Hi SErs! It’s a day of Harmony here at Story Empire 🙂 Today, I’d like to talk about Backstory Delivery in a prologue. Here’s a link to the previous post on Does Your Story Need a Prologue?
So far in this post series we’ve looked at what a prologue is and isn’t, what to do and not to do when using a prologue, and whether or not your story needs a prologue. From here on in, we’re going to move on to how to apply various aspects of a prologue. Today, we’ll take a look at backstory delivery.
How do you write significant backstory into your prologue, and do it well?
- When using a prologue to describe significant prior events, you need to ask yourself two things: a). What characters need introducing right now? and b). What events need introducing right now?
- Both the characters and events introduced in the prologue will provide a crucial key, or keys, to the reader about what follows in the main story. A good prologue will provide information important to understanding the plot, and/or the world, etc.
- Remember, this is not an information dump. You need to keep your prologue concise and well-structured, just as you would with your opening chapter.
- Use this narrative to introduce an element of mystery and make your reader question and want to know what happens next. For example: Why did X,Y,Z happen? What does it mean?
- Standalone events are excellent ways of introducing a much broader theme/issue to your readers without going into overkill.
- In your prologue, take care to utilise moments of tension, action, drama, and all the other good stuff you fill your stories with.
- Point six follows the same rules of “showing rather than telling” that all brilliant writing employs. A prologue is not the place to tell all or lecture. Whatever you do, you need to thrill your reader and show them something exciting that compels them to read on.
Perhaps the lengthiest prologue I’ve come across is that written by J R R Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings. Here, he used both tension and drama in his descriptions of background events to keep things interesting. Even though Tolkien wrote a rather epic prologue, he broke it down into five separate subjects and used a table of contents. Still, I would advise caution before going this route. These days, his lengthy narrative prologue may well have become a prequel.
Recap: If you can weave the elements of your prologue into your main story, then you don’t need one. But if you need to orient your reader and give them crucial information before the story begins, then definitely use a prologue. Keep it short, concise, and relevant. Show don’t tell.
TOP TIP: When you write a good prologue, and have a valid reason for using one, it will enhance your story rather than detract from it.
Remember: There are NO hard-and-fast rules. You can do anything you want, as long as you do it well and with good reason.
That’s it from me today. I hope you’ll find this series of posts useful. I’ll see you again on Wednesday 17th August, when we’ll take a look at Spoilers Ahoy and Prologues 🙂
The prologue series so far:
©2022 Harmony Kent