Prologues – Cliché or Powerful?

“Begin as late in the story as possible” “show, don’t tell” “No info dumps!”

But won’t the reader need to know all the background history that set up the complex world and events that unfold in the very first chapters? Yes, the reader does want to know more, but first they need to have a compelling reason to care – a character they enjoy and want to follow.

I’m at the point of drafting my novel that it’s time to throw out the long-winded prologue that details the events of the six centuries leading up to my main character’s arrival on the scene. Perhaps those pages could be developed later into a much coveted novella by the fans rabid for more of the story. Perhaps, but for now there is no one clamoring for more because there isn’t anything for them to consume anyway. The main story isn’t finished.

So it’s time to use that wealth of lead-up to enhance the main story itself. I must allow the reader to discover the world along with the characters themselves who will uncover the mysteries locked in the past. Hopefully, this will enhance the reading experience more than a truncated 5 page prologue trying to summarize six centuries would.

However, I have written a prologue that gives the reader access to only a few crucial moments of that backstory – one pivotal event that set the stage for the state of the world our main characters will find themselves quickly overwhelmed by.

I welcome your thoughts – what makes a powerful prologue?


The Matriarch lay still on the forest floor, the twilight pulling her into increasing darkness. Azrael felt his whole angelic being shudder to behold the paleness of the face he knew so well. There were truly no limits to the lengths his enemies would go. This murder was just the beginning of a night – an age – of unprecedented bloodshed in the valley. Unless he could prevent it.

His wings lifted him up and he rose into the sky, the forest trail receding quickly below him. At this distance, no mortal could have still seen the body below him in the dark. But angels tasked with being Watchers over mankind were not limited like the mortals they shepherded. His eyes pierced the thick shadows and rested upon her one last time.

Then, he cast his gaze across the forested hills that leveled out to meet the bank of the wide Euphrates river, which flowed black against the starry horizon. The pulses of the nightly aurora reflected from the expanse and danced and shimmered on the rippling surface. And in the middle of that vast water, the city of Nod lay on its rocky island. Soon the news of her death would reach Nod, and the peace she alone had the power to hold together for so many years would be shattered.

He fled from her cold figure toward the city. The chill of the the descending night could not be felt by him. His plane of reality ran parallel with that of mortals, but only rarely intersected. Matter, heat had no effect on his being, but space and time were elements of both planes that bound him as the mortals below.

Azrael shuddered once more as he approached the outcroppings of rock surrounded by water that the Cainites had made their home for centuries. It was as familiar to the angel as to any inhabitant. He had watched and wrestled against their proclivity for cruelty for so long. He had held back the advances of dark powers to unseat his guardianship.

But without the influence of his now-dead wife to restrain him, what would Cain do now? Azrael dreaded the consequences Cain’s fury would unleash, not only within the next few hours, but for eternity.

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