1. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    Prologue is long?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Albirich, Nov 24, 2013.

    At first I didn't think my novel needed a prologue. Then I got inspiration and I got a nice red thread that goes through the prologue to the first chapter to the plot of the story.

    It is only a day or two before the first chapter, it is important to the story, and it does leave you with a sense of what the story will offer, and some mysteries and what not.

    It ended up on 3921 words on my first draft, my first drafts usually mean that it will increase as I might seem to have missed a detail or two, or just require more details in general.

    Is this too much? I think I paced it fairly well to keep the reader interested. But I don't even know. This novel was supposed to be a small project, though I can't see this being exactly small...I'm not made for small things...
     
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  2. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    If it's important to the story, and people won't understand the story without reading it, it should probably be chapter one.
     
  3. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    Its the PoV of a different character and he dies. Would not make sense to have it as a chapter.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    4,000 words doesn't sound like a lot. Otherwise, can't tell just from the numbers.
     
  5. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    That is 11 1/3 pages with Palatino Linotype, 12 size and 1,5 space. (The settings one should use, except the font can be changed)

    Since this is a word document, the pages roughly doubles up in book pages, so around 22 pages for the prologue, give or take a few.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Length isn't meaningful, content is.
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You seem to be implying that a Prologue isn't important to the story and that people can skip it and still understand the story. Big mistake.

    I suspect you're mixing Prologue with Introduction or Preface. Introductions and Prefaces contain facts and perspectives about the story, and can certainly —and sometimes even more profitably— be read later on, or not at all.

    A Prologue is actually crucial to understanding the story. If it's well written (as the rest of the book should be) it will be an exciting part of the story, written in an immediate fashion with scenes, character, action, etc. It's often the inciting incident for the story.

    It's not called Chapter One, however. That's because the action may take place long before the bulk of the story, and it would be confusing if there was a huge time gap between Chapter One and Chapter Two. Or it contains characters you won't meet again, but whose actions get the story started.

    That's exactly the reason this should be a Prologue.
     
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  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a bit concerned at the short time span between the prologue and the first chapter, although I have seen it before. But yeah, as GF said, length is not the issue (as long as it doesn't turn into a novella on its own, of course); it's content.
     
  9. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    No, putting important information in a prologue is a big mistake, because many people skip them. Possibly most people, according to some surveys I've seen.

    Then it's not a prologue. Or better not be, because half the readers will skip it, and won't then understand the rest of the story.

    To make an example of a writer who's well known for always including a prologue in his books, you can read any Clive Cussler novel without reading the prologue, and the story will make sense. You might not understand what a US Civil War-era boat is doing in the middle of the Sahara Desert, but you'll still understand the story.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    We'll have to agree to disagree on this. :) I think if I got partway through a book and realised I was missing something, I'd be tempted to go back and read the Prologue after all. And maybe not be so quick to skip over the next one I encounter.

    I think it's sad that some readers decide BEFOREHAND that a part of a story the author has chosen to write will be useless to read, and ought to be automatically discarded. I'm not really interested in writing for that kind of reader. But I know you're right, and that some people do have this prejudice. Well ...hell mend 'em, I say. Fine. Whatever...
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  11. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    I have never understood people skipping a prologue to a book. Silly, silly, silly!

    Lets just put it this way, if I ever get published ( o so dreamy ) then people would lose quite a bit of story.

    I guess my question is a matter of opinion.
     
  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do think it's silly to automatically skip prologues (and Edward, I'd like to see some of those surveys, because I haven't seen one yet that wasn't just a few writers/agents tossing their personal preferences around versus a reliable survey). That being said, there really shouldn't be information necessary to the story in a prologue, IMHO. The prologue (ditto the epilogue) should be enhancements, something that adds to the "normal" enjoyment and/or understanding of the story. The reader who skips them will not have the additional insights into or information about the characters or plot, but will still be able to enjoy it - like having a sundae without the whipped cream. Myself, I want the whipped cream.
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Sometimes I feel like I'm making this up, but no. I'm not the only person on the planet who thinks prologues are an excellent tool in the writer's arsenal. Here is the link to a really REALLY good article on how to use them.

    http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/prologue.shtml

    And here's a great quote from the article, which really sums it up:

    To make sure your prologue works well, you can put it through a simple two-step test: try to leave it out and see if anything important is missing; then try to change its title to "Chapter One", and check if the plot integrity is damaged. If you've answered both questions with a yes, then your prologue is doing a good job.
     
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  14. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with jannert on this one, that prologues are yet another tool. Like all tools they can be used in different ways and the writer chooses what appeals to them. You can among other things use them as a part of a story or to enhance the story.

    Take The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan as an example of the first. Now I haven't read those book myself, but my brother has told me that several of them contain prologues that are tens of pages long, with the longest at about 90 pages. I can only guess at this but I don't think Jordan wrote those prologues just to have them skipped by readers. They contain valuable information that progresses the story and ties to books together, and that is Jordan's chosen style.
     
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  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me, "prologue" still means, "Hang on, the story hasn't started yet." The literal meaning, if I can trust online dictionaries, is "before the speech". Before. In other words, the main event hasn't started yet.

    I want the main event to start. You're scolding the reader for wanting to get to the story that you wrote, that he bought and paid for. Why scold him? He's eager to get into *your* creation. It feels a little bit like scolding a restaurant patron for not being willing to sit still and admire the table setting for as long as you've decided that he should. He wants the food!

    You may say, oh, well, don't fuss about literal Latin meanings, the prologue *is* part of the story. Then why not call it Chapter 1? Yes, maybe it's a different POV. Yes. maybe it's thirty years earlier. Yes, maybe it's on a different continent. I don't care. Either it's backstory, in which case I think it's a mistake, or it's story, in which case I think it should be Chapter 1.

    Heck, you can even call it Part 1 if you want, a Part 1 with a single short chapter, as long as the name doesn't signal, "Just hold on; we'll get to the part you actually want when we're good and ready."
     
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  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    albirich...
    those are not the settings one should use...

    the standard for mss to be submitted to agents/publishers is and has long been double-spacing... and the most universally acceptable font is courier new, since tnr [the other standard font] is too tiny and cramped for reading all day every day, as agents and editors must do, which is why many prefer courier...
     
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  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    So calling it Part 1 instead of Prologue would mean you would read it? Calling it Chapter 1 instead of Prologue would mean you would read it? Even though it's exactly the same words in the same order telling you the same thing? Do you see why people scratch their heads at that logic?

    The prologue is just as much a part of the author's creation as anything marked "Chapter". The author felt it was needed and put time and effort into it. Scold the reader for deciding, sight unseen, that it's not worth reading? Why not?
     
  18. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    Really? Oh. Ehm, hahaha ok. I tried to swap to those settings and now the prologue is 17 pages....double that up....ugh, lol. No really? Double spacing seemed a bit much. But I guess you're the most experienced so :)

    Prologue is my creation as well, and why should it be any worse than what lies ahead?

    I have checked some around and one can read on without the prologue, but they'll be missing the sprinkles on the cake.

    I feel like and other people, and the research I have done, that a chapter of what my prologue represents should be the prologue. But I did not come here to question whether or not it should be named prologue or even have it in my novel, it will be there.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I read the book, I'll read the prologue. But I'm a bit less likely to read a book that has a prologue.

    Why is it wrong for the reader to want the story to start?

    Now, you may argue that the story *does* start with the prologue. In that case, why is it called a prologue?

    If it's a prologue because it signals that there's going to be an early, abrupt shift in the story, a shift from which we never return, then once again that's an advertisement of something that I don't like. When I've completed the process of slowly accelerating into a story, getting into the character and the situation and the setting, I'm not thrilled to be suddenly brought to a jolting stop and asked to accelerate all over again, in a drastically changed vehicle. Of course, a story can do that without warning me that it's imminent, so I should really thank a story for giving me that warning by calling the beginning a prologue. But while I may thank it, I'm still not going to read it.

    I'm sure that there are occasions when a prologue is useful, when I would agree both that (1) those words should be there and (2) they should be called a prologue. But I haven't encountered one yet.
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    But to me that makes even less sense than skipping the prologue. You would really put down a book simply because it has a prologue?

    At any rate, I agree that readers have every right not to read any part of any book for any reason (though I reserve the right to voice my opinion of their reasoning). However, I will always point out that prologues are not bad per se and a few negative personal opinions of them does not change that fact.
     
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  21. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    In any vast fantasy world with more going on beyond the comprehension of the main character(s) a prologue should be there. Not for the purpose of having a prologue, but to get a better grasp of both the plot and in my case, the two parties that are against each other (in a vague way).

    Well, you won't get the entire plot in my prologue, but you'll get sprinkles in the prologue that will make more sense in the mid part of the novel. Of course any ignorant reader can look at the "Prologue" title and skip it, and still understand a great fraction of the story. Then that's their choice, anyone can skip Batman Begins and still see the two other movies.
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why? What's so special about a prologue that this information can only be communicated there, and not as part of the story?
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would put down a book if I don't like it. I believe that a prologue increases the chance that I won't like it. I tend to dislike backstory, and an insistence on telling me a lot of facts and explanations and background before the characters learn those things. And I tend to dislike abrupt shifts in POV, character, and setting. Often, though of course not always, one or more of those things that I dislike characterize a prologue.

    And if an author feels the need to do those things, that need is not all that likely to end with the prologue. A writing style that includes a prologue is slightly more likely to be a writing style that I don't enjoy. No, it's not guaranteed, but the world is packed with books, so I'm going to maximize the odds of finding and reading the ones that I like best.
     
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  24. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    The prologue is part of the story...why do I even bother? Look at any fantasy prologues, you can't say they aren't part of the story? Look Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire, two examples. (I haven't read that much, but I'm sure other members can come with a lot more examples)

    My prologue is not giving the reader a lot of facts, explanations or background. It opens the story and tells a tale that connects to the rest of the book.

    Just really, I'm getting sick and bored of your arguing, whatever you say is your opinion. I'm sticking to mine. The prologue is there to stay. It won't be a first chapter or whatever else I could name it, because it doesn't fit. I get that you hate prologues, but I don't care. You've derailed my thread and tried to force your view because you DISLIKE backstory, or the opening to a story, even though it might be important and satisfying to the reader. Do you think my or any other prologue would be better if I/they called it chapter one? I think not. Now this argument is at an end. Everyone is entitled their own opinion, and thats that.
     
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  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    By my count, the debate over the value of prologues was eight posts old before I chimed in; the thread was already well off the original subject.

    And of course it's my opinion. A discussion is an exchange of opinions. I could say that I'm "sick and bored of" you sticking to your opinion rather than complying with mine, but that would make no sense.

    Edited to add: But I assure you that I will not be further responding to your posts on this subject, if that's any consolation.
     

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