1. aClem
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    aClem Active Member

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    Introductions and Prefaces...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by aClem, Dec 30, 2013.

    My question to all is: Do you read introductions and/or prefaces always, never, usually or only sometimes? I put myself in the category of "usually." For me it depends mostly on the length of the introduction. It also depends on what I'm expecting out of the book and who is doing the introduction. I will almost always read an introduction written by someone I am familiar with and appreciate. I will almost always begin reading an introduction but finishing it is by no means a sure thing.

    I am wondering if anyone skips introductions even if they are quite short, say a half a page to a page? In my latest attempt, the introduction will serve to set the scene and avoid some cumbersome and potentially tiresome exposition within the work itself.

    Is it reasonable to expect a short introduction to be read?
     
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  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    To answer the first paragraph, nope. Not even when the person making the intro is someone whom I dig.

    The description in your second paragraph, though, sounds a bit more like the description of a prologue, which is something rather other... [​IMG]
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If it's short (say, 10 pages or less), I'll most likely read it. If it's longer, I'll either not read it or come back to it after finishing the book.
     
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  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, me too. I find that I sometimes read introductions / prefaces AFTER I've read the body of the book, because by then I know what the person who wrote them is referring to. I usually do read them, though.

    Have I got this right, below?

    1) An introduction is placed at the start of a book, and is written by somebody other than the author. It is not part of the story, and can be read after you've read the main book.

    2) A preface is placed at the start of a book and is usually written by the author, but it's not part of the story. It usually deals with how the book came to be written, or some information about its publication or some other related topic the author would like you to know about. It's not part of the story, and can be read after you've read the main book.

    3) A prologue is written by the author, placed at the start of the book, and it is a chapter in the book. It IS part of the story, and should be read like any other chapter. Skipping it means you're skipping the opening part of the story.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2013
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  5. aClem
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    aClem Active Member

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    Yes, there are differences between prefaces, introductions and prologues. I guess what I want to do is a preface, short and to the point, sort of give a heads up to the reader to avoid needless confusion.
     
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  6. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    A prologue I will read before the book.

    A preface or introduction I will read after the book because sometimes the author gives too much away in these. I would rather catch on myself and then go back and read when I'm sad the book is over and wish there were more.
     
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  7. aClem
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    aClem Active Member

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    I guess it depends on how much you enjoy being kept in suspense. I find a lot of books frustrating because I am expected to read a hundred or more pages before understanding the basic premise. Sci Fi is very prone to this. It seems to me that if you have to keep the reader in the dark about the basics, then you don't have much plot. Or that's how it feels to me, at least.
     
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  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Prologues, introductions, and prefaces are written by the author. The foreword (note spelling) is typically written by someone other than the author.

    A prologue applies to fiction, and is a narrative element outside the story proper, but related to the story.

    An introduction is typically only used for non-fiction. It discusses the content of the book.

    A preface is used for fiction or nonfiction, and discusses the development of the book itself.

    A foreword is written by someone other than the author, and discusses the author and/or how the book came to be,or how it relates to external matters. It too may appear for fiction or nonfiction.

    An epilogue is like a prologue, except it appears after the final chapter and covers events subsequent to the story. It only applies to fiction.
     
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  9. aClem
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    aClem Active Member

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    Thank you for that concise explanation. Definitely won't be a foreward. Preface seems to be what I want. If the reader chooses not to read it, then he might like the sensation of not knowing, figuring it out himself.
     
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  10. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    I have shelves of classics by Dickens, Thackeray, Dumas, Collins, James, Eliot, Gaskell, Austen, etc.--all with introductions written by others, usually editors or literary scholars.
     
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  11. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    From Wikipedia (hardly gospel, but it seems pretty accurate): "A preface generally covers the story of how the book came into being, or how the idea for the book was developed; this is often followed by thanks and acknowledgments to people who were helpful to the author during the time of writing."

    Sounds to me like what you want to write is something headed "A note to the reader."
     
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  12. Caeben
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    Caeben Member

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    I always read every section of a book in order, including prefaces, forwards, introductions, prologues and so forth. This is especially true for historical/scholarly works, as prefaces and forwards often reveal the academic influences of a write and introductions introduce the main thesis and basic arguments in the work.

    I can't actually wrap my head around those that say they never read introductory sections. That seems really...weird.
     
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  13. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I find that introductions for works of fiction typically give away something important and/or give us an interpretation of the work that we then tend to use to read the work itself. So I prefer to read any introductory material after reading and forming my own conclusion/interpretation of the piece.
     
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  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Prefaces and forewords are rarely written at the same time as the book's content. They aren't worth investing any time or thought until the book is complete, and accepted for publication. Introductions ate typically an overview of a nonfiction book, a concise road map of the completed work for different purposes or types of readers; therefore they are also written after the main body is completed.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2013
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  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Those would be introductions to a particular edition with a view to literary study. You wouldn't have seen that in any of the editions that were contemporaneous to the author.
     
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  16. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    I was giving a few counterexamples to the blanket assertion that "introductions ... are written by the author." That's all.
     
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  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there is nothing called a 'forward' in a book...

    a 'foreword' is generally written by someone other than the author and appears in the 'front matter' of the book...

    a 'preface' is an introduction to a book written by the author, to explain its purpose and/or the content...

    'preface' and 'introduction' are often used interchangably, but to some publishers, there may be a slight difference in content/purpose between the two... here's a good rundown of all of these, plus the 'prologue':

    http://www.bpsbooks.com/BPS-Books-blog/bid/21727/What-s-the-Difference-Between-a-Foreword-Preface-and-Introduction

    hope this helps... m
     
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  18. Azurisy
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    Azurisy Member

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    As a potential novelist, I would like to include preface and introduction in writing novels. I acknowledge and understand that every story has prologue and epilogue. It depends on the length of the story being written but also its significance. If you claim that your stories will be significant, according to its pertinence of social and moral themes to the contemporary society, it would be worth articulating your position under preface. Depending on its complexity and depth, it may be worth stating what the crux of your stories will be under introduction.

    If novels are difficult to read, introduction should be written. If novels are familiar and easy to decipher by most people, preface and introduction may be redundant and not so important. Also, authors that are experimenting with the genre, novel text type and language should definitely articulate their intent under preface.

    I believe that preface is best the author's statement, similar to abstract of an essay, about their intent and position; whereas introduction is best the author's contextualisation of the story.

    I hope that this post adds to your thinking. Haven't I?
     
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  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I know this and I still manage to mistype it from time to time (I did so in this thread, shortly after pointing out the correct spelling - since corrected). It's an easy mistake to make even if you know better.

    And yes, introduction does cover more than the textbook overview I described. It's also a catch-all term for any non-fiction material before the main content, particularly those that don't fall neatly into the other categories.
     
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  20. auntiebetty
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    auntiebetty Active Member

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    I just posted a 550 word Prologue (or beginning of Chapter One. This revision from 918 words previously posted for my prohibition-era historical novel based on a true murder. I see from the above discusions why I remain confused about whether my post is the opening chapter, the prologue, or something sandwiched somewhere in the middle of the book. Most murder stories start with the murder scene and then play out back stories leading up to the murder, arrest(s), and conviction(s). At any rate, whether this 550 post is the prologue, Chapter one or some other later chapter, I would like some comments on whether the 550 words are enticing enough to have you read more, or whether they are boring and I should wait to write this AGAIN, when I have a better handle on what and why I'm writing this.
     
  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I always read prologues.

    I usually read introductions but whether I finish them is another matter. If it is short like, a couple of pages, I'd probably finish it. Anything more than 3 pages is at risk of not being read by me, especially if it's rather dull. Sometimes if I feel it has value but it's kinda boring, then I'd skim or maybe skip a few pages, like that.

    Prefaces - I almost never read these, but then I can't remember any books that include them. I guess I skip these because I don't actually know what it's supposed to be.
     
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  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, you're right, I forgot the 'Foreward.'

    I think the most important thing to take away from this discussion is that a Prologue (and Epilogue) is part of the story itself, and should never be skipped or read 'later.'

    The rest of the mentioned bits can add to your understanding of the author, the story, the publication process, etc, but they CAN be either skipped altogether, or read later.

    To quote the Meercat ..."Simples..."
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2014

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