1. burlwood
    Offline

    burlwood New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2014
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0

    prologue in short stories

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by burlwood, Nov 28, 2014.

    I'm in the middle of my first short story. It's science fiction and takes place in the future. I would like to explain to the reader how the circumstances in the story came to be. I wanted to be clever about it by weaving the explanation into the story itself, however the main character, who is also the narrator, is somewhat inarticulate and wouldn't have any understanding of the complexities which led to the current state of the world. As far as I can tell a prologue, such as something you would read at the beginning of an H.G. Wells novel, would be the only way to go about this, but this is a short story, and I have yet to read a prologue in any of the ones I've read. What do you think?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,985
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    Noooo!

    OK, OK, I'm not saying that it would always fail, but I think it's not a good idea.

    One thing to keep in mind is that your character often won't have to explain. For example, he doesn't have to explain that food was cheap and plentiful in his childhood and rare and expensive now; we can just see his hunger for something that he ate often in childhood and hasn't been able to afford for years. We don't need him to explain that he's part of a powerless class of people; we can see his nervousness and extreme politeness to people who are of a more powerful class. And so on.
     
    jannert and TWErvin2 like this.
  3. burlwood
    Offline

    burlwood New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2014
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yeah I think you are right. There were parts of the story that I felt the reader would need some context for, but maybe not. It's hard to know for sure, but the more I think about it, the more anti-prologue I'm becoming. It sullies the structure of the story too, since it's the narrator telling it. Just who is this second omnipresent voice anyway and why doesn't it just tell the whole damn story? I guess it feels somewhat lazy to me to just explain things like some kind of a textbook. I made up my mind--no prologue. Thanks ChickenFreak.
     
  4. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I agree with CF. Short stories are different animals from novels, so a prologue shouldn't be used. There are exceptions, of course, but I would think they would be extremely rare.
     
  5. tonguetied
    Offline

    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 23, 2014
    Messages:
    548
    Likes Received:
    219
    Location:
    Near Atlanta
    I would think you could have a brief background description to set the stage without it being considered a prologue. However both ChickenFreak and shadowwalker have far more knowledge and experience with writing, so I maybe missing something about your OP.
     
  6. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    To begin with, short stories don't have chapters, so a prologue is absurd.

    More important, never explain. Ever. Introduce what the reader MUST know within the framework of the story. It's good advice for a novel, but it is essential in a short story. Nothing goes into a short story except what is directly relevant and necessary to the story.
     
    tonguetied likes this.
  7. burlwood
    Offline

    burlwood New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2014
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yeah I know what you're saying and I agree with it. But it's hard to know what a reader might consider relevant, and even necessary, to understanding the story. The unique dilemma here is that the lead character (also the narrator) is not someone who would have a very good understanding of the various socioeconomic and political circumstances which have led to the future scenario I'm depicting. If they suddenly expressed a very learned and articulate understanding of these things, it just wouldn't make any sense.

    But I think I've figured a more clever way of doing it. I'll have the narrator occasionally make certain indirect implications and then let the reader make certain inferences, and if they're wrong, that may be ok.
     

Share This Page