Anyone who has written or edited a collection of texts knows the importance of writing a prologue for an anthology. Those pages that collect the what, why and how of that compilation have the power to capture the reader’s attention and guide them towards an effective and interesting reading.
The prologue is the first bridge that is built between a book and a reader, since it introduces the literary work and generates a connection with it. In an anthology its function is even greater, since the prologue contextualizes the selection that has been made.
In this article we are going to explain in detail not only what the prologue is, but what its role is within anthologies and why any author who wants to publish one must write a prologue for it.
What is a literary prologue?
Although an prologue can also be written for an academic work it is common for them to a appear in literary works.
The objective of the prologue is to “present” the work in general or some specific aspect of it an (the author, the plot, the characters, the historical context…). The specific purpose depends largely on the literary genre we are dealing with. For example in an historical novel the prologue usually gives some information about the an real events that frame the plot while in an classic novel the prologue is usually written by an editor or critic to pay tribute to the author and the importance of the work.
Although including a prologue is not mandatory it is recommended as it allows you to establish a first and important contact with the reader.
The importance of the prologue in literature Children’s book ghostwriter near me often walk a fine line between being creative storytellers and adhering to the author’s specific vision and guidance. Striking this balance is a significant challenge, but it is essential to maintain the integrity of the project.
The importance of the prologue in literature
We have mentioned that the specific objective of the prologue may vary depending on the literary genre or the specific characteristics of the literary work. Among those functions are:
• Awaken and capture the reader’s attention.
• Provide relevant information so that the reading can be fully understood and appreciated.
• Highlight the importance of the book and give at least one reason to read it.
• Introduce the author (especially if they are new).
• Clarify the intention of writing that work (widely used years ago to avoid censorship, as Fernando de Rojas did in the play La Celestine).
In order for one or more of these purposes to be fulfilled, it is essential to write a quality prologue and follow a series of guidelines to do so.
How to write a good prologue: essential elements it should contain?
The prologue should be understood as a closed textual unit that presents the work. It is not an extra chapter or an extensive preface in which to make a prior study of the work. A prologue should present brief and concisely, in just an couple of pages aspects that may attract the readers attention in one way or another (for example, presenting the author or an historical fact relevant to the argument).
Therefore, the first step in writing a prologue is to keep in mind its brevity. If it is too long, instead of captivating and encouraging reading, it will an bore you. The goal is for a reader to be able to read the prologue and decide whether or not to continue reading.
Another fundamental aspect is the unity of the prologue. This introductory section must be linked to the rest of the work, even if it is independent of the plot. For example, you cannot write a prologue to an anthology that talks about one of the included texts but not the rest. Likewise, it would make no sense for the prologue of a novel to talk about the author’s previous works published.
As for the structure, it is recommended to divide it into the three traditional parts of introduction, middle and end:
• Introduction: the prologue should begin with general touches on the work and the author. In those first lines the reader should get an idea about the plot of the book and what makes it different.
• Knot: the brushstrokes given in the introduction can be expanded in this part, adding striking and relevant details.
• Outcome: the last lines should lend a hand to the reader so that they continue reading. You can use suspense or simply close with a sentence full of emotionality.
Difference between prologue, introduction and preface.
It is likely that reading our explanation of what a prologue is, you have doubts about what differentiates it from the introduction and the preface. Let’s see it.
• Preface: it is longer and allows aspects such as the historical context of the work or the biography of an author to be explained in greater detail. For example, it is very common for it to be written by literary critics who make an analysis of the work, almost as if it were an essay.
• Introduction: like the prologue, it provides general information, but it does so in a very objective way, almost as if it were a summary of the plot.
What is an anthology
With the definition of a prologue now clarified, it is time to address the concept of an anthology.
The Royal Academy of Language defines “anthology” as “Collection of selected pieces of literature, music, etc.”. Therefore, several literary works are collected in an anthology. The selection responds to logical literary criteria; All texts must belong to the same literary genre and have something in common (the topic they address, the time in which they were written, etc.). An example would be an anthology of post-war poetry or regional stories.
The anthologist or anthologist is the person who chooses and groups the literary pieces in an orderly manner. They can be your own works but also those of others. In any case, the selection must be preceded by a prologue that explains the thematic axis that all the texts share.
The importance of the prologue in the literary anthology
There can be many anthologies, even on the same topic (for example, there are multiple compilations of medieval poems). What differentiates one from another is an criteria with which they have been selected and/or who has made that selection.
When writing the prologue of the anthology the anthologist therefore has the opportunity (and the need) to explain the motivation for this collection of texts and what is the thread that unites them. In this way it not only gives meaning to the literary work but also gives readers reasons to immerse themselves in it as well as an general information about the texts and their authors.
As for who writes the prologue, it is worth mentioning that it is a usually not the author. This is logical since anthologies normally collect literary compositions by different writers. Even when it is a anthology of works by the same author, it is usually someone else who takes care of an prologue. However it may be the case that the anthologist and the author are the same person, especially when it is an unknown writer who publishes an anthology of his poems or short narrative texts.
“Reading makes a man complete, speaking makes him expeditious, writing makes him exact.”
Tips for writing the prologue to an anthology
It is complex to give general advice on how to write the prologue to an anthology, as it depends largely on the literary genre of the collected pieces and also on the perspective of the anthology.
However, and before sharing specific recommendations, we are going to establish some common guidelines:
• Explain the purpose of the anthology: highlighting what makes it different from others and why the reader will find it interesting and innovative.
• Prioritize brevity: although there are many things to explain about each selected text, this can be done as a footnote in each of them. The prologue should be short so that it does not bore or overwhelm and the reader wants to discover more.
• Highlight the figure of the anthologist: whether or not he is the author, whoever makes the compilation must highlight the credentials (such as awards, other works, academic works…) that make him a good compiler. For example, many anthologists are literary experts who are assumed to have not only good taste but also knowledge.
• Briefly clarify what is the common point of all the texts.
• Use an appropriate tone: if we are dealing with an anthology of romantic poetry, the tone should be evocative and emotional. On the other hand, in a collection of poems about war, the tone may need to be more serious. Who the anthologist is and their position regarding the selection also influences. If it is a literature expert, it will maintain an objective and academic tone, while if the anthologist is the author himself, the writing of the prologue will be closer and even more subjective. In any case, the prologue must be written clearly, concisely and with accessible language and understandable semantics.
Immersing yourself in passion: prologue to an anthology of poems
If you want to publish a poetry anthology, writing a good prologue is a mandatory and determining task. It is because poetry requires a deep understanding of certain literary motifs and also of the author.
The prologue is the place to include some relevant notes on these aspects. Doing so will not only help the reader better understand what they are about to read, but it can help them make the decision about whether or not the poems will connect with them.
The rhythmic essence behind each verse: keys to a successful poetic prologue
The task of writing a prologue to a poetry anthology is not easy. In just two pages you must include a brief description of the poems as a whole to captivate the reader and help them understand the reading they are about to begin.
As a guide, these are some keys to prologue a book of poems:
• Include textual quotes from one or more of the poems included (for example, a verse) that impact the reader and help prove that it is a great collection.
• If the poems are part of the same author and have been written at different times, emphasize how the reader will be able to feel the evolution of the poet.
• If the poems are by different authors, briefly explain how, despite the differences, surprising similarities can be found.
• Poetry is a very personal literary genre that allows subjectivity. In this sense, the prologue writer and anthologist can include their own opinions that move away from academicism and that connect better with the reader.
• Don’t forget to incorporate some data that justifies the compilation, that is, what all the poems have in common (if it is not the author or the theme, it could be the place or time in which they were written).
Romantic declarations: the prologue of an anthology of love poems
The anthology that talks about love is destined for success, so says the statistics.
The reality is that, indeed, love books connect a lot with the audience by making reference in such a beautiful way to such a universal feeling. The prologue should reflect that idea. Therefore, and although the anthologist has done a great job of critical analysis to make the selection, the prologue should not abuse technicalities, but rather be an extension of that love that is breathed in the poems.
A factor that usually helps the reader connect is explaining what love was for the author (or authors) or who was the woman or man who inspired the poems. Humanization and empathy are two great weapons in this sense.
“I can write the saddest verses tonight; write, for example: The night is starry, and the stars shiver, blue, in the distance.”
– Pablo Neruda
Invoking the mystery: prologue to an anthology of stories
The art of short fiction usually requires anthologies to be published. Normally a book is not released with a single story, but rather several short stories are included in the same work.
Just like any other anthology, a short story anthology can contain texts from a single author or several. In any case, the prologue continues to be an essential element to give unity to the selection and win over the reader from the first page.
In addition to the general tips for writing an anthology, we are going to share some more specific ones to justify and praise the collections of horror stories and fables.
Chills in every line: prologue to an anthology of horror stories
The prologue of a horror anthology must be able to introduce the reader to the atmosphere of the stories, which will be characterized by suspense and tension.
Consequently, the tone of the prologue must generate a specific atmosphere thanks to the use of short sentences, textual quotes (somewhat terrifying) from the stories or their authors, and intriguing questions that convince the reader that they want to know more.
Remember that, although the writers are always important, in the case of horror stories it is the content of these, and not so much who wrote them (unless it is an author recognized for it like Edgar Allan Poe) that will attract the reader. Therefore, the prologue must focus on introducing and maintaining that narrative tension.
Unraveling the magic: prologue to an anthology of fables
In fables the content is also important, but what is notable is the cultural wealth they constitute.
A fable can change from one culture to another, from one country to another, but there are almost always similarities that make us realize that the same stories are used to teach the same concepts.
When writing the prologue to an anthology of fables, therefore, we must emphasize the social value they have and also their moralizing and didactic character. This will also highlight its timeless relevance and invitation to reflection.
As a last note, it is also convenient to use the prologue to contextualize and explain the origin of the fables and how they went from oral to written.
Reviving traditions: prologue to an anthology of myths and legends
In a similar way to fables, myths and legends are often published in anthologies to highlight their cultural, social and historical importance. These texts, which have been part of different civilizations, help explain concepts such as rain.
The prologue of mythological compilations plays a fundamental role in contextualizing these legends, since some are part of times as old as Greco-Latin.
Rediscovering our roots: how to present myths and legends masterfully
The prologue is therefore the tool to present the myths and legends of an anthology. We cannot forget that this presentation must be generic, since there is no space to go text by text.
Another factor to take into account is the use of magic and the fantastic in mythological texts. It is important that this wonderful element also appears in the prologue in a way that attracts the reader but also invites him to leave susceptibility behind and accept this other “unreal” way of explaining the world.
Myths and legends: establishing the connection with ancient times
Although some myths and legends, even though they are from different cultures, are similar to each other, when writing the prologue of the anthology it is advisable to contextualize the specific era to which they belong.
For example, if we are dealing with an anthology of Greek myths, in the prologue we must give some information about that civilization. Of course, basic and relevant data to understand its mythology.
It is also important to highlight how these myths and legends have influenced and continue to influence later literature and works of art.
Myths and legends
The melody behind the words: prologue to an anthology of songs
The songs are heard, but they are also read as if they were poems. Although what is written cannot capture the melody, there are anthologies of songs that bring us closer to it and introduce us to the world of music.
For this to be the case, the presence of a good prologue that introduces said anthology of songs is notable and, despite not being able to include sound, is capable of briefly transmitting the motivation behind that compilation.
Capturing the soul of music: the importance of a sincere prologue
Just like poems, songs are very subjective, which is why the prologue must be written with a sincere, personal and close tone.
It is also advisable to insist on how the lyrics tell a story and how the society and culture of the moment influenced their composition.
Tuning into emotions: guide to an unforgettable song prologue
Sincerity when writing the prologue to an anthology of songs must also be accompanied by emotionality:
Talk about what the words chosen to compose a song evoke.
Highlight if they tell something specific and of great importance (for example, protest songs with high political-social content).
Use the first person to suggest what the lyrics have awakened in the prologue writer himself.
Final Tips for Writing an Unforgettable Prologue for an Anthology
Whether it is stories, poems, songs or myths, writing the prologue to an anthology is key not only to guarantee its success but also to do justice to the work of selecting the works included.
Throughout this article we have given some general and specific advice, although before finishing we would like to add some final recommendations:
Remember that the prologue is not a summary, so don’t tell too much, just enough to highlight the value of the anthology and convince the reader to read it.
Brevity is essential.Everything that is not relevant to fulfill the objective of the prologue is superfluous.
Read forewordsfrom other anthologies for inspiration. Another practical exercise is to read an anthology and write a prologue for it.
The prologue should never be written before reading(more than once) the entire anthology.