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.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero