Sometimes your have one volume with a very complicated plot which requires a foundation so the reader isn’t pestered with blank spaces which are filled in some stage down the narrative by one character suddenly breaking into a quite out of context explanation or the sudden desire to give a back story.
There again you may have embarked upon a multi-volume work and are up to your syntax and continuity in characters of various degrees of importance, plots, sub-plots and conflicts of interest. Whereas you may be living a portion of your life in this world you should not expect your readership to so and thus remember whether this character vital to Volume III had had a walk-on part in Volume I.
In these situations The Prologue is a useful device. If you are writing Fantasy…
… it is almost a necessity otherwise you do have characters indulging in long explanations to another character which in normal circumstances the latter would not require, being it is hoped familiar with the nuances of their own world. In this genre you will have enough of a problem fitting in those explanations or discoveries which are generally unknown without having to include a running commentary for the reader. Prologues set the scene. Many successful authors use this device. As did many before The Bard and contemporaneous with Shakespeare. For instance he has a Chorus in the opening Scenes of Henry V and in Romeo and Juliet and you should not quibble over the fact this is one person, it would only sound confusing to have a lot of folk saying the same thing. Thus, if you are paying attention you will have an idea of ‘what’s what’.
A prologue can take many forms, a piece of action or dialogue before the main narrative. Sometimes it can take the form of a potted portion of history, this type should be approached with caution, lest it morph into a style which would be better suited to a factual history book. I had this problem upon reaching Vol III of my Fantasy trilogy….
….. I was simply going to record because the overall plot was reflecting the many facetted aspects of conflicts political and military when more then two parties are involved. There was by then a great deal of detail swirling around and this begged a summary. So I tried a few ‘historical accounts’ by various anonymous writers and none worked (See above-History)
It then occurred to me, at least one character would be in a similar situation trying to make sense of everything. The natural choice was Arketre Beritt, being military and without particular ‘Ethereal’ Powers she would be short of the extra perceptions Karlyn & Trelli have, and since she was military would be wary as to where the next crisis might come from. Thus between us (I always work with the characters, they have a far better insight than I do) we put together an incident where she attempts to chart and list all the possible threats, influences and problems on the various horizons.
Aside from this prologue having an element of acerbic comedy, which is Arketre’s forte, it would also serve to show the reader just what a convoluted hoo-hah everything had become. This state of affairs being a visualisation of the tangle which became WWII, Vietnam in the 1950s-1970s, Iraq in the previous decade and any patch of European history between …..well any time …In short no one was every truly in control or genuinely working with each other. We decided italics would work best to illustrate when she was writing or maybe having particularly vivid (polite alternative) thoughts.
Thus Arketre and I give you…The Prologue (aside from the initial physical scene setting and Arketre’s brief look-back, left out as not truly pertinent to the post). The romantic ending is deliberately left in as that plays several very important parts in the narrative….No, not The Relationship in general, causes for banter, noble sacrifice, tensions and scenes of an intimate nature. You need the book to find out…
……. Late night in the town of Yermetz. The air chill, a reminder Spring was still young. A figure seated at a desk, candle flickering due to a draft whose source still evaded detection.
As satisfied as she was Beritt was not inclined to be complacent and expect things to go on this easy. There were wars brewing, wars happening, wars in places far away and wars right under your nose, most folk could not see those last sort of wars. Beritt was realistic enough to appreciate she could only see a fraction of them at any time, so all the more reason to make sure she would be alert to anything coming her way.
It was a simple task really. Sit down with a large sheet of parchment, in the centre draw three circles with their first names written therein, then around them draw more circles with the names of all the organisations and people she reckoned could affect them. Once this was accomplished draw lines from these others to Me, Kitlin and Trelli, then lines which would link each of the organisation or people to each other. It would be like drawing a map, on scouting missions, you just had to keep a clear head and be methodical.
She carefully inscribed their names, adding extra curves to the letters K-I-T-L-I-N.
Then those to watch out for. The LifeGuard were, naturally, her first choice, only she found herself writing under its big circle, smaller ones to hold the names ‘Centre of Command and Decision- Drygnest’, ‘Colonel Rachteg’ and ‘Captain Dekyria’, because all three had been in contact with her or once through Kitlin at differing times with differing messages or in the case of the amorphous first trying to incinerate her as an acceptable loss. She didn’t feel inclined to draw lines yet.
Next came ‘The Libratery’, she had once been a member; a humble Novice Devoted. Take into account Trelli had grown up in one of their orphanages and of late had been at their tuscatalian fortress Altoviani Settentrionali, working for them. Bear in mind, last year when seeking out Trelli, apparently Kitlin had annoyed a Surveyoress Coltello who Trelli reckoned was up to more than she seemed. Thus once more two separate circles under a bigger circle. The lines would certainly take some careful work. Then she remembered The Devoteds had Ragithyl sort of imprisoned or something. So she had to add his name, grunting to herself for he would cause a tangle.
She then wrote ‘Decoryx’ the land of Prince Atherlin. She had been based in his realm and Trelli came from there, and he seemed to be held in ‘Fond Regard’ with The LifeGuard. Not actually pressing into her space, but worth putting down because for her that was where everything had begun. This was going to be more involved than she had reckoned. Some lines would have to bend all the way around the parchment if they weren’t going to get in the way of others. Some might intersect, she would have to think of symbols to indicate what sort of intersection. She frowned, sipped cooling coffee.
‘Elinid’ came next. That was where Kitlin originally claimed she had come from. Trelli had ended up there for a short time, so had Ragithyl while Wigran part of Trelli’s earlier life and deeply involved in the original mess now worked for The Silcs, and when you mentioned The Silcs it seemed they were in contact with Captain Dekyria. Another long line which would have to curve. Now there were several more circles all in a little huddle as if they were keeping a secret from her….Oh yeah and the Silcs were probably involved with that Coltello girl……Frib!
And while she’d been thinking of Kitlin, Custodian Meradat loomed into her head, he was supposed to be of the Office of Custodians (or whatever they called themselves) but didn’t appear to get on with his seniors. Also neither he, his seniors nor The Libratery didn’t seem to pay any attention to the Official top of Religion The Ecclesiastes. She scowled at the thought of the fresh number of circles ,which in a fit of resentment at this intrusion into her military and civil world she placed in the far away bottom right corner of the parchment ensuring they kept out of her way until she was good and ready for them.
Of course she had to include Terasonia. Of late the land had loomed large in the three women’s lives, this led to her having to include separate items for the Four Grand Dukes, the new prince, More-Than-He-Seemed Zweideutig and The Terasonian Church. Hoping they were no longer her problem she placed them off to the far left in the middle. Her modest amount of satisfaction at this arrangement soured when she remembered Osavus Trelli’s lover. He would have to be included because you could never tell with love what might happen. Beritt was glad she did not know the name of the girl he was betrothed to.
And when you mentioned Terasonia, you had to mention The Shadow Lords; she put them next to the terasonian collection. She couldn’t really remember if there was more than one lot of Shadow Lords, she decided not to press the issue. Between that grouping and her, Kitlin and Trelli’s names she placed the evil The Zerstorung, got more confused and found she had had to put a separate entry for each group of them, being Air, Land and Deep. She glowered at the name Ragithyl for his previous involvement with at least two of them and cursed him for reminding her of at least of the Silcs being, possibly attached.
At this stage she sat back and huffed, then grimaced in spectacular proportions. Several of the circles seemed to want to be somewhere else. Maybe she should have put all the names on small bits of other parchment and shuffled them about on the larger piece. The ever growing numbers of groups and characters caused her to relate it to the patchwork of The Oakhostian Empire. At this thought she ground her teeth, she now had to make one entry for The Oakhostian as an empire and one for the Emperor Loosiderue because if you were a LifeGuard you didn’t think an Emperor as half as important as the whole. An image of the court and the princes came into her thoughts. Princes made her think of Henrich (The Useless) of Valeneg (her current location) and to his eastern borders, Prince Habgierig of Krenderenberg of whom Prince Atherlin of Decoryx had very unfavourable opinions. More circles. More lines. She shuddered at the notion of just how many little coded symbols at the intersections she would have to make. She forced down other names bubbling up, some from the winter’s activities around Terasonia and others due to the possibilities of ‘unpleasantness’ on Valeneg’s borders. Irritation invited her to vent its smouldering by her petulant drawing on the bottom central edge of a very untidy circular shape into which she inserted the phrase ‘Other wobblers and sheep-chasers of the Nobility’
This done she dropped her elbows onto the table and her chin into her clenched fists, glaring at the confusion of circles whose numbers and arrangements had there been any further additions these might have been set to form a mocking grin. She looked to ‘Kitlin’ for comfort and fond memories, only to remember her bride had mentioned that evasive fellow ‘Krongar’ in terms which had suggested his own entry and his presence of course reminded her of the danger of Karlyn’s Shadow Lord’s family. With a growl she found a place far from any other and attacked the parchment, the circle was bigger than that of Loosiderue’s for whom, presently she didn’t give a mouldy carrot. She savagely addressed the circle, got as far as ‘Krong-‘ and the tip of the quill snapped off.
In fact due to impact coupled with the snapping the word looked like ‘Kronpf’ which was a type of honeyed oat cake favoured in the most central regions of the Oakhostian and suggested she might be the clerke for a bakery cartel which had a ridiculously grandiose idea of marketing.
Cursing quills in general Beritt turned her anger into determination. She had spent precious bedtime on this, her investment would not be lost. She would not cut up the parchment into strips for use in the privy, something Trelli disapproved of, saying used parchment aside from being rough left ink stains on places you did not want ink stains. Also Beritt resolved she would not take the infernal work outside to tear into small bits, an act which might provide interest to the local cats out on nocturnal patrol. No, she could take up her charcoal stick and draw fribbing lines!
But first to inscribe in angry charcoal letters ‘Kitlin’s Fribbing Interfering Family’. To anyone else a rather enigmatic statement perched in the top left corner.
After sometime of trying straight lines, curved lines, lines which went into loops and lines which gleefully forced her to have them cross over each other and despite the invention of symbols still became confused as to their direction; after the appearance of lines, which on other occasions, possibly when drinking wine, might have been seen to form amusingly vulgar shapes Beritt broke the charcoal stick in two and threw it at the wall.
Obviously the whole business was not one suitable to sane folk. Folk who when attacked by someone simply hit back until that attacker either ran away or stopped moving. Folk who stood ‘here’ and if they had to go ‘there’ went in the least dangerous way. Folk who once in a while would like a very simple set of orders which had a start and a finish. Folk who had not been transferred and thence trained to work in one of the select LifeGuard units. Such as The Office of Expropriation’s Leopard Company, whose members after rigorous training and only having a casual acquaintance with sanity, went out to spy on suspect groups or burn down suspects groups’ habitations or slay as many members of the suspects groups as necessary and slip away, without anyone noticing; all the while not really caring who the groups were or why this group had been selected when a lunation ago the group had been considered allies.
No, she would not scrumple up, stamp on, nor tear up or even bite chunks out of the parchment, each urge briefly considered as feasible. She would roll the whole stupid mess up, tie a piece of string about it and place in her backpack for later use. Either as a point of reference, or if the need arose to symbolically wave under the nose of any senior officer who asked her for a report, or in very trying situations she would threaten (at some later stage) to insert up their backside if they dared asked her some damn fool question when she was otherwise engaged.
The lesson learned. She would simply have to stay alert for danger from all sorts of directions, trusting only in her friend the ever maturing Trelli and, smiling fondly in the direction of the bedroom door, her darling, funny, caring, wonderfully unpredictable Kitlin.
And she would go back to the easier task of studying the manual on infantry company tactics which she had found in The Translator Pastoral’s library. He had feigned surprise at it being there. She did not ask.
Stowing away the parchment roll in a less than tender manner, and disrobing she padded to the bed. She paused to smile fondly at her Kitlin. Maybe the girl was of Shadow Lord’s blood. So what? She was still a beautiful woman, and Beritt congratulated herself on having ensured the girl had finally discarded those concerns, dismissing the pleas made by folk they had encountered who claimed to be relatives. Yes, her Kitlin had spouted off some references to her heritage and expanded on that to those Shadow Lords soldiers but that had all been a bit of an act to scare them. Of late discussions on the subject often ended in Karlyn assuming the role of a haughty princess and Arketre Beritt in other guises, all play with one objective.
To fall into bed laughing. And then for loving to begin.
All hers, made formal by a patronising yet useful ceremony. Once more relishing the irony Beritt then as she often did when Karlyn had gone to bed earlier stood and enjoyed the sight.
Her love was in deep sleeping, arms wrapped around Beritt’s pillow. She gently eased the pillow from out of the embrace; there came a whimper of protest, which she stilled by taking the pillow’s place causing a murmur of delight and a sigh of satisfaction. As she settled in, her Kitlin’s long, lithe arms slipped around her accompanied by a sleepy kiss on the back of her head. Beritt managed to get the pillow back in place and falling into the rhythm of Karlyn’s breathing, joined her beloved in sleep. These nights she didn’t even need the candle still burning. Her Kitlin’s arms would keep the doubts and fears away..………..
End of Prologue……
If it has worked readers will now be prepared for the lot of tangle, and a fair idea as to the number of who are doing the tangling (or untangling)….
PS: Any long term followers and kind supporters/contributors to my posts and books are more than welcome to ask for a PDF version in advance of the official publication: All enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org