Can the prologue and introduction be in the same chapter?

by Nathan Williams
(Denver, Colorado)

Question: I recently finished my 2nd draft of the first chapter of a book I'm working on, which opens with an event that will act as a Chekhov's Gun for a later chapter (shown below). Then goes into the introduction of my main characters. But, can the prologue and introduction both be in the same chapter or can they only be separate?

A toddler was happily playing with his action figures; a robot in his right hand and a knight in the other, giggling all the while. Nearby palm trees in the backyard shaded the bald child from the setting sun like giant umbrellas. The autumn breeze blowing through his navy blue tank top. Until a female voice called out for him.“Daniel, it’s time come in!”

“Oh boy!” he said as he dropped his toys and quickly waddled back toward the house. Dusk's dark shadows soon washed over the now lifeless toys like a blanket; the wind releasing an eerie howl.

Answer: It would be pretty difficult to write a prologue that didn't introduce at least one character. A prologue should, after all, be about an event. And an event means a change that affects someone.

Of course, you don't necessarily have to introduce your main character in a prologue. A prologue often describes an event that occurs before the main character enters the story (which is one reason some people dislike prologues). You may introduce your antagonist, guardian, sidekick, or other character, for example.

Either way, the prologue (or initial driver, or inciting incident) concerns an event that gets the ball rolling in regards to your plot. It may create a situation, a goal, or an imbalance that must be resolved in the course of the story.

A first chapter that introduces characters but doesn't contain an event could be pretty dull. It would be a chapter in which nothing happens -- which is usually not the best way to grab a reader's attention.

So I would suggest that the first thing you present to your reader -- whether you call it a prologue or Chapter 1 -- should both describe an event and introduce at least one character.

Best of luck

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