Prologue

by Georgia

Question: I have a prologue for my book, but I don't feel it will open the story very well; chapter one feels like a better opener. However, I can't add it as a later chapter because it wouldn't fit into the time frame or POV of the rest of the story (it takes place 12 years before).


Is it possible to put Chapter One, then a Prologue, then Chapter Two or would that just be silly?

Thank you.

Answer: By definition, a prologue comes before the story. However, that doesn't mean you must reveal the story in chronological order.

The challenge is that readers often prefer a story to begin with the main character's throughline. However, the inciting incident of the story may be an event that takes place long before the main character enters the story. So one solution is to describe this inciting incident in a prologue. Calling it a prologue reassures the reader that the "real" story (i.e. the main character's story) hasn't started yet.

But let's say you really want to start with the main character, rather than the overall throughline via a prologue, but you also want the reader to know what happened long ago. You could turn the prologue into a flashback that can be inserted later in the story, much as you suggest. Don't call it a prologue, however. Just make it a chapter and number it like any other chapter.

You might find it more effective to include your flashback at the end of an act rather than immediately after the first chapter, so that the reader has a chance to get into the main character's story first. In some stories, you might not reveal how the story started until the very end, in an epilogue, to create a mystery.

Alternatively you could have the main character learn about the events of the earlier incident at a later point in the story. Devices to accomplish this include things like...

* getting the story from other characters, documents, or records,
* gathering scene-of-the-crime evidence to deduce what happened,
* having psychic impressions, dreams, or memories (for instance, if the main character was present but was too young to remember years later what happened, until something triggers the memory).

Murder mysteries, for example, often depend on not revealing the details of the murder (which starts the story) until the end.

If you don't want the main character to find out what happened, but you still need the reader to know, another approach is to switch to a different character's point of view and reveal the events either through that character's memory or conversation. This can create dramatic irony, in which the audience knows what past event is causing things to happen in the present, but the main character doesn't.

Best of luck.

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