editing, I think I successfully integrated it into the body of my story and it felt right.

So that got me thinking, are prologues in literature necessary? Do they truly serve an important function for the whole story?

The definition of an exposition is that it is a literary device used to introduce background information about events, settings, characters, etc. to the audience or readers. If a good exposition gets the reader up to speed on the story, why use a prologue?

Now, full disclosure, my current “active” story has a prologue. I think it is serving some purpose that benefits the over-all story, but more so, I think it acts as a hook. It “jump starts” my story. It also foreshadows some critical future events. It’s a few pages long, told by a minor character who makes a very brief appearance later in the plot that ties everything together.

I think it works, but I had a friend of mine read what I had written so far (approximately 40,000 words) and she was confused by the prologue. I had to explain it to her. Is she the exception, or the rule?

So Dear Readers, what’s your thoughts on prologues? Like them? Hate them? Or does it depend?