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I plan to write the prologue with a limited third person view of a man delivering a 5 year old girl to a secluded city.

His reason for doing this, even though he's not related to her, is because he's connected to her origins. Which will be one of the clues for readers to connect.

The scene opens up with the man finding the secluded city after weeks of blind searching. As an outsider, the appears normal enough, but has a strange vibe, and the weird close-knit citizenry. This is the reader's introduction to the setting of the story.

In the city, they find the only willing relative who could take care of the girl.

The man would (probably) never appear again, only some passing mentions of him at some parts of the story.

Part of me thinks this character is useless. But I do have some reasons to write the story this way:

  1. The man is connected to her past
  2. It will be a mystery that connects the protagonist to the readers, as it is slowly explained over the course of the story
  3. The parting words that the man gives to the protagonist will deeply impact her, causing a chain-reaction for her developing personality
  4. As an outsider for a "weird" city, he will be like the reader, seeing and reacting to what the city is like.
  5. Could be used for abandonment issues that the protagonist would tackle as the story progresses

Thoughts? Is my start of a story too much? A story starting on someone else instead of the main character is not unheard of but am I doing it in a wrong way?

4 Answers 4

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Either make this man truly forgettable, or give reader a clue of his fate

It's common enough to start a story with a "cold open" from a point of view of a minor character that may never become a POV character again. However, there are certain rules to it.

For example, in "The Game of Thrones" prologue, we see a small team of episodic characters who witness a very important event that sets tone for the whole series. Only one of those character survives, and his fate is not really important, but G.R.R. Martin is meticulous enough to wrap up that character's arc shortly, from a different person's point of view.

Another option is to kill off the POV character right in the prologue, this way there are no "loose ends", like in "Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince". This is one of the options for a Teaser-Only Character trope (TV Tropes warning). Other option is to stress that this character was truly no one and can be forgotten for the rest of the story. If you fail to stress that, and this not-so-forgettable character (or his memory) would be brought up again and again, you are creating an expectation that you are going to follow this character towards some sort of conclusion.

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As long as the kid is the protagonist:

I’ve seen this done, and it is really a way to introduce the protagonist. If he only has this limited role, it’s fine. I would make sure every detail introduced about him is relevant to the later story, and don’t let your readers get attached.

I would probably make it clear we won’t see them again, like the character thinking to himself that his part in this was almost done. This character’s thoughts can be a great teaser to introduce information and foreshadow the rest of the tale.

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The girl is 5, and old enough that his final words to her have some lifelong impact. I can remember being 5, in my earliest memories I am between 2 and 3.

Why can't you tell this story from her POV?

She is a simplistic thinker at this age. But you can have the man be talkative with her, about the oddities of the town, etc.

At the end have the girl herself ask him something like when he will come get her; and then he can explain this is goodbye, he cannot ever come back. It would be too dangerous, and he wants her to have a good life.

Done. The reader gets the hint this guy is out of the picture, then you can skip forward with her as the POV character to some later point in her life. And you can still do as you planned, who was that guy, what was his relationship to the girl, etc. She never knew or cannot remember. Maybe she remembers calling him Uncle Bill, you could put that in the prologue, but there are no candidates amongst her relatives that might have been called "Bill".

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Yes! Michael Crichton is very famous for this, in fact, with characters like Tina (Cathy in the movie) Bowman who are only very indirectly mentioned later in the book (in this case Jurassic Park). These also tend to be very mysterious in feel, more as a piece of foreshadowing than a typical backstory.

I don't see any reason why your example would be a problem. If you explain later why it was so important, then it is perfectly fine to have such a prologue.

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