1. DocDoom187
    Offline

    DocDoom187 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2009
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0

    How do YOU use a prologue?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DocDoom187, Jun 29, 2009.

    So there are many different styles and opinions as to what you want a prologue to accomplish. Some authors use it to introduce the characters. Others to give the setting, while others use it to present some history behind the story, and others still use it to buildup and legitimize future plot devices.

    So what do you try to accomplsih with your prologue?

    I personally try to make it a brief history, but not an info dump. I'll choose characters who predate the setting of the actual story and tell the history through a brief interaction of these characters.
     
  2. afinemess
    Offline

    afinemess Active Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2009
    Messages:
    253
    Likes Received:
    10
    Most stories I don't feel need a prologue. I had one in a different version on my novel, but it mainly just gave a little hook and a tiny bit of a set up, when I changed the story up, it wasn't needed and I removed it. It was only two paragraphs. Very rarely do I feel they are needed for anything other than to give a quick hook to get the story going. Like an, "oh that's interesting, let me read more..." kind of thing.
     
  3. fantasy girl
    Offline

    fantasy girl Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2009
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    4
    The prologue of my current project is a dream sequence, I use it to introduce another world which is one of the main focus' of the novel!
     
  4. CharlieVer
    Offline

    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Raritan, NJ
    I use mine to build suspense, raise questions and to provide an entertaining window into the past while "setting up" the mystery. It's my hook.
     
  5. embersglow
    Offline

    embersglow Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2009
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    England
    A lot of people on this forum tend to really dislike prologues from what I've gathered, but I personally think that a well written one can be great for foreshadowing, introductions and a simply setting up a scene for a later chapter.

    I tend to use prologues to pique interest and as a chance to speak in a different voice. For example, the prologue I've just re-drafted is written in first person by a Goddess, but the rest of the story will be 3rd person following completely different people. Plus I've put a little bit of foreshadowing in there so people can look back and connect the Goddess and my other main characters much later in the novel.

    I just love prologues, I think they can bring something really exciting and interesting to a novel and hook the reader :)
     
  6. ConnorMack
    Offline

    ConnorMack Member

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    0
    As several have already said, the point of a prologue is to hook the reader, so I'm really left to wonder why I've seen so much bashing on it here haha. Like anything in a novel, it can be put to great use, or can simply be considered a first chapter. In my current project I use a prologue to foreshadow events to come, because to be honest it can be there or not, but I see it as a hook, and without it some events later on may make the reader be like 'what the crap?' I can't really see it being chapter 1 either, as it's relatively unrelated with most of the characters, events, and settings I introduce throughout chapters 1, 2, 3, and so on, until quite later.

    I really do like prologues, they can be a great way to quickly grab the reader's attention, but like I said, sometimes they can turn out to be more like a chapter 1 than a prologue.
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    The problem with prologues is that most of them are written as infodumps, to provide backstory before there is even a story.

    No matter how you disguise it, an infodump is an infodump. It feeds information to the reader before the reader has any need of it. Writers should not provide answers before interestthe questions arise. Your first task is to pique the reader's interest, and the best thing you can do is to lead the reader to questions, not answers.

    A prologue that isn't really a part of the story is somewhat weak. On the other hand, if the relevance to the story is too obscure, the reader will be perplexed and annoyed rather than intriqued.

    Most stories that use prologues would be better off tossing them completely. It's better to get into the story and the characters right away.
     
  8. seta
    Offline

    seta Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    2
    If you do use a prologue it should be transparent to the story - as in part of the main story.

    Years ago a teacher said "You don't need to read the prologue" - which was a lie. In some books the prologue is essential to the first chapter. But, then it may as well be the first chapter.

    I had similar questions which I posted in my thread "25 page prologue" or whatever it was. I probably will not include that prologue, but instead publish it separately as an unrelated short story or offer it for free online.
     
  9. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I've had some success using them as planters for perennials.
     
  10. Gallowglass
    Offline

    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 2, 2009
    Messages:
    1,617
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    Loch na Seilg, Alba
    I don't use them, although there are a lot of things the reader needs to know. I use character speech (sometimes the characters have quite a lot to say) to explain the backstory, but that's mainly to do with getting the character's opinion across instead of their history.
     
  11. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i don't!

    i let a first chapter be a first chapter... if i feel some introductory stuff is called for, i just put it there, and don't label it a 'prologue' or anything else...
     
  12. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    I don't use them ever.
    The only time I think they should be used is possibly to establish a kind of frame story that is distinct from the novel itself (or at least the earliest parts of the novel) and even then, its only necessary if the distinction is so important that the prologue cannot possibly be part of the novel itself.
     
  13. bluebell80
    Offline

    bluebell80 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2009
    Messages:
    636
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Vermont
    I don't like them and never use them and hate reading them. Nuff said.
     
  14. nativesodlier
    Offline

    nativesodlier Member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2009
    Messages:
    71
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Fresno, CA
    I have used it in many ways; To help set the scene, to offer an insight that the reader will not see again until later in the story to have the reader wounder on how the book will reach there, or to simply build suspense.
     
  15. Primitive
    Offline

    Primitive Member

    Joined:
    May 18, 2009
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    New Zealand
    In my current story i'm finding myself having one (though im not sure, if i shoild name it chapter one or even section it). My Antagonists only play a very minor role in this book (20 pages, over the course of one scene) which is used to set up the pace for the series. It would feel odd placing it as a chapter as i would have thought the reader would wonder where the hell they went (though i also have an epilogue setting up the next installment).

    I feel that if the prologue is structural to the novel, rather then just their to add extra un-nneded detaisl then its fine.

    Sadly being a fantasy fan, i have read many shocking prologues. That said i'll always read them simple because maybe one in ten will be a must read (In order to really understand whats really going on by the end).
     
  16. cybrxkhan
    Offline

    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2009
    Messages:
    423
    Likes Received:
    13
    I usually try to make very short ones that, although they do give a little history, also present some kind of cliffhanger or interesting thing going on. The problem is prologues is that they can easily turn into infodumps, so I have to be careful about this.
     
  17. Primitive
    Offline

    Primitive Member

    Joined:
    May 18, 2009
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    New Zealand
    The good thing about prologues that are used for info dumps is, you can usua;ly tell after a few paragraphs, which you can then flip the page(s) and start at charpter one ;)

    If their going to be used for such, then your not ever going to need to read it.
     
  18. Kirvee
    Offline

    Kirvee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2009
    Messages:
    232
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Michigan
    Mine in my demon story was the one that came to me at the same time as the basis of the plot came to me.

    However, in regards to your question, I suppose my prolouge can be considered a hook, a basis for future plot elements, and a little bit of history regarding the world of the story.

    But, as a general rule, if a story has a prolouge then it must also have an epilouge, otherwise it doesn't feel quite right. At least, that's a general rule for me.
     
  19. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    I don't write prologues because I think they suck.

    The only reason I could ever see writing one for is if I am writing a novel from one person's POV, but the story would benefit greatly if I started it from another person's POV, and that POV (the prologue) will impact the end 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
    I wouldn't go THAT far. I have two movels in progress. One of them does have a prologue that foreshadows a major event about midway through the novel. I also have it there to indicate to the reader that the character is extremely long-lived - the prologue clearly takes place in our future, just before we jump back to his youth in pre-civilized Europe.

    The prologue will probably remain. I really don't want the reader entering the story thinking it will all be about a young hunter-gatherer running around with his primitive spear. I want the reader to have a glimpse of the man he becomes before showing how he developed.
     
  21. bluebell80
    Offline

    bluebell80 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2009
    Messages:
    636
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Vermont
    Now Cog, I'd read your prologue. I've read a few books that had prologues like that, and in those cases I did read the prologue. I usually do read the prologue even if I hate reading them, just because I am a tad neurotic.
     
  22. CharlieVer
    Offline

    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Raritan, NJ
    On another thread a few weeks ago, we had a long discussion of prologues. As a fan of mystery/thriller novels, it astounds me how many people say they hate prologues -- in that genre, the prologue is sometimes the best part of the first third of the book! It's the hook, the shocking, question-raising scene that draws you into the story... the killer's first murder, for example.

    I'm honestly baffled by the feeling that "prologues suck." To me, the prologue is part of the novel, and sometimes, the best part. To me, it's a little like saying, "I always skip Chapter 3, because Chapter 3 always sucks." Except that, in my experience, the Prologue is usually, for example, the first murder, and Chapter 3... well... possibly, the detective has his assignment and is following the first clue, which is much less interesting than the first murder, but still, part of the story!

    I posted this there, I'll post it here. Please read this and tell me how much you hate prologues. It's not even the best prologue I've read -- just a good one short enough to post on a forum like this.

    My bet is, if you read on, you'll go out and get the book.

    The prologue to THE SURGEON by Tess Gerritsen.

    ---

    Today they will find her body.

    I know how it will happen. I can picture, quite vividly, the sequence of events that will lead to the discovery. By nine o'clock, those snooty ladies at the Kendall and Lord Travel Agency will be sitting at their desks, their elegantly manicured fingers tapping at computer keyboards, booking a Mediterranean cruise for Mrs. Smith, a ski vacation at Klosters for Mr. Jones. And for Mr. and Mrs. Brown, something different this year, something exotic, perhaps Chiang Mai or Madagascar, but nothing too rugged; oh no, adventure must, above all, be comfortable. That is the motto at Kendall and Lord: "Comfortable adventures." It is a busy agency, and the phone rings often.

    It will not take long for the ladies to notice that Diana is not at her desk.

    One of them will call Diana's Back Bay residence, but the phone will ring, unanswered. Maybe Diana is in the shower and can't hear it. Or she has already left for work but is running late. A dozen perfectly benign possibilities will run through the caller's mind. But as the day wears on, and repeated calls go unanswered, other, more disturbing pos-sibilities, will come to mind.

    I expect it's the building superintendent who will let Diana's coworker into the apartment. I see him nervously rattling his keys as he says, "You're her friend, right? You sure she won't mind? 'Cause I'm gonna have to tell her I let you in."

    They walk into the apartment, and the coworker calls out: "Diana? Are you home?" They start up the hall, past the elegantly framed travel posters, the superintendent right behind her, watching that she doesn't steal anything.

    Then he looks through the doorway, into the bedroom. He sees Diana Sterling, and he is no longer worried about something as inconsequential as theft. He wants only to get out of that apartment before he throws up.

    I would like to be there when the police arrive, but I am not stupid. I know they will study every car that creeps by, every face that stares from the gathering of spectators on the street. They know my urge to return is strong. Even now, as I sit in Starbucks, watching the day brighten out-side the window, I feel that room calling me back. But I am like Ulysses, safely lashed to my ship's mast, yearning for the sirens' song. I will not dash myself against the rocks. I will not make that mistake.

    Instead I sit and drink my coffee while outside, the city of Boston comes awake. I stir three teaspoons of sugar into my cup; I like my coffee sweet. I like everything to be just so. To be perfect.

    A siren screams in the distance, calling to me. I feel like Ulysses straining against the ropes, but they hold fast.

    Today they will find her body.

    Today they will know we are back.
     
  23. CharlieVer
    Offline

    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Messages:
    0
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Raritan, NJ
    I was just thinking about this...

    Now, I'm not a fan of the sort of fantasy books that, from what I'm gathering, are apparently prone to these "info dump" prologues that are so widely hated.
    A couple decades ago, I read and liked the Lord of the Rings, and I imagine the Harry Potter novels are fantasy of sort, and that's about it.

    But I was just thinking, it almost seems that the "info dump" stuff deserves a separate place for people who love that stuff. It doesn't belong in a prologue, but rather, perhaps in a section offset from the rest of the book.

    Like, let's take the Lord of the Rings, for example. It's been so long, I recall very little about the story, I confess. I remember the invisibility ring, and Golem, and Frodo, and some uncle, and a volcano, and that's about it. Oh, yeah, there was a Fellowship with some guy with a beard.

    But let's say there was a separate section, perhaps in the back of one of the books, that contained maps and geography, a time line, a list of the types of creatures that live in Frodo's land with pictures and descriptions, all the 'info dump' data that is completely unnecessary to the story but that will be loved by everyone who wants to prove that they're a Lord of the Rings trivia whiz or that wants to create a role playing game of some sort.

    Perhaps there's a place for a trivia and info dump, and perhaps that's the place. It might even deserve a book of its own, it might even deserve an encyclopedia of books for fans so entrenched in this world that they care more about data than about story.

    But it certainly, certainly shouldn't be part of a prologue.

    To give another illustration, I'm quite sure that a Star Trek book (I've never read a Star Trek book) could be written for Treckies (or Treckers or whatever they're called these days) that's a whole info-dump catalog, complete with a list of every important Stardate, every Captain since the beginning of the Federation and instructions on how to speak Kingon. But you don't want to start an actual Star Trek novel with that and make it a prologue.

    You might start your book, say, with a prologue showing a horrible battle and a star ship blowing up, as the 10-year-old future Captain Kirk watches, tears running down his cheeks, and then flash to Chapter 1, where the grown Captain Kirk learns he's going to have to travel to the planet where that star ship was blown up (and he finds out, to his shock, that what he thought he saw back then wasn't what he saw at all! Perhaps, he finds out that the Klingons he's hated for years aren't even responsible, and it was the Federation that blew up the starship!)

    Just, off the cuff, examples of what makes a bad prologue or a good prologue. With apologies for all the Treckies and Treckers for the details I got wrong in my made up example.

    Charlie
     
  24. Kirvee
    Offline

    Kirvee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2009
    Messages:
    232
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Michigan
    @Charlie: I agree with you. There's a book I have here with me (in the room with the computer) that I haven't read yet, but I was told that the first part of it is a humongous history lesson. That...almost makes me not want to read it once I finish one of the books I'm already reading. And this book is a sci-fi, by the way.

    Although, I think things like maps and such should be at the front just before the Prolouge. That way a reader has easier access to a map for story reference if the novel happens to be as thick as, say, Eldest or Brisngr. But background info, world history, etc. should be in the back for those who are interested to read and those who are not interested can stop reading once they finish the story. It's courtesy, I think.
     
  25. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    COG, I think that works because it serves a significant purpose. The narrator could also be in the future and then tell us we are going into the past. Trying to think of a novel that does that, hmm, A Walk to Remember, and Interview With A Vampire; although, in Interview it is Loui talking to the reporter and takes us back in time.
     

Share This Page