Can a Prologue be a Different Tense For IF?

It’s been awhile since I’ve written for anything IF. For IF I always wrote in present tense but I have been back to writing non-If stories and subsequently gotten used to entirely writing in third person.

Now the purpose of the prologue is to help entice the reader or help build the story before you get into the meat of it.

So my question is: Can the prologue be a different tense, most notably past tense while the rest of the interactive novel is in present tense for immersion?

It has been quite awhile since I read anything IF related so any examples of this working or not working would be very helpful.


Seems to be your forum cakeday so happy cakeday!

Maybe if you gave an example of what you mean by a past tense prologue? I’m thinking of it being something of a flashback but I think even that would end up being present tense.

That’s one of the great things about writing, isn’t it? The freedom. The ability to do anything you like. Sure some people might advise/prefer one thing over another, but there’s certainly no rules saying what you can (and more importantly can’t) do. If you think it’ll add to the story, go for it!


Oh so it is. I am allergic to cake :frowning: (Lying)

Forgive me if I don’t explain it too well. Currently crashing from 5 hour energy and coffee.

Essentially I just wanted the prologue to be entirely written in past tense. To sort of summarize the events that lead you to the beginning of the story a.k.a Chapter 1. Some world building and some choices being made and then once I reach chapter 1 and so forth it will all be in present tense and happening in real time for immersion.

@CJW Hmm that is very true. I guess I’m just afraid of confusing the reader but I suppose as long as I don’t end up changing tenses mid-sentence it shouldn’t be too bad.

I would say yes. I can’t think of any examples immediately off the top of my head, but I feel like that’s actually fairly common. It’s the “when you were a kid this stuff happened to your village and your family” kind of thing.

  1. Use past tense
  2. Assign melancholic narrator to voice it
  3. Add dramatic and flamboyant descriptions
  4. ???
  5. Start the story with the protagonist looking for their lost other slipper (or other crappy equivalent)
  6. Profit

That’s what I did. Nobody noticed or complained.

Yeah that’s what I thought you were getting at. I think it’d work in past tense if it is the MC talking to someone else, writing a memoir or going over memories to try and figure out why things wound up the way they were.

I’m not sure there’s too many ways to make a past tense prologue work beyond those and similar examples but an experienced writer could probably find ways.

If nothing else I’d say go for it just for science and see how it pans out. Can always rewrite to present tense if needed.

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Choice of Rebels uses past tense for the Prologue and Ch 1 flashbacks. So yes, it can be done, and published.


Generally, I find that’s it better to be consistent in writing to avoid confusion. That doesn’t mean underestimating you audience though. If the prologue is past and the story proper is present tense and it maintains that discintion. I’m sure the audience can pick up that discintion without issue.

I took my cue from @Havenstone, a primary inspiration of mine, and I wrote a prologue in past tense with the body of the game in present for the contest.

Overall, once I fixed my other stylistic and editorial issues, such a prologue was well received by my testers … how it was actually received by the contest judges, I will never know. They did not forward me any feedback.

This is what my feedback indicated to me as well.

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I was about to say “you can^, but don’t” and then I remembered that one of my favorite games structured its entire character creation segment as a past-tense series of vignettes. So, there you have it. It might not be considered a refined literary technique (traditional writing advice tends to devalue prologues in general), but that’s half fashion, half personal taste anyway.

^My writing philosophy is “of course you’re allowed to do anything, the real question is whether it’s worth it”.


The Cryptkeepers of Hallowford had a present-tense prologue and a past-tense first act, mostly to meet CoG’s in medias res introduction requirement. It worked after a fashion, but it was an absolute pain in the ass to do.

So you can put me firmly in the “you can, but don’t” column.


I didn’t know they had this kind of requirement.

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