The Problem with Prequels

In case you didn’t know (and, unless you are new to my blog – welcome! – I’m not sure how you wouldn’t know), my short story for Serial Central (Burden of Knowledge) is a prequel to the novel I am trying to get published (The Queen’s Butterflies).  While prequels provide some benefits, such as knowing how the story has to end before you start, I have discovered a couple of problems with them as well.

One I’ve discussed in another post: writing characters so they live up to their legacies.  I’d summarize again, but you can just read the post.  Yes, I’m making you work so I don’t have to.  My prerogative; I’m the author.  🙂

The other prequel challenge I have discovered is continuity.   I have mentioned before that this is a pet peeve of mine, so I’m not about to ignore the dilemma.  For the most part, it isn’t a huge issue.  The story I am writing is several generations removed from the novel, so if some things aren’t 100% accurate, we can blame it on a tale changing in the retelling.  My continuity problem is an article of clothing.

Yes, I did say an article of clothing.  No, I won’t tell you what it is.  That would ruin one of my cleverly-crafted section endings, so you can just wait.  You’ll recognize it when you see it, don’t worry.  (If your response to this is “Just tell me, I’m not reading Burden” my only answer to you is, “Why not?”)

The difficulty with this article of clothing is tradition.  By the time of the novel, a certain style for this article of clothing has become traditional.  It is easy to explain why someone would wear it: it’s tradition.  However, the tradition was started by one of the characters in Burden.  It’s part of an important scene in the story. 

So why is this a problem?  The style is described in Butterflies as being “nearly scandalous” when it is first introduced (you know, in this scene in Burden that I’m trying to write.)  This leaves me trying desperately to find a reason for the first wearing.  It can’t just be any reason, either – it needs to justify flaunting social norms and make it okay even though the design of it might start a scandal. 

Clearly, I set myself up for this difficulty.