1. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    Lets talk prolgues

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Nicholas C., Nov 20, 2011.

    Edit: pardon my spelling typo :redface:

    I've started with a prologue for my recent WIP, though I had no intention of doing so originally. The story is about a demon who is exiled from Hell for starting a war between two rival factions. The first chapter takes place on Earth in modern day, but when I began writing I felt like it was necessary for a preemptive flashback to let the reader know that this was not a regular person. Being that it's very short (around 500 words) and doesn't seem to fit in the logistical scope of the first several chapters... I just made it a prologue.

    So, are prologues really looked down upon by the reading and publishing world as much as I've heard? Should I just try to weave this scene in at a later point?
     
  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okey, better put on the armor guys, and prepare for the war!
     
  3. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    The thing with prologues is that it needs to make sense that it's a prologue rather just another chapter. Prologues are often shorter than chapters and take place away from the main story (though often being connected somehow.) so it seems to fit. I suggest reading A Song Of Ice And Fire if you haven't already, the prologues there are excellent.
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    The worst thing you can do to your story is have a prologue that isn't needed. It isn't needed if all you're doing is an infodump, for example. If it entices the reader, adds a little insight into the rest of the story, tells them something that will be a 'secret' from the characters - things like that make for a good prologue. It should not be something that could be re-labeled 'Chapter 1'.
     
  5. TH3T4
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    TH3T4 New Member

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    I have this problem all the time when i start a new project. The only time i was ever happy with one was i made it a chapter about the main guys past that explains things like say his house burned down then when the reader sees that hes gone from a farm to the city they realise taht hes grown up and moved.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I'd agree with this.

    I think there are two situations where you shouldn't use a prologue:

    1) Where it doesn't need to be there;

    A prologue is absolutely not an excuse to have an infodump. I don't care who you think you are, having a several pages explaining how your world works (magic, races, history, etc) is bad writing. You shouldn't be looking to tell me about it, but to show it to me in action. And also, you should trust your reader not to go, after the first page, "But I don't understand how that works!" and put the book down, but rather keep reading to find out.

    2) Where it's just Chapter 1 by another name;

    In these situations, using "prologue" at the head of the chapter just looks pompous, like you're emulating a style without understanding its purpose.


    A good prologue should be a little bit of a prelude, short (preferably), offering something which isn't immediately relevant to the story (as that would be better served as chapter 1) but which is important and which might serve to suck the reader into the story, possibly by making them wonder when and how it will come into the main story (incidentally, for an example of- I think- good use of a prologue, see George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, which to my mind is a textbook example).

    I would say, that if you're in doubt, you're best off just calling it chapter 1. You won't really lose anything for it, but avoid looking like you don't know what you're doing.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm wondering why you would want to let them know that, because I think that finding this out gradually would be delightful. In, let's say, a vampire story, is it more exciting to be told, "NOTE: This character is a VAMPIRE. He has pointy teeth and drinks blood. Do not be startled when this happens. Again, this character is a VAMPIRE." or is it more exciting to suddenly have the bartender sprout fangs?

    ChickenFreak
     
  8. ScreamsfromtheCrematory
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    Doesn't really sound necessary (read: don't bother) unless say, this is going to become a series. There's nothing inherently wrong with prologues but except in some super grand scale settings (Warhammer 40000 for example), most stories can survive without them. However, if there's a lot of detail in your story and a high amount of depth as to the inner workings of hell as well as maybe heaven and purgatory, then maybe you could put in a small "intro" that doesn't really recount things and lay out the whole universe but rather "eases one into it." Instead of "sparknotes of demonolatry", it could be a scene or a bunch of "sample scenes" that are intended to get the reader used to the general feel and reveal small tidbits of major plot information and characters. Those should be built upon in the actual chapters, however and only "hinted" or "skimmed" at in this prologue.
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree with you on this. Those prologues are the ones I like too. things you could do without but that add some spice to the story.
     
  10. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Wonderful advice. I love this line of thinking.
     
  11. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    I thought this as well early on in my development... I changed it because I wanted to set a specific tone from the begining, and introducing the nature of this character halfway through the story would make the begining seem bland. And fortunately, it's not as cut and dry as the vampire example. Yes, you may learn at the very begining that there is something "not normal" about this characterer -- but you don't learn exactly what.... hence you have to keep reading if you wish to find out.
     
  12. TurtleWriter
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    TurtleWriter Member

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    I haven't even started to write my novel yet, but this discussion around the prologue has made me think. First of all, I'm going to be writing a futuristic sci fi novel. Second, the human race will be the primary focus of the novel (this could turn into a series). Third, in my head, I know of a major event which I feel is interesting and important to the lineage of the "current" day humans in my book. However, if I could, I would prefer to avoid info dumping that into the first chapter(s).

    Instead, what I'm thinking is, I can do a prologue of the important event "live." The event would occur around our actual modern times and would give a hint that none of the characters would be aware of. Would that fall into the parameters of a "good" prologue?

    I apologize to OP, I don't mean to steal your thunder. I just thought it would be redundant to create an entire new post for something related to your topic. To be fair, in my humble opinion, I agree with the general consensus about your prologue. I think you can indicate that your character is not normal via the main story. You could possibly even present his story as flashbacks through out the whole story. I find it super enticing when an author presents bits and pieces of the past triggered by events in the book.
     
  13. TurtleWriter
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    TurtleWriter Member

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    (I added emphasis) What you said provides you your reasoning and motivation to splice your information in through out the novel. It's like teasing the rabbit with a small piece of carrot, and then pulling the rest of the carrot around the corner. The rabbit has had a taste and they want more, so even though they can't see the carrot at that time; they go around the corner to get the whole thing. You want your reader to "chase" after the truth. You give them motivation to continue reading.
     
  14. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    No thunder stolen, Turtle :)

    I agree with your "small piece of carrot" analogy, and in essence, that's what this prologue is. Given that it's only 500 words, I don't think it gives away too much.


    However, you guys have definitely given me pause to reconsider using it. After I've finished with a couple chapters, I may post some of it for review.
     
  15. power44
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    As long as it gets readers excited about the rest of the story.
     
  16. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    That's probably a very good idea. At the moment we're discussing it all very generally. It's difficult to know, without seeing it, whether or not a prologue is appropriate in your case.

    From your description, I do think that it's quite likely that the information in your 500 word prologue would be better disseminated throughout the story. But like I said, it's hard to judge without seeing the case in point.
     
  17. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I think I would tell you to do the same thing Banzai told Nicholas to do. If the prologue is only about 500 or so words long then it would be better to disseminated throughout the story.

    However I have seen some sci fi/ fantasy books where the whole first chapter is a past time and events. I think it works nicely. Not really a prologue but still seperate from the main part of the story.
     

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