?

I ______ read the Author's Note or Prolouge

Poll closed Aug 22, 2015.
  1. Always

    32.6%
  2. Usually

    41.9%
  3. Rarely

    23.3%
  4. Never

    2.3%
  1. AspiringNovelist
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    AspiringNovelist Contributing Member

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    Poll - do you read author's notes or prolouges?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AspiringNovelist, Jul 23, 2015.

    I've learned that some don't read the Author's Note or Prologue and wanted to run a poll to get data.

    I always write one or the other to set the backstory, except for short stories of course.
     
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  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I always read them. The only exception is if the author's notes interpret the piece in some way. I want to interpret the piece on my own without being influenced by the author's intent. In that case, I'll still read the notes but only after I've finished the piece.
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Rarely. Notes almost never. I'll give a prologue a paragraph perhaps. If it doesn't work for me, I won't buy the book. I prefer books without prologues, so I buy those preferentially.
     
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  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't read author's notes. I figure if they have to explain something, it should've been in the book. I always read prologues - if the author (and publisher) didn't think it worked, it wouldn't be in the book.
     
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Whether the author or publisher think it works is immaterial to my reading of the book. If I don't think it works, I'm not going to waste my time.
     
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  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I decide to read the book, I'll read the whole book, including the prologue.

    However, if the book starts with backstory, which is IMO a very bad way to start, odds are good that I won't decide to read the book.
     
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  7. GingerCoffee
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    I start a fiction book from the beginning be it called prologue or chapter one. If it's non-fiction, I almost always skip the prologue or very superficially scan it to see if I need to read it.

    As for notes, again, in fiction I consider them part of the story. Non-fiction, I glance at them but that's about it.
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I always read a prologue, because it's not 'optional.' I wish people would get that idea out of their heads. A prologue is a chapter in the story, same as any other. It makes no sense to skip it on principle, any more than it makes sense to skip any other chapter on principle. If the prologue turns out to be 'optional' then it's not very well written! Same can be said for many "Chapter Ones" that turn out to be info-dumps.

    Author's notes? An entirely different animal. I usually read them, but sometimes not till after I've finished the story. They CAN contain spoilers, so I usually wait. However, they often have very interesting things to say. I love to read historical fiction, and the author's notes section is where you find out how much of the story was 'made up' by the author, and how much of it sticks to fact. Author's notes often deal with any difficulties the author had with the book or other subjects of interest. This is all 'optional,' and not part of the story, but it can be very entertaining and informative. It's not essential, and can either be skipped entirely, or read after you've finished the story itself.

    The only part of a book I usually skip are the acknowledgements. That's where the author thanks everybody in their lives who had anything to do with anything the author did. This, I'm afraid, makes for tedious reading. However, the author has to do it, so I don't mind it being there. It's just that I don't usually read these lists.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I just finished reading a book of fiction called Twelve Quiet Men, about the vigilante group that tackled and defeated the gangs of outlaws who plagued ranchers in 1880's Montana Territory. The author's notes let readers know how he did his research, and, more importantly, what was fact and what was fiction in the story. He fictionalised some events and changed some names. It's not possible to include that sort of information within the story, but it's of great interest to readers like me, who like to know where the line between fact and fiction got drawn.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    As long as you give every prologue a chance, that's fair enough, in my opinion. If it doesn't grab you, by all means stop.
     
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  11. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Who the hell would skip the prologue? I didn't even know that was a thing. I can sort of (not at all) understand putting down a book if it has a prologue, but I can't understand why anyone would skip the prologue and continue reading from chapter one. A prologue should give information and introduce characters and concepts that can't effectively be introduced in the first chapter, and are more or less required to understand what's going on. Hence, if you assume the prologue is nothing but filler then why would you continue reading the story if you've already assumed the book will likely be badly written?

    As for author's notes, I don't tend to read them very often. Perhaps if it's about a page or two, but I've seen author's notes that are basically a chapter in their own right, so unless this is an author I care a lot for then I'll usually give it a miss.
     
  12. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I've paid for the book, I've paid for every word in it. Why would I not read every word to get maximum value for my money?

    And, as @Steerpike says, if a couple of paragraphs in it's not working, I wouldn't buy the book. But that's regardless of whether those first couple of paragraphs are in the Prologue or Chapter One.

    I can understand the aversion to Author's Notes that give spoilers, or lists of gratitude.

    And thanks, @jannert ! My WIP is a fictionalisation of history, so there's a good long Author's Notes to be added to my future tasks!
     
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  13. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Nah, I like to get to the good stuff in Chapter One. It's been my experience that the prologue will get me very attached to the characters within, only to have Chapter One jolt me away to a bunch of no-name characters I don't even know or care about. The worst offender was a book where the prologue, set in 1911, ended just when the parents lost their little girl after she fell into a well. Chapter One takes me to a century later where a teenaged girl and her boyfriend are getting high in her mom's farm truck.

    Granted I did learn to care for these new set of characters, but I still felt immense frustration that the author did that to me. One moment it was, “OMG A KID DIED! WOE! DESPAIR! ANGUISH! GRIEF!” then a split second later, “Lol, let's get high in a truck and listen to pop music!!111!!!”

    How do you even reconcile that? You make your readers attached to the characters in the prologue, why would you start Chapter One with a bunch of characters that are not at all related to the ones you actually cared about? It'd be like me writing my fantasy where the prologue started out with, I dunno, my MC losing her mother to illness and making it all sad and tragic then Chapter One opens up with a frickin ballet recital! With characters none of the readers have seen before!

    In other words, I think I've made myself clear on my opinion on prologues. ;) Author's notes? Eh...I just ignore them until I finish the book.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
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  14. rincewind31
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    If that's the case they should have the beginning somewhere else.
     
  15. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Or maybe have that be Chapter One.
     
  16. rincewind31
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    Nah, prologues are usually just easy ways to explain things happening later in the book. In films you might need them. It might help to see little Johnny falling down a well to explain his fear of darkness and falling buckets, but I'm sure there are better ways to do it in a book. Probably :D
     
  17. Void
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    They did, that's why they have the beginning at the start of the prologue ...
     
  18. Void
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    That's more of a case against bad prologues rather than prologues them self. While I haven't read what ever book you are talking about it seems like a strange choice to have the prologue that way. I assume it did have some relevance to the story overall, right?
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Lots of people skip prologues. For that reason, I've heard advice from writers saying that it shouldn't have anything critical to the story (which makes me question the reason for it existing). If a writer follows that advice, it would make reading the prologue optional.

    If I see a prologue, my first impression is that the author knows very well that's not where the story starts, or she would have called it chapter one.

    In any event, if I buy a book I'll read it any way I please, including skipping the prologue if I don't like it. I'm more likely to just not buy the book if there's a crap prologue that the author wants me to sit through before getting to the story, but there have been times when I've just skipped the prologue and gone straight to the story, and other times I've read the prologue.
     
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  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, basically do a search for "prologue" and you'll find big arguments discussions about them. And Void - yeah, I never thought anyone skipped them either until I got on writer forums. I have my own thoughts about what that implies. ;)
     
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  21. jannert
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    I can understand your frustration. It sounds as if the transition between the chapters was badly handled. It would have been equally annoying if it had been titled Chapter One and Chapter Two, however. Maybe even more so, because then you wouldn't have been expecting any kind of a split.

    The real question is: If the author had left this prologue out entirely, would it have hurt the story? Did you need to know that girl died down a well, in order to understand the rest of the story? If the answer is yes ...well, then it was necessary to the story.

    Lots of people hate head-hopping, no matter whether it's between a prologue and chapter one, or between other chapters or scenes. The trick is to try to write them so this transition isn't so annoying. Not easy, but it can be done.
     
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  22. jannert
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    I certainly agree that if the prologue isn't critical to the story it should probably be left out. However, that's not how I define a prologue at all.

    A prologue is VERY critical to the story. It's simply a part of the story that takes place with different characters, or in a different time frame from the rest of the story. In some cases a prologue actually shows the end of a story—or a penultimate event—and the rest of the story is about how things got to that place.

    A prologue often contains the inciting incident for the story (as mine does.) However, because it takes place WAY before the rest of the story, in a different location, with a character who has a change of name in the intervening period, it makes sense to separate it. It's a signal to the reader that it will read differently from the rest of the story.

    Sometimes it's important for a reader to understand WHY things are happening in a story, which means that dripping information in as the story progresses doesn't work very well. I'm a big believer in doing what works best. I am not responsible for other people's preconceptions about my story. They are free to ignore any chapter they want!
     
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  23. peachalulu
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    I would have clicked other if it had been on the poll. I sometimes read authors notes but usually after I read the book. To be honest introductions and authors notes feel a bit like watching a trailer right before you're going to watch a movie which I don't like.

    Prologues I've been known to skip or rather skim because I feel like often, or it could be just the genre I read horror, that the author is trying to set you up with a scare first to set the tone - murder happens in this house pay attention. That's gotten me into trouble in the past because sometimes pertinent information has been put in the prologue. It's not just any murder.
     
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  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @jannert I agree if a prologue is there is should be a critical part of the story, but that counters advice I've seen from agents and authors that say if you have a prologue don't make it critical because a lot of readers will skip it. Contrary to what @shadowwalker implies, I think quite a number of readers who aren't also writers skip prologues. I know a few personally, and anecdotes from editors and writers over the years seem to back that idea up. New fantasy writers are particularly bad about prologues, because they often use them as a means of foisting a lot of backstory or world-building on the reader. Even if the book looks like it might be good, I'll skip those prologues and just go to chapter 1.

    Some agents aren't fans, either. For example:

    “I’m not a fan of prologues, preferring to find myself in the midst of a moving plot on page 1 rather than being kept outside of it, or eased into it.”
    Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

    “Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”
    Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

    “Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!”
    Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

    Those are three well-known agencies that have been around a while (Foreward is now called Fuse).

    In the fantasy context, Brandon Sanderson is a very successful author, and he warned against using them (he was speaking of fantasy writing; I think he might have been one of the ones to say not to put anything critical there, but I can't remember for certain if that was him or another author).

    I also came across the following comments by Dan Koboldt, regarding his journey to (eventually successfully) acquire an agent for his SF/F novels:

    "When I began querying literary agents, I did a huge amount of research. In this information age, it’s remarkably easy to collect data about what agents and editors are looking for, so much that I find it surprising when poorly informed would-be authors query agents with a genre they don’t represent. But I digress.

    Agents are often asked about the things that make them pass on partials or complete manuscripts. When agents who represent fantasy/sci-fi get this question, they often remark on prologues. Simply put, most agents hate prologues. Why? Mainly because prologues:
    • Only serve as an excuse to drop into the action of a key conflict or world-defining event
    • Offer unnecessary backstory that could be worked into the novel
    • Often show the POV of secondary characters
    Notice how similar those are to the reasons fantasy authors like prologues?"

    So, this is all anecdotal, based on things I've heard or read from authors, agents, and editors over the years, and also on things I've heard in discussions with people who are simply readers and not writers. Doesn't mean you shouldn't use a prologue if that is your vision for a work - you have to write the book the way you want to write it. But it doesn't make any sense to pretend that there aren't plenty of people out there who don't like prologues, including agents who may pass on a book when they see one and readers who may read the book but skip the prologue entirely. What percentage of agents, editors, or readers this group makes up, I don't know. I've never seen anyone study the issue to produce that kind of data. But I've seen the advice so often that I don't think it is an anomaly either.

    I've read plenty of bad prologues from aspiring writers, and more than a few in published books, that shouldn't have been there. My advice when it comes to prologues is to ask yourself whether it really is necessary, in an absolute sense (which I think is never the case, personally, but that's another discussion), and if it isn't strictly necessary, then whether it is important enough to you to put up this detour for the reader to follow before getting to real start of your story, which is probably chapter 1. After all, there is a reason you called it Chapter 1, and more often than not it's because you know that is where the story begins.
     
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  25. jannert
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    Good defense of your point.

    I actually had one of my beta readers say, glibly, oh, I don't read prologues when I handed them the book. I said fine, just skip it then—it's part of the story, but suit yourself. So they went away ...and many days later, they confessed to eventually going back and reading it after all, and were sorry they hadn't right at the start, because by skipping it they got off on the wrong foot entirely. I said ...nothing ...but 'oh good, I'm glad you did.' They said they would have read it if it had been called Chapter One. I said ...well, you eventually read it even though it was called 'Prologue,' so I'm not bothered.

    My other 29 betas had no problem with it.

    Again, I feel it's their loss if they want to start skipping bits I wrote, just on principle. I've known readers who skip violence, who skip sex scenes, who only like to read dialogue ...bla de bla. Fair enough. One reader of mine stopped reading—for a while—because, partway through, an animal got killed. It was important to the story, but that was enough to make her head for the hills, although by then she wanted to know how the story turned out, so she eventually returned to finish it. So choose your poison. There's always going to be somebody, including an agent, who isn't going to like what you do. Reading is subjective ...but so is writing. You write what you'd like to read yourself, don't you?

    I've just heard of an agent who rejected a manuscript because she didn't like stories about boats. So ...beware, if your story contains a boat! This prejudice might catch on too! :)


    ...........

    Just an aside. Does anybody else find it amusing that the MOVIE Lord of the Rings began with a fairly dense "world-building" prologue, while the actual book did not?
     
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