Prologue, uh... Placement.

by JJ


My prologue isn't something very exciting, at least not in my opinion. It has all the necessary "hooks" to keep people reading, but I fear that, unless one could see in a movie, it just feels a little too character centric for a book I'd be advertising as high fantasy. I'm thinking it'd be a better move to place the prologue as an interlude or a flashback later in the story, and leave the tragedy that happened a mystery until then.

So that you have an idea of what happens, my MC, being an immature, foolish, naive 14 year-old, believes herself to be pregnant after convincing her boyfriend to have sex with her a week earlier. She makes this out to be such a great thing, sunshine, rainbows; you name it. A new baby, yay! Better yet, it belongs to her and the person she's fallen madly in love with and trusts with everything she is!

Anyway, she and him are from historically rival families, ala Romeo and Juliet, though they've made up, more or less (at least the family of my MC thinks there are no more issues, the rival family's head is actually the antagonist of the story), so they're not in any conflict at this point. The boyfriend, since his parents didn't actually mean to birth a boy (for reasons irrelevant to this question), has been trying hard to be honorable enough to build up the confidence that his parents never gave him. However, as you can guess, a whole childhood of being largely ignored created a low self-esteem, so he, being paranoid, freaks out because his girlfriend's pregnant (what will people think of me, a noble, for impregnating a girl who's barely a teen? What will my parents do to me if they find out I had a child with an Armielle, our age-old enemy? I'll be tarnishing their name and they'll disown me), and basically tells her to go to hell and die in a ditch somewhere for, get this, *cheating on him with a peasant.*

He threatens her, telling her that if she doesn't admit that she was throwing the sheets with strange men, he was going to murder the man who "defiled her" in front of her eyes, which means he'd just pick a random, shady looking innocent off the street, accuse him, and kill him. She gets emotionally wrecked, her self-esteem also goes to a dark hole, and that marks her origins as the bratty, bully princess, the black sheep of the royal family who's hypersensitive and afraid of being harmed. She doesn't tell anyone in her family about this because since a person she trusted like her own brother betrayed her, she fears her own blood might turn on her too.

Spoilers; she was just sick, she wasn't actually pregnant... It was just the betrayal itself that broke her. Now she hates his family with a passion and wants to murder them, etc,

But alright, this prologue is NOT directly relevant to the plot, it is only relevant to explain why she is the way she is, and to also give a strong reason as to why she makes a rather dark decision in the climax of the story. So, it is relevant, but at the same time it isn't, and that's my problem. It doesn't make you interested in the cool world I built, it makes you interested in the character, and then come chapter 1, you get sharply turned back to the high fantasy you were promised. It just feels weird to me. I understand having 3D characters is good, I'm not looking to get rid of the prologue, but as I said, knowing all this, would it be better if I just revealed why she's so damaged later and start the story at chapter 1?

Sorry for the length, didn't think it would be this long of a question.

Answer: A lot of readers don't like prologues for a couple of reasons.

1. Many prologues happen before the main character enters the story, whereas readers generally prefer to meet the main character in the present and make their decision whether to keep reading based on the appeal of that character.

2. Bad prologues present pure background information which delays the start of the story, whereas readers generally want to begin where the story starts and decide whether to keep reading based on that.

That said, the best prologues present a brief event (i.e. change or turning point) that is the initial driver of the story. By "initial driver," I mean the event that causes the rest of the story to unfold. It's the real beginning of the story, without which the main or external plot would not happen.

Even then, if the main character is not present when the initial driver happens (for whatever reason), it is often more effective to begin the book by introducing the main character and filling the reader in on the initial driver later, through flashback or having the main character find out about it from someone.

Hiding the initial driver also lets you create some mystery. The reader may see various characters reacting to the initial driver, but won't know why, so they have to keep reading to find out what's going on.

So if you are going to have a prologue, I suggest you...

1. Make it about one event.
2. Make it the event that begins the external plot.

In the case of your story, since the imaginary pregnancy is purely character backstory and contains an arc of multiple events (sex, presumed pregnancy, threats etc.) -- and, since you say it's not very interesting -- I'd suggest you reveal it later in the story as a way to explain the relationship between these characters. Begin the story in the present and help the reader to get interested in the main character right away.

Best of luck.

Comments for Prologue, uh... Placement.

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Jan 24, 2018
Thank you!
by: Anonymous

Thanks for the input, really helped. I had suspected I'd need to hide what happened at first, like you said, but I wasn't too sure until now. It would make the story more interesting, and I guess even more aggravating to the reader to know what happened in the past after they've had a while to grow fond of the main character.

Awesome, thanks again.

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