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How do you feel about prologues?

Poll closed Nov 21, 2013.
  1. I like to write them, but not read them.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. I like to read them, but not write them.

    13.3%
  3. I don't like to read and write them.

    26.7%
  4. I like to read and write them.

    60.0%
  1. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Poll on Prologues

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Thomas Kitchen, Nov 14, 2013.

    Hi all,

    I wrote a blog post titled "To Prologue or Not to Prologue?" a few weeks ago, but now I want a part 2, which focuses on what the public thinks of prologues, and not just me.

    So, if you're willing, could you answer the poll and comment below if necessary? I would like to use a few people's thoughts, but please be aware that not everyone's comments can be used.

    Of course, only answer this poll and comment if you wish to participate and have your thoughts/opinions on my blog post. Also, to make it a little easier, I'll be using pretend names for the people who reply here, so the only people who'll know what you've said are the viewers of this forum and myself.

    If I can clarify anything, or if you have any questions, just ask. :) Thanks so much.

    P.S. The poll will be open for 7 days only, as the blog post will be written soon after and there will be little need for additional responses after this time.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, but I can't answer as if prologues were always good or always bad. And whether I like to read them depends on whether or not they serve a useful purpose to the story. Sometimes they do, sometimes not.

    The biggest problem with prologues, at least as they pertain to this forum, is the frequency with which they are misused. Often, they are used for backstory and other infodumps. There are usually better and more effective ways to convey this information, if it even needs to be presented at all.
     
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  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    A little too black and white - but that's a poll for ya. I cast my vote for I'm not one for reading or writing them. Not
    entirely true cause I've read horror books and a lot of them start with prologues, some can be good - a creepy action to get the
    ball rolling, and some can be awful - three pages of backstory. And a lot of times I'll skip/skim them.
    As for writing them myself, I don't believe I've ever written a prologue. I've considered it but I don't think I've
    ever attempted it. Usually it feels like summery ( the way I'd do it ) and I'd rather just get the story rolling.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    screwed up voting from phone. As a rule I don't like to read them and I don't write them.
     
  5. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    I hate hate hate hate hate prologues. Some prologues I have read were a clip from a scene in the middle of the book. Some describe the scenario or a brief history.

    I often skip over them because I feel they do not serve a purpose. I want to read the book in a linear fashion, not just skip around, unless the book is designed that way from chapter one until ending
     
  6. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    When it comes to reading, I can't make generalisations. It all depends on the Prologue. If it works, it works.

    As for writing one, I have no qualms, but only if I feel the inclusion is justifiable.
     
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  7. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Depends on the prologue. I know some people who have thrown in a prologue for say a MC waking up in a hospital just to follow the "rule" that you should never start with a character waking up. I disagree with that. Either make a chapter one showing what happened to put them there, or break the "rule" and start where you normally would.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    In theory, it should be possible to have a worthwhile prologue in some books. In practice, I have never yet met a prologue that didn't annoy me.
     
  9. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    As @EdFromNY and others have said, I can't answer definitively for prologues in general. I never used to read them, but I was a kid who wanted the story. Now I take them more openly, unless they turn me away. When you get right to it, reading a prologue can be just like reading the book. As for writing them, I've decided that If I'm to ave a prologue, it will be among the last installments to the book. In that way, it might make the book richer, rather than act as a crutch. But I have no absolutes considering them all good or all bad.
     
  10. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I chose the last one only because it came closest - I have written them and I always read them. That said, I've discarded some I've written, and I've disliked some I've read (and I almost always disliked the rest of the book as well). A good writer knows when to use a prologue and how to write it well. People who skip them automatically miss out on a lot, IMO.
     
  11. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm too scared to write them, but I've never picked up a published book and read a prologue I didn't like.
     
  12. jannert
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    It sounds as if you don't 'always' skip Prologues, so that's good. It's a mistake to think they aren't part of the linear flow of the story, though. They often take place quite a while before the events of the main story, so need to be separated out to avoid confusion—but the time flow can be all in one direction.

    While I'm a big fan of these linear kinds of Prologues—as long as they're exciting, and not an excuse to dump dry information—I am less fond of the kind that come from the middle of the story. However, I ALWAYS read them anyway. The author has set up the story that way for a reason.

    If a Prologue is boring, I won't read on. If it is engaging, I will. The same can be said for any Chapter One. Just calling it Chapter One doesn't make it any more interesting or relevant to the story.
     
  13. Patra Felino
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    Patra Felino Active Member

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    I've just double-checked Game of Thrones, and as I thought, it contains a prologue. The reason is that the rest of the book is split into chapters, each from the point of view of one of the main characters, entitled Tyrion, Sansa, Bran etc. The prologue does not have any of the main characters in it, and I cannot think of a decent alternative for the author.

    This cheers me as my entry for the science fiction novelette contest will also have a prologue and for a similar reason: it focuses on a different character to the rest of the story. I think this is a perfectly valid reason to include one and would be interested to hear if anybody could offer a better option.
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I skip them a lot of times as well, and in some cases I've put a book back on the shelf in favor of buying another one thanks to one having a prologue. I think quite a few readers actually skip them. It would be interesting to know the exact percentage.
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    What you mentioned is one of the reasons prologues exist. Why search for another option?

    Good on you, for having the backbone to write one because you feel your story requires one.

    When did this newly-fashionable prejudice against prologues start? I find it just about the silliest thing I've encountered, when it comes to reading (and writing.) It's like saying: "I've just read a couple of boring books—so that's it. I'm never reading another book as long as I live. And don't you dare write one."

    I've read boring prologues, too. I've also read boring chapter ones. Boring novels. Encountered boring book series. Boring trilogies. So why should I bother to read anything at all? Hey, I might get bored... can't have that...

    For heavens sake. Each book needs to be taken on its own merit.

    If the prologue is boring, dump it, by all means. But don't ASSUME it's going to be boring. A well-written prologue provides an exciting and intriguing start to a story. There are many of them out there.
     
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  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If the book has caught my interest, then I'll read the prologue. In fact, in such a case the prologue may well have been instrumental in catching my interest. In other cases, it may be instrumental in putting the book back where I found it.

    My favorite prologue of all time was the opening of Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, and it was not called a prologue at all, nor was it called "Chapter One". It was simply called "The South Pacific". But it served as a prologue, a sort of literary overture, hinting at some of the themes to be explored in the work without giving them away.

    As it happens, the prologue had nothing to do with catching my interest. That had already been caught. I was 17 years old and we were putting on a production of the musical, "South Pacific", at school. A friend of mine told me about the book upon which it was based, and I pounced. It was the beginning of a very long, fruitful journey.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
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  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    No story requires a prologue, in my opinion. As for my tendency to avoid them, it is based on prior experience. I don't have any problem using that as a basis to avoid future works.
     
  18. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I couldn't agree more.
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's interesting. I've encountered 'prologues' before which are not called such, but have a separate title such as you mention. What follows is Chapter One. So it IS a prologue, whatever you call it. I've also recently encountered prologues that have no title at all. They too are prologues.

    So silly, eh...?
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2013
  20. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    As a rule, I read prologues, though I've only ever come across a handful of books that had prologues. I'm giving the author the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he/she had a reason for including it. Honestly, I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a prologue before.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but your poll is majorly flawed, since it doesn't include what applies to many of us, which is that if the prologue is necessary and well-written, we might read/like it and if we feel it's necessary to a story we're writing we might write it... and if not, we don't...
     
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  22. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Then there are some books that leave like the first 3-4 chapters cordoned off in their own section labled prologue. Of course, I'm usually thinking "why?"
     
  23. Thomas Kitchen
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    I understand that - most polls are black and white. I just want to get a general view on prologues.
     
  24. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I like prologues, they give some mystery as well as what to expect in the story. You're wondering how the pieces will all fall into place. I'm a lover of mysteries.
     
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  25. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    But that doesn't make all prologues bad. It just means you choose to skip part of the book based on reading some that you didn't like. And no, many stories don't require a prologue, but stories don't require a lot of parts that enhance the experience. What gets me is people telling writers do not, absolutely, under no circumstances should they write a prologue because they won't, absolutely, without exception, read it. Good grief. If somebody's going to skip it, so what? Not everybody's going to read the book, period. So should I not write at all because of them?
     

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