To prologue, or not to prologue?

Take a moment to think of the last fantasy book you read. Chances are the action was preceded by a prologue, or at least a separate section introducing plot-related elements (Thomas Wheeler’s The Arcanum started this way).

Many of the great fantasy epics guide readers in with this method. I also understand that not every story requires one. I opened Lifeline with a prologue. At the time, I was introducing the event that would lure Gabriel to the Main Plot. It wasn’t until later that I realized it wasn’t necessary, so I scrapped it. The events would be referenced in-story, but they weren’t the true conflict. That exists in Gabriel himself. It’s only when he is thrust into a situation when he has to face it head on.

This brings me to The Shadow Conflict. Its prologue sets the stage for what’s to come. The characters introduced here are, while minor, part of my world’s history, and linked to all characters involved in the story. I think it needs the prologue. Otherwise, readers might experience confusion over why those associated with the Shadow element are treated like second-class citizens, or why Harmony’s actions concerning them are considered reckless.

I love prologues. I love getting a taste of the world I’m about to enter. That is the historian in me. I also understand the wariness about them. Some writers use the prologues as convenient info dumps. A lot of the info could be injected into the story itself. But I think, like with everything, there is a time and place. If done right, your prologue offers just enough to prepare you for what’s around the corner. It will also be the difference between the want to turn the page, and the want to put it down. Word your prologues carefully, writers.

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