Hi SErs! It’s a day of Harmony here at Story Empire 🙂 Today, I’d like to talk about Foreshadowing in a prologue. Here’s a link to the previous post on Backstory Delivery.
How do you write foreshadowing into your prologue, and do it well?
- This type of prologue teases and entices the reader by showing crucial events to come later in the book.
- These events need to hook your reader by piquing their interest, whether this is done via an intriguing, scary, heartwarming, disturbing, terrifying, amusing, or exciting scene, etc. (Did you notice how these all arouse one emotion or another?)
- Some books need to open a little more slowly than others, and a ‘spoilers ahoy’ prologue can launch your reader straight into the plot with a promise of the action soon to come. However, this never gives away the plot or twists, and it should never be used to prop up a weak opening chapter. (See point 4, below.)
- To foreshadow means to leave your reader with a burning question of what’s going to happen next. The opening chapter should pique their interest further because of such foreshadowing, even if the inciting event isn’t obvious. But the set-up must be there. (See “Note” in the yellow paragraph below.)
- Foreshadowing in prologues is good for slow-burn stories such as literary fiction, suspense, horror, romance, and psychological thrillers, etc., where the action doesn’t, necessarily, happen right away.
- Such a prologue has done its job if it entices your reader to keep on turning those pages and devouring those words. Even more so if it makes their heart race and/or feel an emotion (other than boredom!).
- These kinds of prologues can be just one or two lines of prose, or they can be a full chapter length. Use whatever your story needs.
NOTE: A recent read where I saw foreshadowing with a slower opening chapter work well, while also introducing an incredibly not-obvious inciting event, was The Catch by T M Logan. In this book, the prologue was quite short, and it showed one person being murdered by another. However, it gave away no identities nor other crucial plot details. Instead, it led us into the opening chapter with a lot of questions … the main ones being, “Who dies?” and “Who did the killing?” The opening chapter is quite slow in comparison, with a family get-together where the parents meet the new boyfriend. However, it is hate at first sight from the father’s perspective. Because of the excellent foreshadowing in the prologue, the reader immediately knows this is more significant than it first appears. Even though nothing other than a glance and a regular, even boring, family event unfolds in Chapter One, the reader is hooked and wants to find out more. You just know it ain’t gonna end well! In this instance, the set-up worked so much better than leaving the opening chapter to stand on its own, even though it was strong in itself. The scene-setting and characterisations were brilliant. Yet, the narrative demanded something “extra” stand alongside Chapter One.
Recap: Don’t give the plot or twists away. While you’re showing a spoiler, in a sense, you’re also holding the crucial stuff back for later. Use a key event to hook your reader. 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 Monday 12th September, when we’ll take a look at Unexpected Clues and Prologues 🙂
The prologue series so far:
©2022 Harmony Kent