Here are a few more notes on prologues. In some cases, even if it involves your main character, but it occurred a long time ago, then you might want to use a prologue. Another way to handle past events is through flashbacks. A flashback can vary in length, but if it’s too long, the reader may get lost in space and time. Then again, some background information may be too comprehensive to cover in snippets.
If you’re unclear on such a situation, this is where your beta readers and author friends with whom you share your work can be of tremendous help. It may even send you back to the drawing board as far as your story is concerned. Are you starting it too late? Or is it something that could be covered later as a prequel?
The good news is that any plot with that much context or character with that much history is probably a great one. It may even become a series instead of a single book. I know first hand how that goes. My Star Trails Tetralogy didn’t start out as a four book series with a prequel and full-length side story, but that’s how it wound up. My current WIP was supposed to be a cozy mystery, but it quickly evolved into a not-so-cozy conspiracy thriller that will be long enough upon completion to split into a trilogy.
Once your characters come to life and start writing the story for you, there’s no telling where you might wind up.
Sometimes your story may begin years or even centuries before Chapter One. In other words, if it reflects the ramifications or aftereffects of some previous event, it may require some background information to put it into context.
More than likely, this won’t involve the main character. If it does, then it’s really not a problem to start with Chapter One then skip ahead. Another way to handle it is by using a prologue. I’m sure you’ve read prologues before that made no sense. In some cases it may remain a mystery even when you finish the story. In other words, they should tie into the story, even if it takes a while before the reader makes the connection.
The main thing is that you should start Chapter 1 with your protagonist. Essential background information can be easily included as a prologue.
Bear in mind that readers may come to a sequel months, or even years, after reading the first book, or possibly not in order. Always recap the plot and describe the characters again to refresh their memory as well as assure any new readers don’t feel lost.
I run into this a lot, and have even caught myself guilty of this while writing my series. To the author, it is one continuous story. To the reader, however, who may have read the predecessor ages or at least many books ago, remembering exactly what was going on as well as the function of minor characters, is often unclear.
In some cases, you may want to use a prologue or a “The Story so Far” section for this purpose. Those who don’t need the review can skip it while those who do will appreciate it and allow them to get fully engaged in the story more easily.
If your story needs some background information essential to the plot, but it doesn’t involve the main character, you can introduce it by using a prologue. That way you can start Chapter 1 with your protagonist, which you should always do, because it immediately tells your reader who the story is about. Otherwise, they’re going to wonder what happened to the character they “met” first and whose story your book is really about.
With the exception of prologues, always start your story with your main character. Readers want to know who the story is about right up front and will be confused if someone different kicks it off. #ASMSG #RRBC #amwriting