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:
- My main character ("MC") and their relationship with their guild
- MC's familial and social status (basically to show readers this isn't your typical NEET-isekai)
- The video game that becomes a foundation for the "rules of the world" (i.e. like physics)
- 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)
- A specific quest that plays a MAJOR role in the story at large
- A specific "item" that plays a frequently recurring role in the story
- 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.)