|What is past is prologue. -- William Shakespeare|
The first chapter of my WIP isn’t the first chapter at all. It turned out to be a prologue instead. The first 2,153 words account for events that happened 42 years before the protagonist enters the scene in chapter one. Most of the advice given to unpublished writers is to omit the prologue if we want to avoid the slush pile. The mere mention of the slush pile evokes shivers in most writers, me included.
From what I understand, prologues have gone “out of style”, and to write one now-a-days is just as bad as using clichés. One of the reasons is that the information given in the prologue can just as easily be incorporated into the story. Another reason is that writers who use them only do so as a form of padding to add word count, and when removed do not affect the story at all.
The genre I’m working with is Fantasy and it’s important to explain what happened in the past, so that it’s clear to the reader why the protagonist experiences certain events in her timeline. Although still viewed critically by agents, rules over prologues are a bit more relaxed in the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. Agents and publishers understand that with all the world building taking place, which of course differs so greatly from our reality, readers would get lost without proper explanation.
Even so, I’ve been rethinking my prologue and trying to find ways of cutting it out, by having another character explain the back story in dialogue. But it’s not so easy to do without the information dump being an obvious information dump. The prologue does provide a lot of background info that is definitely important to the story but it’s not all of it. I already planned on having a character provide the extra info and if I were to cut out the prologue that would be too much info dumping.
I’m still working on my first draft so I have some time to decide whether to cut out the prologue or not. But I’m really attached to it, so I hope it survives the re-write.