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The Prologue - Walter Shillington's Author's Workshop

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Writing Skills

In theory an introduction to a story can be very useful.  Most authors, however, anxious to provide background information on the world they have created, use the prologue as a history lesson.  Since the prologue is the opening to the novel, a history lesson is not appropriate.  Feed in background and history in small doses as you write the story.

I once had the opportunity to critique the prologue of a novice writer.  She handled it correctly.  The book dealt with the life of a queen during the last years of her reign.  The prologue was quite exciting, describing the queen as a young, vigorous woman who was yet to be crowned.  The introduction included plenty of action, dialogue and the writer used the opportunity to build the character of the princess.  Sure, the prologue also provided background… but the history lesson was cleverly concealed beneath the cloak of dialogue, action and crisp, vivid description.

An opening such as this would be acceptable.  Sadly, many readers avoid reading prologues because they are so often misused.  Because of this, I cannot recommend the use of this feature.

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