I understand that a prologue is meant to open up a story and introduce characters, themes, and the world to my audience. It is not supposed to be a long length of text. At the same time, I find my Prologue is more appropriate in length to that of a Chapter.

Here's the problem: my Prologue needs to introduce a set number of things to the story before I move onto the story proper:

  1. My main character ("MC") and their relationship with their guild
  2. MC's familial and social status (basically to show readers this isn't your typical NEET-isekai)
  3. The video game that becomes a foundation for the "rules of the world" (i.e. like physics)
  4. The NPCs (non-player characters) "owned" by MC's guild (for those who read Light Novels, think of the Floor Guardians from Overlord by Maruyama, so not actual ownership per se)
  5. A specific quest that plays a MAJOR role in the story at large
  6. A specific "item" that plays a frequently recurring role in the story
  7. A specific event that plays a critical part to the overall story

The problem is, writing this out, it's as long as my Chapter 1 which involves my MC committing manslaughter (in self-defense) against a slave-owning nobleman who tries (and fails) to force them (MC) into being one of his slaves. I feel like this is wrong though.

Keep in mind I am not writing the Prologue to over-explain anything nor because I feel like "the audience is kind of dumb, and I need to spell things out for them." I am only trying to express things that I feel are relevant for the story to make sense to the readers at a foundational level. I do not plan on teaching them about irrelevant mundanities. I plan on teaching them the things that matter like, "This is what the world is like under normal circumstances. This is how you know everything that is about to happen is NOT normal." It's not handholding. It's a basic explanation showing how things are so that nothing comes out of left-field leaving people wondering, "Wait what?!".

Because points 1. and 4. are so closely tied together, they share the same text. Points 5.-7. are all intertwined and share the same scene. Points 1. and 4.-7. as a result are all rounded together under point 3. because you're inherently going to learn about the world being experienced as a result. I list these things separately because the individual points express specific things separate from the others, no matter how intertwined they may be. I am not so bad of a writer that I tackle each thing individually.

Functionally, this results in 3 main themes being expressed: The MC's relationships in the game, The MC's relationships in the real world, and what the game is like as a basis for understanding the new world and the level of strangeness to the MC. The "Cataclysm" (to borrow from Log Horizon) itself is just the final sentence at the end of the paragraph. This is similar in many regards to the Prologue from Overlord or the Prologue from That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime (with Rimuru's coworker taking the place of a Guild).

Additionally, the fact that these are things that are supposed to be in the prologue should be more than a sufficient explanation that this is all background information relevant to the story proper, but the information won't fit into the story proper. I cannot expound upon any part of it across a great berth of chapters because doing so would pull completely away from the intended point of my story. Yes the Quest plays a major, critical even, role in the story - as a catalyst. It's like the Zul'Gurub raid in WoW which led to the Corrupted Blood Incident. The Zul'Gurub raid was merely a Prologue to what happened as a result of the Raid. In fact, my story's situation is highly similar since a Quest leads to a Raid resulting in contact with an "Item" that causes an Event. As far as the story goes, the Quest/Raid never were intended to be completed by my MC's Guild because the Guild-Master (NOT my MC) realizes VERY quickly that something isn't right and orders the raid to evacuate while he figures out what is happening. The details of what all happened are supposed to be an overarching mystery within my story, but it takes a backseat to the immediate circumstances as a result of the situation.

There will not be opportunity to show my MC's relationship with their Guild beyond infrequent flashbacks for the longest time of the story. The rules of the world being explained are just what are relevant at the time (nothing overly technical).

Please do not ask me to make any of these points into chapters of their own as that goes directly against the premise of the originally asked question where I asked how to shorten the Prologue. I do not wish to expand the Prologue into being its own novel as that would turn into something which has little to do with the story's intended premise. (Like how the Warriors series by Erin Hunter frequently starts with something going on in Star Clan, the afterlife, for the Prologue; but, the story itself has very, VERY little to actively do with Star Clan.)

Forgive me for over-explaining this section, but it became a necessity. Nothing against the users who showed me this was a necessity, but it did show the need existed, hence why I am over-explaining now.

So, here's my question:

How can I shorten my Prologue without losing important information or context? Or is having a longer-than-normal Prologue okay as long as it serves a specific purpose in doing so?

Before I get asked "Why don't you just make it a part of your Chapter 1?", I can't do that because of the flow of the story. The story has two main characters (yet at the same time 1 main character, hence the earlier singular word usage,) and I have a certain way of switching between their perspectives that I am doing. Consequently, pushing part of the prologue into Chapter 1 will be enough of a disruption that it'd feel unnatural compared to the rest of the story.

If you say that a longer Prologue is okay, I need reasoning that fits around the "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective" guidelines. Pull from past experiences or from actual literary works please.

In case it's relevant...

Story Genre: Medieval High Fantasy, Isekai ("In Another World"), Action, Adventure, Political (in the sense the characters will be forced to deal with politics, not in the sense that the story discusses real world politics), Romance (later into the story, but not right away)

The Story Premise: Shortly after a raid party interacts with an already dead raid boss that was glitched out due to a strange poison from a previous group, the Virtual Reality MMO (VRMMO) they are playing updates. Instead of logging the MC out like normal, they collapse to wake up trapped in another world similar (yet different) to the game they were playing... trapped both as themselves and as their avatar as separate entities! As for the rest of their guild, they're nowhere to be found (at first).

Perspective: The readers will be dropped into the plot from the MC's perspective. I write in a character-driven style meaning while I have major plot events in mind, the characters will shape the story more than the story will shape them, like One Piece, Harry Potter, and Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Abridged (by BlazingAzureCrow). This also means the audience will be seeing things from the MC's understanding (not in an instruction-manual manner). What the MC knows, the audience will know as it comes up. (I may write out the game's details in an "instruction manual" style for fun, but that'd be supplementary material, not part of the story proper.)

  • I had a similar problem. Ended up calling it "Part 1" and splitting it into two chapters. What was planned as "chapter 1" became chapter 1 of part 2. Mar 8, 2019 at 14:36
  • This question qualifies for our contest; feel free to add your entry there. Mar 8, 2019 at 17:14
  • I may have gotten a touch snarky as I addressed criticism. If I come across as too snarky, please let me know. "Sleep-deprived" status doesn't make for the most friendly of mindsets when giving responses. Not that it's an excuse... but it is my current fact-of-life. Mar 11, 2019 at 7:36

2 Answers 2


I suggest the prolog is only for information that needs to be established about your world – it's history and lore – not about the immediate characters.

Introducing the MC, his guild, and housemates is Chapter 1 material. It pertains specifically to the story told in the plot. If it feels like an infodump putting it in a prolog doesn't fix that, it just makes it worse. Your main characters will naturally be in your scenes, and they should have opportunity to reveal whatever they need to reveal about themselves in the course of telling their story – it's ok to trickle-in why they are important (their status and personal history) as we get to know them. It actually works better when these things go together. We get to met them and discover who they are at the same time. If their character details are infodumped in the prolog, it is like telling, not showing.

Prolog is for something outside your characters' experience: an ancient legend about the origin of an amulet, an agreement between 2 guilds long ago that shaped the rules they follow. Prolog is "Once upon a time in a land far, far away…", it is not "Joe attends a school with his friend Pete…" we should learn that when we meet Joe and Pete.

My attempt to separate Prolog from Chapter 1 would be:

  • My main character ("MC") and their relationship with their guildChapter 1
  • MC's familial and social statusChapter 1
  • The video game that becomes a foundation for the "rules of the world"Prolog
  • The NPCs (non-player characters) "owned" by MC's guildChapter 1
  • A specific quest that plays a MAJOR role in the story at large – If it is a "tradition" or common knowledge (like: the search for El Dorado) put it in the Prolog; if it is an evolving conflict (like: getting past the enemy soldiers at the border) put the specifics in Chapter 1
  • A specific "item" that plays a frequently recurring role in the story – If it plays a shadowy role the characters cannot learn until much later: Prolog
  • A specific event that plays a critical part to the overall story – if the event is historic: Prolog. If the event is current and unfolding: Chapter 1
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    Using it solely for information and lore is unreasonably restricting. As for "Prolog is for something outside your characters' experience:", this is not supported by most stories. A Prologue is merely the opening part of a work leading into the story proper. There is no requirement for it being outside their experience. If the information is important to the story, but not an immediate part of the story, it's worth considering for the prologue. For example the relationship between MC and guild cannot fit into the story proper. It HAS to be a prologue piece like Momonga & his guild in Overlord. Mar 9, 2019 at 4:13
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    Some details of the relationship would be spread throughout and interspersed, but the introduction part has to be in the prologue because it wouldn't make sense otherwise. Which I outright state I cannot do, thus making this entirely a non-answer since that is all you are pushing that I do. Mar 9, 2019 at 4:15

I'm going to make two points:

Don't be afraid to be more concise in your writing:

There is a common misconception between us writers that we could sum up as: the audience is kind of dumb, and I need to spell things out for them (I'm exaggerating on purpose, but bear with me). This is, of course, a bad assumption to make; any audience is pretty capable of understanding what is happening in a given chapter without the author holding their hands all the way.

This is often related to the famous "Show, don't tell" imperative. Showing can be actually quite concise, but leaves a lot to the audience interpretation.

Starting a story can be hard, since you have to set up both characters and ambience in the very first chapters fast enough so the readers will keep on reading. Right enough, you worry that your character or your ambience may be misunderstood by the audience.

Why is this important for your question? Because in your list you've mentioned a lot of themes that don't need to be fully fleshed out in the very first chapter. I'm just gonna comment a few:

  • My main character ("MC") and their relationship with their guild: This could be done in a scene: your MC can just talk to someone from the guild. From their behaviour, a lot of his position can be inferred. You don't need to dwell on the details; they can come up later on.
  • The video game that becomes a foundation for the "rules of the world": don't explain them all in one go. A lot of fantasy books have rules different from our own, yet it's boring to just spell them out.Introduce them slowly, when it's "natural" to do so in the story, and if you know they'll play a role later on.
  • A specific quest that plays a MAJOR role in the story at large: If it plays a major role, you'll need time to show all the facets of the quest. It's fine to introduce it now, but don't explain everything. Think about it: a lot of action books/movies have wars in it, or start at the beginning of a war. Yet to explain a war you'd need to explain ALL the socio-economical background of your world ... that's just to much to do at the start of your book. It can be done, of course, but you'd be sacrificing the plot to the worldbuilding, and that's not always advisable. Since the quest plays a major role in all the novel, you can give it more space and explain it with a wider breath on several chapters.
  • A specific "item" that plays a frequently recurring role in the story: As above.
  • A specific event that plays a critical part to the overall story: As above.

Your audience doesn't need an instruction manual to read and enjoy your story. Instruction manuals are boring by nature. Your audience will be fine if you drop them into the plot, explain just the key points, and let them figure out the rest as they go. Not only it will be more engaging (since the plot will start moving in earnest) but they will feel challenged to sort out anything that you haven't stated out loud yet.

Make less points, and focus on the important ones:

Another thing that jumped to my eyes is that you're trying to make too many points in your prologue. Again, it's fine to set up something in the very first chapter (related question: When is a prologue useful?) but you don't have to set up everything.

It's fine if you decide that one of that points is a must-have. Maybe it's really important that make clear who your character is, how his family is like. That's ok. But you can't make a lot of strong points in the same chapter. Different authors do this different ways, sure. I personally (and that's subjective) don't do with more that a major event per chapter, with some lesser revelations on the sides.

However you want to do it, seven is too much.

  • Hi, thank you for answering, but you assume a bunch of details that are unfounded and wrong. If my question was unclear to you, I would have preferred if you had left a comment asking for clarification. That said, I will use your answer in order to remove confusion. Mar 9, 2019 at 3:53
  • @SoraTamashii Hi Sora, I'm sorry if the answer somewhat offended you; of course I did some general assumptions based on the common mistakes most writers (including myself, first and foremost) make. I do this in order (and in hope) to provide some advice, considering that I can't know the full extent of your story.
    – Liquid
    Mar 9, 2019 at 12:18
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    I'm sorry to hear that the answer wasn't useful to you, but it might apply to someone in the same (roughly speaking) situation. If you want to narrow down the question to clarify how I assumed wrong, please do.
    – Liquid
    Mar 9, 2019 at 12:19
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    First, let me apologize for not yet updating my question. Things came up, but I am doing so now. Also, I didn't mean to sound offended. I was trying to be concise and clear, because I know how my writing can be verbose and excessive. Please do understand I was trying to be neutral in my response. My edit (when I post it in a bit) should clear up any confusion, based on your answer. Again, thank you for answering. I do not mean to sound ungrateful. I just felt as though an answer like yours was wasted on me and I feel guilty for that. Mar 11, 2019 at 5:29

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