Last time, I looked at a paragraph in the prologue and decided it could be made cleaner by splitting into several parts, and have more of an impact by not distancing the reader so much from the man about to die.
Let’s look at the next bit of the prologue. Now we do get to meet Ro and get a little of his backstory:
Normally such a display was street entertainment, competing with the fire-eaters and shadow players, dancers and wrestlers, fortune-tellers and beggars. Lollipops in the form of a crucified man were hawked along the route of the display.
Not this morning. Ro Manus was of foreign birth to the City but his parents who had settled here had died as heroes in the battle against the Citadel of the Dog-Headed, and he himself, former captain of the Shah’s elite guard and enterprising, industrious, honest merchant, had been well-spoken off and popular.
That he had allied himself against the Shah with the Fox Splinter was not widely disbelieved, and yet it did not seem justification for his fate. He had been hung in the crucifixion pose on his own camel, but he would not die there. The Shah had decreed Ro Manus would be torn apart limb from limb with rare horses from the Shah’s own stable, and then his head would be severed from his bleeding torn torso with a blunt blade.
Here, I remember, I was trying to first introduce the notion that the city, too, would be a character, formed by its mass of inhabitants, as well as introduce Ro himself and his final fate.
However, I don’t think all these backstory details are necessary here (remembering too that the prologue will be re-written into the first-person POV of the man who leads the condemned to the executioner). They’re not compelling enough to keep the reader’s attention while interrupting what is compelling: the execution. We can leave such details – why is he popular? what crime did he commit? – to the body of the book, and focus this prologue exclusively on what is taking place there and then.
Of course, in such a situation, you wouldn’t delete the unwanted text, you’d copy and paste it to a hold-file until you did want it.