1. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Is there something wrong with prologues?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Thanshin, Sep 13, 2010.

    I'd like to have more info about that.

    Is there something wrong with prologues in general? How to know when to keep them?
     
  2. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    I think, with prologues it is something like, if you need a prologue then maybe you haven't told your story well enough. I've seen a few where they've just called their prologue Chapter 1 and just told it that way.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I quite like prologues I love back legends and information nuggets. I would rather read them in a prologue than a story
     
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  4. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is a prologue always a summary or a flashback?

    I've read many life-tales that start in childhood and soon skip ahead to adulthood -- is that considered a prologue?
     
  5. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    No, it can be any kind of fragment related to the main story but not directly part of it.

    Yes. But the relation to the main story can be much weaker.
     
  6. John Cleeves
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    John Cleeves Member

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    You only question you should is, "Do I need it?"

    Prologues are often misused, which leads people to loose faith in them. When written well, they can be integral. When not, not.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually I have always liked the ones that are not integral. Done well it is like a bonus story that also enriches the main story.
     
  8. John Cleeves
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    John Cleeves Member

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    If the prologue enriches the story, the fact it's absence would harm the story makes it integral, IMHO.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not really for example I know all sorts of back legends to my story, the readers don't need to know how the world was created, how the first character came to the Island etc but I like reading things like that about stories I read, I like to know a bit about where the author is coming from. For me personally it enriches the story. Advantage of a non integral prologue is if someone doesn't like that kind of thing they can skip it.
     
  10. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    Use a prologue if (a) you like prologues (b) you think it fits the story (c) you are writing for personal pleasure

    Don't use a prologue if you want to get pubished
     
  11. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, prologues turn me off since I usually find them uninteresting - an obstacle to overcome before I can get to the story.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Prologues are not inherently bad. Some writers write prologues that are truly integral to the story, and sharply focus the reader on the story from the first paragraph of the prologue.

    But most prologues are delivered to provide backstory, or to tell the reader about "essential information" not immediately present in the story. These should be ruthlessly excised, and dropped, still wriggling, into a flash incinerator.

    Never write backstory. Write story.

    Every story has background. Let the reader wonder about it. If it's truly necessary, it will leave traces within the story, little sparkling gems for the reader to discover and cherish. The very last thing you should be doing is shovelling a pile of answersd on a reader who doesn't even have questions yet.

    The book I'm currently reading has a two chapter "prologue" that is quite effective. In truth, these are chapters 1 and 2 in the part named Prologue, and it shows a woman being murdered in a hospital bed by an undisclosed killer. It raises questions, and sets the tone for the story. The next chapter, Chapter 3, brings us to the main character in a scene which begins with considerably less tension, so the "prologue" is actually a stronger entry point into the story.

    Never put a prologue in as a reflex action. Write the story without it first, and then decide whether you need the prologue to strengthen the opening. By default, the answer should be "no."
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think Islander's point is why I think it is better if they are used for interest rather than story. That way I can read it and he can skip em lol I love history even if it is made up I like to read it.

    I'm doing a website for mine that way anyone like me who likes the titbits can read them anyone who doesn't, can avoid them.
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What Cog was saying in that quoted portion of the OP's post is that, more often than not, the prologue is misused as a vehicle to give information that was missing in the story itself. As if the writer reread what s/he wrote and thought, "Hm. There are some parts that the reader is not going to get, so let's give a little lessen (prologue) beforehand to get the reader up to speed when they actually get to Chapter 1."

    Cogito himself has posted, many a time, that he has used prologues in his own work so it is not like he's a prologue basher.

    It's just that the prologue should not be - and too often is - an added on afterthought, prefix, implement/prosthetic device that is attempting (poorly) to make up for what is lacking in the work that follows it.

    EDIT ~ I just noticed that Cog posted two posts before I did. :redface:
     
  15. John Cleeves
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    John Cleeves Member

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    You can't talk in absolutes. Never write back story is as misleading as never use an adjective or a fragmented sentence. Most things are fine in moderation.
     
  16. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    So for example, would you say that the childhood opening of the movie Braveheart is actually a prologue? Even if, had it been removed, the whole movie would make less sense.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, I mean never write backstory. If it isn't an integral part of the story, it does not belong.

    There may not be any absolutes, but there are some guidelines that you ignore at your own peril.
     
  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Cog - I take it you feel the same way about epilogues?

    As I'm thinking about it, a lot of epilogues are probably written to answer questions that are left hanging at the end, questions that should probably be left to the reader to ponder.
     
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    ... or that should have been tied up more neatly within the context of the story proper.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Epilogues are different. They can be the sprinkles on a completed cake, coming as they do after the climax of the story. An epilogue can provide closure, perhaps days, weeks, or years after the main action. Unlike prologues, the information cannot necessarily be woven into the body of the story.

    More important is the fact that an epilogue does not delay entry into the story, as does a prologue.

    Beginnings are fragile. They are easily damaged by small errors. By the time you reach an epilogue, the reader has already finished the meal, and may not mind a little dessert.
     
  21. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Then of course there is the Hobbit a great long novel length prologue to Lord of the Rings;) Or the Magicians Nephew to Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Although the Hobbit is an example of a prologue putting me off reading the main book:)
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That is not a prologue. A separate story in its own volume is just that - another story.
     
  23. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah..

    It is an extreme stretch to treat an entire work as a prologue. The Hobbit does set up many of the key points for LotR, but it is a complete and integral work.
     
  24. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    It was a joke sort of but they both work as prologues for the main work. You can read Lord of the Rings or Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe without them, but your experience will be less rich as a result.

    That is the kind of prologue I have always enjoyed the 'history' lesson. It really has no serious impact on the story isn't even really a part of them. However if you bother to read them your experience is richer when reading the main story. I can't think of fantasy/sci fi with them in, but they sometimes appear in historical novels etc and just give you a background.

    Like with my book I am writing at present you don't need to have read the first one to get it, however your understanding of the characters and people will be greater if you have. Someone Else's Life is in someways the prologue for What About Us.
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Please stay on topic. The topic is prologues, not other books in the same setting.
     

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