My favourite childhood novels often had prologues. I felt that they added a lot of charm to the book, and marked each novel as proper fantasy. I liked them, but in my early writing I fell into the trap of making them too information dense. I told too much instead of showing. They were clunky, dense, and better off cut.
While writing ‘Fables Written By Rabbits’, the second book in the series, my creative mind fixated on a short story about one of the Dogs. All of the characters in the series are animals with varying degrees of sentience, but the main characters are all rabbits. They interpret the world, and the great mystery within it, in their own way. A dog interprets the world differently, especially a dog that was alive before the mysterious dust fell from the sky and changed everything.
He has a good backstory. It will tug and heartstrings and intrigue the astute reader. Trouble is, no rabbit is going to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with a dog long enough to tease out all that detail, and why would a dog tell them in the first place? It was impossible to slot into the narrative.
So I decided to write this dog’s backstory as a prologue to the second book, and see what the beta readers think. It could be a short story on its own, but I think it will enhance the enjoyment of the novel, and provide greater insight to the ending. I wouldn’t want somebody to pick up the book without that information.
In summary, I’m choosing to keep it as a prologue because it:
- Introduces an antagonist that’s important at the end. This ties the beginning and ending of the novel together neatly.
- It enhances the ongoing mystery of the setting.
- It brings the reader straight into the action with a likeable character.
- It sets up a question and a hook, even if the reader has not read the previous instalment.
- While it doesn’t tell readers exactly what happened in the past, they are given enough information to work with.
- Everybody likes dogs.
If I don’t keep it as a prologue, I will certainly publish it as a short story for bonus content. I was contemplating doing this anyway for many of the non-rabbit characters as a promotion.
This just feels like such a neat little backstory, and I’m certain it will make some readers cry. All good stories have to make you feel something.