Literary devices is the term used for the techniques and structures writers employ to convey their message and story. When done well, the use of literary devices can alter, manipulate and challenge the way a reader perceives any work. Mastered literary devices influence how a story or essay can be interpreted and analysed, as well as how much the reader enjoys the work.\r\n\r\nWe examine prologues, as well as when and if to use one...\r\n\r\nTo find out more about other literary devices, click\u00a0here.\r\nPrologue:\r\nWhat\u2019s past is prologue\u201d \u2013 William Shakespeare\r\nThis comes from Shakespeare\u2019s play, The Tempest, spoken by the character Antonio who suggests that the events of the past set the stage for the present. The quote is engraved on the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, which houses the most important of the United States\u2019 historical documents. But in a literary work, while the prologue itself precedes the beginning of the story, it can contain events of the past or the future.\r\nWhat is a prologue?\r\nThe prologue serves as an introduction, giving readers important information from the past or the future about the text that follows. It may establish the setting, introduce the characters or indicate a theme or moral in the story. Generally, the prologue is short and will only cover one or two pages. Most prologues are written by the author of the work.\r\n\r\nIs a prologue needed at all?\r\n\r\nA prologue can foreshadow events and conflict in a way that beginning in the middle of the action can\u2019t. It is used when material that you want to include in the opening is out of time sequence with the rest of the story, giving readers information that is otherwise unobtainable within the normal structure of the novel. A prologue must also be a vital part of the whole text, not just added on before the opening chapter for no reason.\r\nThe Redwall Series\r\nPopular children\u2019s author Brian Jacques used both a prologue and an epilogue to frame each story in his Redwall series. Jacques uses the prologue effectively to establish the setting and introduce readers to minor characters with a meaningful story to tell. In these opening scenes, the dialogue between the characters is intended to draw the reader in, as much as it does to the characters who are listening in the story.\r\nThe Noon Lady of Towitta\r\nIn Patricia Sumerling\u2019s mystery, The Noon Lady of Towitta, the unusually long prologue describes the events leading to the arrival of the police on the farm at Towitta, an isolated town in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. The prologue is straight-forward and written in third person. The story that follows is told from the first person perspective of Mary Schippan, the lady suspected of murdering her younger sister. Mary Schippan could not have given readers a clear picture of the events preceding the police investigation as she was not present, so the author chooses to employ a prologue. Without it, readers don\u2019t have the necessary background required to understand the story and so\u00a0obtain it outside of the first person\u00a0structure of Mary's narrative.\r\nThe Da Vinci Code\r\nIn Dan Brown\u2019s The Da Vinci Code, the prologue is employed firstly to establish the plot and setting of the book. Opening at the Louvre Museum in Paris, readers are presented with an event at a specific time and place around which the entire novel is plotted. Jacques Sauniere, the curator of the museum, is shot by a mysterious man and must use his dying breaths to keep his secret alive.\r\nA collection of the world\u2019s most famous paintings seemed to smile down on him like old friends.\u201d Dan Brown,\u00a0The Da Vinci Code\r\nThe prologue also establishes a significant theme throughout the novel \u2013 the importance of art. As he bleeds to death, Sauniere is surrounded by many famous artworks, one of which, we can assume, is Da Vinci\u2019s Mona Lisa, a painting that plays a critical role in the author\u2019s plot.\r\nWriting an effective prologue\r\nIf you decide a prologue is needed, how do you write an effective one?\r\n\r\nThe most important feature of a prologue, like any literary device, is that it serves a purpose. Check to see if your prologue is doing a job. Does it establish the setting? Does it introduce characters, or a theme, or a moral? What does it add to the whole work? If it doesn\u2019t have a clear purpose, you don\u2019t need it.\r\n\r\nTip: Read prologues written by your favourite authors\r\n\r\nSearch for prologues written by the authors on your bookshelf. They\u2019ve been published, so you can assume that the prologue is well written and employed. Look at the length and the style of the writing. The more prologues you read, the better you will understand when and how to use them effectively, if at all.\r\n\r\nTip: Practice writing first lines\r\n\r\nEssentially, if you\u2019re using a prologue, you are starting your book twice so you\u2019ll need two great opening lines. \u00a0It can be useful to practise writing clever opening lines, enticing the reader to continue. If you\u2019re already working on something, ask yourself if the first line is the best it can be. Shuffle the words around. Try a selection of synonyms. Work with it and keep practising.\r\n\r\nTip: Write a prologue for a book that doesn\u2019t have one\r\n\r\nChoose a novel without a prologue and consider how one could be used. Try to find something in the text to link with your prologue \u2013 a theme, the setting, or even some additional background information. Be creative! You could give a character a secret that affects how they respond to events in the story. Don\u2019t feel discouraged if you find that your new prologue doesn\u2019t work - this just\u00a0means that you are improving your ability to detect\u00a0ineffective\u00a0use of the device.