Tags:
  1. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,824
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada

    Does anyone read a prologue?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by peachalulu, May 24, 2012.

    I'm starting my story off with a flashy action scene - but there's something important that happens to the character prior to the action. I'm thinking either prologue it or a make a mention of event via flashback or a hint dropped. I'm not crazy about prologues myself and have been known to skip them as them seem to be a lot of flowery ( and unnecessary ) foreshadowing. Am I wrong?

    Anyone crazy about prologues?:confused:
     
  2. agentkirb
    Offline

    agentkirb Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Houston
    I read prologues. I'll read forwards/introductions sometimes if the first few paragraphs look interesting.

    I'm completely with you in that prologues can be flowery and descriptive and usually only have one or two details important to the story... but I'm really good at sensing this and skimming a paragraph or two ahead to see if anything gets interesting (and repeating the process if necessary).

    There have been a few "prologue" threads already so I can already sense the incoming debate. Don't let someone tell you that prologues are bad and you should never write them... worst case scenario you can make the correction after the story is finished and take it out.
     
  3. hawky94
    Offline

    hawky94 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    New Brunswick, Canada
    I believe that prologues are great... I'm opening my novel with a prologue, too. Mine captures the life of SAS soldiers stationed at a Check Point in Afghanistan.
     
  4. Mark_Archibald
    Offline

    Mark_Archibald Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2012
    Messages:
    185
    Likes Received:
    3
    I always read the prologues/notes at the start of a book. If it is information that must be known and you are worried somebody will skip the prologue, than its safest to put it in chapter 1.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I read prologues, but most of the time they should never have been written.

    Start in your story without preliminaries, and let the past leak into the story later, but only if that point of the history is essential to the story.

    Never, ever write a prologue for background information. The more you insist the reader NEEDS to know this info before diving into the story, the less I believe it.

    Write story, not back story.
     
  6. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    If something vital happens to your MC before your flashy action scene, then surely that's where you should start your story?

    Otherwise, have the effects of whatever happens show in your scene and leave the readers guessing what the heck happened, and reveal it gradually. But more intriguing that way and perfect for character development :)
     
  7. naturemage
    Offline

    naturemage Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    Messages:
    519
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    West Lawn, PA
    I put a prologue in my current project, only because it happens 10 years before the actual story. HOWEVER, it gives vital information on certain aspects so the reader doesn't see something happen and sit there scratching his head, saying "what the heck is going on?"

    I have read some stories with the flashbacks far into the story, which give information so you can make sense of what happens beforehand. While that's great, and gives the "oh, I get it now" sort of thing, sometimes I sit there and say "well, I wish I'd known that from the start." Only mystery novels really benefit from that effect... in my opinion anyway.
     
  8. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    You say that like it's a bad thing. What's wrong with leaving the reader wondering for a while? It's a good incentive to read on.
     
  9. Skodt
    Offline

    Skodt Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    2
    I don't think this applies all the time. There is plenty of Fantasy novels that tell quite a bit of back story and still interest a mass of readers. Look at George Martins game of thrones. Or the Sword of truth series by Terry Goodkind. Both unravel a back story, while they proceed to tell you a current story. I for one think some history is interesting.

    I mean don't flood me with it, but don't leave it out either.
     
  10. MissRis
    Offline

    MissRis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Canada
    I always read the prologue, if they've been well written they should tie right into the story at a certain point. I think some stories (mysteries mostly) lend themselves to prologues more than others.
     
  11. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    The history can leak in later. A treasure hunt is more fun than a sackful of history handed out at the beginning.

    Yes, you will find prologues that don't completely suck, but 95% of the time, the same material would have been better delivered in small gift boxes later in the story. The prologue is an easier way for the author to dump the past into the story, but that doesn't make it the best approach.
     
  12. VM80
    Offline

    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2010
    Messages:
    1,211
    Likes Received:
    43
    Location:
    UK
    Yeah, I read them. I must admit I don't always read the 'notes' at the beginning of a book...
     
  13. thecoopertempleclause
    Offline

    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2012
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Cornwall, UK
    Reading a prologue is like reading the instruction manual for your new TV. Pointless and annoying to begin with, but you might dip into it after you've already tried your own hand at figuring it out.
     
  14. indy5live
    Offline

    indy5live Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Houston
    If it's a thriller, I want the book to start with a bang. Prologues often give the author a chance to have some random action scene happen to character's I've yet to learn anything about, but it draws me right in. I think it's a marketing tool more than anything. In a bookstore, I read the sleeve that tells me what the book is about, then I open it up and read the first chapter presented to me. If it's a prologue I read it. If it's chapter 1 I read it. They have that one chapter to convience me to purchase their novel. So it has some value if your first chapter can be introduced in a more exciting, catchy, way...but I wouldn't put any kind of important information in the prologue because, like some here, some readers do skip it.
     
  15. Skodt
    Offline

    Skodt Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2010
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    2
    I suppose the reason I like prolouges is to touch on characters not used elsewhere in the book. To open up a character without having to see that character. Telling a story you want the reader to know, but through the eyes someone else who would know it. Like a character who is evil won't say he is evil, nor will he show you his deeds, but a compainion can tell you the deeds, and the faults. This to me opens up the attitude, feelings, and layout of a character before he becomes a player in the game. So I guess I will agree to disagree about prolouges with you. Your opinions make sense for your own cause, I just don't think they should be set in stone.
     
  16. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    If the information belongs in Chapter 1, it should be there to begin with. If it belongs in the prologue, that's where it should be. Don't worry about readers who skip it - you can't control how they read.
     
  17. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    One cannot say prologues are good or bad. There are poorly written prologues and there are fantastic prologues. I read them when they're there because I don't care to second-guess the author. S/he knows their story better than I do at that point. I use them when needed, don't when not. If someone chooses to skip it only because it's a prologue, their loss.
     
  18. bo_7md
    Offline

    bo_7md Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    0
    Nope.
     
  19. agentkirb
    Offline

    agentkirb Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Houston
    The backstory thing is something to think about. I've written a prologue a few times, but it was always like a 1 page long thing that was kind of designed to foreshadow and set up what would happen in the rest of the story.
     
  20. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    One of my novels in progress started off with a prologue. It wasn't a history prologue. It gave a misty view of an event near the midpoint of the book, indicating the presumably immortal character could, and in fact would, die. Also, it clued the reader in from the start that he would live for millennia.

    I thought for a long time that it was a good idea, and part of the reason I liked it was his contemplation of his place in the universe. It was a piece of writing I was loth to dispose of.

    However, I decided the prologue was pointless. The reader would know soon enough about his immortality, and I saw no benefit in telegraphing his death. Moreover, the contemplation I was so proud of was badly overwritten, when I looked back at it with more experience under my belt.

    Not all prologues are a bad idea. Just most of them are. Including mine.
     
  21. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    436
    Likes Received:
    18
    I usually read prologues just because they're there. Sometimes, they're good, other times not.

    Don't write a prologue just to get across information that doesn't fit into the main story. Write a prologue that could stand alone as a decent short story of its own, even if there's stuff in it you won't understand until you read the whole story.

    One author who uses prologues well is Garth Nix. Sabriel starts with a prologue, in which a woman dies giving birth to a stillborn child, and then a strange man comes and takes the child, insisting the child isn't dead. He goes into Death and finds that a monster has grabbed the child's spirit. He fights the monster, rescues the child, and returns the child's spirit. He then reveals that he's the child's father, and names her Sabriel. (She is, of course, the protagonist. And the monster who tried to take her spirit turns out to the Big Bad.)
     
  22. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    I start reading at the beginning and keep going until I finish or get bored. If the beginning is a prologue then I read the prologue. Some prologues are worthwhile, some are not, but I could say the same for entire books.
     
  23. Oko
    Offline

    Oko Member

    Joined:
    May 18, 2012
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    British Columbia
    I believe that interesting or suspenseful prologues are completely necessary. A prologue that gives a history lesson would deter many readers; those not immediately put off would probably soon forget about the ocean of important facts you just presented to them anyway. When I pick up a book and start reading it, I assume that the rest of the book is going to be similar to the prologue.
     
  24. PeterC
    Offline

    PeterC Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    191
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    Vermont, USA
    I wrote a prologue for my work in progress although I'm not sure I'm going to keep it. I don't try to give the reader a history lesson and, in fact, my prologue contains no essential information. However, I feel like it does set the tone of the story and thus has value in that regard. In my prologue I introduce one of my two MCs when she was a child. I try to give the reader some sense of her personality and of what motivates her. You don't see the character again until Chapter 4 where she is an adult. It's fun to see her again and realize, "hey, she's that little girl I read about in the beginning." I think it works but I'm not convinced it's a good idea so I may cut it before I'm finished.

    I recently started reading a book that is part of a series. The author used a prologue to bring people who hadn't read the earlier books (like me) up to speed. It was a fairly obvious device but I didn't mind it because I would have been lost without some orientation.
     
  25. BFGuru
    Offline

    BFGuru Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2011
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Somewhere in insomiaville
    I can see the point of letting back history come with the story. I haven't decided if I'm doing a prologue or not with my WIP. I was leaning towards using it to set the scene for the setting, since it is a fictional kingdom. I may or may not go with one. I have much more to write before I decide.
     

Share This Page