In the Beginning, There Was the Prologue

If you’re going to do a prologue, do it right.

Guild Of Dreams

A few months ago I wrote about folding backstory into a narrative to give your readers the vital information they need without hitting them over the head with a history lesson. In that post, I quoted this received wisdom:

Don’t use prologues.

That advice comes from agents and traditional publishers who believe, based on the contents of their slushpiles, that “prologue” means “deadly boring waste of my time.”

MedeaThe actual definition of prologue is a separate introductory section of a literary work. Etymologically, the word comes from the ancient Greek prologos, which described the preamble to a play that established the setting and provided background information to enhance the audience’s understanding and appreciation of the drama. The Greeks may have given the prologue its name, but I’d lay odds they didn’t invent the literary device. Knowing human beings, I imagine we’ve been prefacing our stories since people could speak.

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