Life in Writing
Story structure can be tricky. There are so many parts of a story and each one accomplishes a different thing. Some are necessary, and some aren't. A Prologue is a common part of a story, that in reality isn't necessary most of the time. So when exactly should you use a prologue? Let's start with the basics.
What is a Prologue?
Simply put, a prologue is a small section at the start of a story that is only partially related to the rest of the story. It will generally feature a character who isn't involved in the rest of the story, and often dies at the end of the prologue.
So you may be asking yourself, if it's not even related to the rest of the story, and it doesn't introduce an important character, what's the point of even having one? Well that bring sus to our next point.
What's the Point of a Prologue?
A prologue is excellent at doing a few things. The first is establishing the setting of the story. This is extremely useful in the sci-fi and fantasy genres where the world is very different from our own. The prologue is a good place to let the reader know exactly what kind of world they'll be getting into, and introducing them to a few of the fantastic elements that will be present.
The next purpose of a prologue is to make promises to your reader. Do you have a story with a lot of action, but a slow begining? Many fantasy stories start this way, with the poor farmer boy destined to become a hero, many sci-fi stories start this way as well. If a reader hoping for an action story and jumps right into the tale of a poor farmer boy, they're going to give up on the book long before they reach an action sequence. This can be solved by an action packed prologue. A prologue packed with action tells your reader immediately that there will be action in this book, so it's worth investing in the poor farm boy. If your story starts slow, as many do, then a prologue may be the very best thing you can include.
A Word of Caution
Prologues aren't for every story. If you don't have a very specific reason for including a prologue then you absolutely should not include one. Think carefully about what your story needs before you write out your prologue, it could be the very best or the very worst thing that can happen to your story.
If you found this post helpful, check out a few other writing tips:
Writing With Flow
4 Words to Cut Out While Editing
Basics of Plotting a Storyline
Or you can browse through our other writing tips here.
Daniel M. Quilter is the author of A Soul Divided. On this blog he'll interview other authors, review books, share nerd wisdom from popular sci-fi and fantasy, and occasionally share his insights on writing. See a list of his works or see what he's working on.
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