Insights of the Writes I: Prologues

Hi everyone!! I hope you’re as excited as I am to kick off this new blog series that will be running all the way to the end of February. Let’s hear it for Insights of the Writes!!! 😀

As I mentioned in my last post, I will personally be covering 4 topics within the subjects of Story Style, Character, World, and Plot during this series, and featuring YOUR suggested topics and questions (click here to access the form). And what better way to start than with PROLOGUES, the sometimes lauded and sometimes criticized way of starting a book, am I right?

Before we officially start though, a disclaimer: every post I will do for this blog series is not encouraging you to do x, y, or z, but rather, showing those interested in doing x, y, or z, a behind the scenes thought process for a possible way to approach x, y, or z, in an efficient and fun manner—hence the name, Insights of the Writes. These are all my personal opinions, so feel free to make what you will of them 🙂

Now, according to Reedsy’s blog, “[a] prologue prepares the reader for the story they’re about to read with information that is necessary to have before the start of the novel itself”. I find that generally, prologues are used two ways. One, to show a pivotal moment in the character’s backstory. Two, it can be used to show a scene that is separate from the main characters but introduces a mysterious conflict that will show up later on in the narrative.

The controversy with prologues is a concern of how necessary the prologue is to the rest of the story. Some, but not all, authors may use the prologue as an info dump about the world or the character—this is obviously not desirable, as it can cause the reader to lose interest quickly. Conflict is what draws us in, and when a prologue hinders the speed at which we can arrive at the conflict—that is where I believe the controversy comes in. 

Some like to use this analogy: prologues are to your story as appetizers are to your meal. Masterclass says, “Just as an amuse bouche prepares restaurant diners for a meal and offers a glimpse of the chef’s style, a prologue is a literary device that arouses the reader’s interest and provides a hint of what’s to come.”

Now, what about prologues that are well done? What sort of characteristics do they have?

I believe a good prologue will contain the following:

  • an authentic, unbiased feel of the world from an otherwise irrelevant perspective
  • a taste of the conflict to come
  • enough context for the reader to infer details but not too much that they feel bogged down

The prologues of Six of Crows (YA) and The Gilded Wolves (YA) both match this criteria. Another example of a series where prologues are common and generally necessary is the Warriors Cat series (which I absolutely BINGED when I was younger…yes, I know I’m still “young”, but you get it :D)

In this post, I want to show you how the prologue to The Gilded Wolves matches the above criteria. I highly recommend previewing the book online and reading the prologue before coming back to see my breakdown! I would provide the prologue here for you but then this post would seem insanely long. Here is the link though!

The Gilded Wolves Prologue (Length: 4 pages; Note: please be aware that violence is implied)

………….

All right! Assuming you have read the prologue and are interested in seeing how exactly the criteria I listed above applies to those four pages, let’s get into it!

  • an authentic, unbiased feel of the world from an otherwise irrelevant perspective

Here, we are in the point of view of “[t]he matriarch of House Kore”. She is accustomed to luxury, wealth, and the competence of her servants, her arrogance clear by the first paragraph. She even describes herself as a “goddess cinched to human shape” because of the power of her Babel Ring. Her signature “twist of thorns” marking every object in sight and her reminisce of succeeding in the power struggles that conflicted her House give us the insight we need into the world we are dealing with. 

So, we can assume that the novel will be dealing with Houses, Babel Rings, old traditions, and the power of the gods. This is the part of the world we have been given access to and the one we should expect to immerse ourselves in for the rest of the story. 

  • a taste of the conflict to come

The prologue ends with the matriarch’s Babel Ring being pried from her finger and her being knocked unconscious. The novel sets up the tension and conflict almost right off the bat. Because the matriarch’s belief in her self-importance is not entirely unfounded, due to her possession of the Babel Ring of her House, someone who would have the nerve to go against her signifies a taste of the conflict to come. Something sinister and dark must be pulling the strings here. A force who wants to wield all the Babel Rings? Perhaps! 

Through the matriarch’s eyes and her fate, we can infer what the conflict of the story will be and how it could connect to our main cast of characters. 

  • enough context for the reader to infer details but not too much that they feel bogged down

A very good technique of worldbuilding that avoids info dumps (huge paragraphs of unnecessary information) is the writer guiding the reader into a point of view that is extremely familiar with the world. The point of view will throw around terms (mainly words starting with a capital letter or a few uncommon phrases) that would be familiar to any other inhabitant of the world but perhaps not us. In doing this, the writer creates a sense of familiarity right off the bat, trusting readers to make deductions on their own.

But we aren’t left all by ourselves. The specific point of view will have had their thoughts built by the author around giving us enough context. In The Gilded Wolves’ example, the matriarch throws around the names of fancy hotels (to ground us in the setting a little more) and the term Forging, which is linked to Babel Rings and essentially power. Because the matriarch’s thinking moves so smoothly and flows cohesively, we as readers are quickly hooked and interested in the progression of the story and being immersed in the world. 

As you can see, The Gilded Wolves has a powerful prologue to start the story off the right way. It isn’t easy to pull off, but in matching those three bullet points of criteria, the prologue ensures that the reader has an intriguing start to their journey to a new world. I believe I am correct in assuming the matriarch will not appear for the rest of the story, thus an “otherwise irrelevant” point of view (I am currently reading The Gilded Wolves you see, but that does not make my belief in its steady prologue any less!). Not all prologues have to be from the main character’s point of view!! Even if you want to show a pivotal moment in their backstory in the prologue, it would be better shown through flashbacks triggered by certain events in the present that will be able to convey character depth AND advance the plot.

WHEW that was quite lengthy and analytical! Congratulations, you made it to the end!! I hope you enjoyed the first post of Insights of the Writes, it was a lot of fun for me to write!! 

And there’s still time to ask your own writing-related questions for a chance to see the answers in my future posts of the blog series! Simply fill out the form here.

Talk to me in the comments below! What did you think of this post? Anything else you want to add? Any questions at all you might have? I’d love to know!!

Until next time, my friends!!

18 Comments

  1. I love how deep this analysis was, and your criteria was very fun to read. 😀 I agree with you on many points too. prologues that keep us in suspense, and as you say, give a taste of the conflict to come, definitely catch my interest!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eleanor, this is INCREDIBLE I’m so excited for the rest of the series now! Ahh yes prologues are what makes or breaks and at times determines whether I buy the book or not… indeed, info dump prologues are NOT ideal at all and just drags the pacing and destroys ones first impression of the book! I really liked your first point about an unbiased and sincere perspective on the world, especially useful for fantasy novels! Six of Crows is such a great example, I loved how Joost was hardly involved in the story after that and that prologue definitely had such an ominous tone.

    Ahh your breakdown of The Gilded Wolves is making me even more excited to get to that one, when I read the book in full I’m going to come back to your analysis in full and have another perspective of how it sets everything up!

    Overall, such a brilliant discussion, thank you for this! 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cherelle, thank you so much!! 💞☺️ Your support means a lot, it’s so wonderful to have you here!! 

      Haha I agree, info dumps do drag the pacing a lot and when we’re confronted by them immediately…it’s overwhelming 😅 And I’m so glad you were able to relate to that first point, both SoC books do a great job with using this kind of narrator in their prologues!! Joost made for quite the narrator haha and it was so interesting how they set up the Grisha’s role in the duology along with the effects of jurda parem!!

      Yay!! I’m actually still waiting for my hold on The Gilded Wolves to come through but the sample was so fascinating and I thought the prologue would make a great case study!! Ooh maybe we could buddy read it together 👀 no pressure of course 😅

      Have a lovely week, and thank you again for your lovely comment! 💞

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my gosh, Eleanor, this is probably the best write about writing that I’ve read in a good while! I loved how you used an actual example, (that prologue was incredible!) and reading your take on it and how they matched the criteria you set was truly insightful. Remarkable post as always!!

    Liked by 1 person

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