One of the first things I did when I created the first Hope Town short story “The Devil’s Pâtissier” was include a little preamble which I titled A brief history lesson. It provided a quick overview of the setting and began to explain (hopefully with humour) why so many strange things occur in Hope Town. I didn’t want to name it a prologue because those usually run to a fair few pages; short stories don’t typically have prologues and everyone seems to frown on the use of prologues in fiction.
Huh. I think they have a place, but do think they need to be used well and sparingly, but to dimiss them entirely? Nope.
Anyway, this A brief history lesson that isn’t a prologue was to ease the reader into the short story because after that we get Pontius Smith saying “What is that smell?” and it pretty much doesn’t stop there. It has a job to do and I think does it well.
As this is a series of short stories, I thought there would be no harm in including it in each one and so I’ve done a bit of a cut and paste from “The Devil’s Pâtissier” into all of the first drafts I’ve been working on.
Of course, I got to thinking… is this cheating a little? Does it look like filler and will anyone who reads the first story really read it or just skip over it? At best it would be pointless including it, and at worst it would look like lazy writing and I don’t ever want to be accused of that (we’ll wait for the reviews on that one).
I still thought including the little history piece before each short story could serve a purpose, especially if someone picks up the 2nd or 3rd short and hasn’t read “The Devil’s Pâtissier” and miss out.
The solution was obvious but has its consequences, mostly on me. Actually, completely on me, but Hell I think its worth it so I don’t mind.
Now each short story will begin with a different A brief history lesson to fill in some of the background to Hope Town. Some will have relevance for the story contained therein, while others will just add a little something different.
It also helps that I’ve been looking at creating an overarching timeline anyway and was going to use some fictional historical events in subsequent short stories, so I like to think that doing this will help build the universe and make it richer.