1. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    Prologue or "hook" first?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Flying Geese, Aug 31, 2013.

    So i have a written prologue for my book that gives the backstory of the main plot...As i am typing this, I am realizing that I may be possible to write a large portion of the prologue into the opening scene which is my "hook". I want to have a great hook but I want the prologue to be mostly informative and not so much hook-y.

    Which should come first? The Prologue or the opening hook? This, to me, is quite an interesting problem. I will likely come up with my own way of doing it if for nothing else the sake of trying something new. But of course I would love to know what the standard layout is and what your opinions are.
     
  2. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Hook first. The backstory ends up being just an infodump, which is boring. As King said "Everyone has a backstory and it's boring."
    Better to show it in dribbles.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2013
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think your prologue should at least strongly hint at the hook if it doesn't include the hook. Otherwise you should consider dropping the prologue and working the backstory in via other means. A prologue that is just a backstory info-dump probably can be better done than that.
     
  4. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    The only prologues that really work are those that are the hook in themselves, if your prologue isn't a hook don't put it first if at all.
     
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  5. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    These are all great answers, as usual! I feel myself becoming a better writer!
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Totally agree with this.

    I am a big believer in the use of Prologues, if the story requires one. (It should be an inciting incident that happens outwith the framework of the story, either in the past, with different characters, or in a different location.)

    The current notion that a Prologue always contains an infodump has somehow taken hold of the collective CW brain. This notion needs to be resisted.

    Your Prologue should be just as exciting, and just as readable as the rest of your story! Just as much action, character interplay, etc. It is a scene, or scenes, just like any other. It's an integral part of your story, NOT something that can be skipped.

    The fact that it's called a Prologue indicates ONLY that it doesn't lead chronologically into Chapter One. This avoids confusion in the reader—when you suddenly hop ahead 50 years, or suddenly appear in another country, etc.

    I always laugh when people say "I never read Prologues." I bet they read Epilogues, though, once they get to them! Epilogues and Prologues are two ends of the same device.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2013
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    From what you've said of your prologue, I'd ditch it. This sort of prologue is a big reason I'll put a book back on the shelf at the bookstore when I see that it has a prologue, or when if I buy it anyway I will skip the prologue because both I and the author know the story starts in Chapter One.
     
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  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Prologues always come first - that's why they're called prologues. I agree with others - if your prologue is there only to give backstory, find another way to give it to the readers.
     
  9. Acanthophis
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    Acanthophis ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Contributor

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    Prologue with a hook in it.
     
  10. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I've only used a prologue once, and I only plan on using one again in ONE other book. Otherwise, I find them pretty unnecessary.
     
  11. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    I decided to severly shorted the prologue and yes, put what i think is a great hook in it. Should i put another hook in chapter 1 as well? The prologue hook isn't as tied to the story as the hook i have for chapter 1. Im using 2 hooks in my book. Is this acceptable?
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sure. I guarantee you the Fiction Police are not going to break your door down and arrest you for giving your readers even more reasons to keep turning the pages. :D
     
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  13. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hook first, if you wanna hook your readers, right? ;) Doesn't matter if the hook(s) is/are in the prologue or if the story starts "in the now".

    I read your prologue in the workshop, you can find my further comments and suggestions there.
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you include the prologue but don't want it to hook... well... what on earth do you expect from your reader? Read on because it's, er... not hooking? (read: boring?) They'd close the book before they reach Chapter One.

    Either incorporate your hook into your prologue, or ditch the prologue altogether. Don't live under the illusion that your readers will be patient enough even for one page - actually, even one paragraph - that does not hook them. And if it's meant for an agent, then make that your first line.
     
  15. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the first paragraph a reader reads, whether it's in the Prologue or in Chapter One, should encourage them to read the second paragraph. If it doesn't, then in many cases it will be 'end of story' there and then.
     
  16. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    The prologue could easily serve as the "hook" of your story. It's generally regarded to not go with a prologue, as this could easily bore your audience and make them toss the book aside in search of something. This isn't to say that you shouldn't try it, mind you. You could easily meld the two together, discussing the backstory throughout the hook, and vice versa. It's really up to you what you want to do. Just do what you're comfortable with.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hook first, prologue... What prologue?

    Most prologues are unnecessary, and delay entry into the story. Published novels notwithstanding.
     
  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    And you've done a statistically valid study of prologues over the full spectrum of fiction and determined with objective standards that this is true, correct?
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If I had, I'd have provided statistics, including standard deviation.

    Clearly, it's an opinion. Equally clearly, you hold a different opinion, or you would not challenge mine in that manner.

    You can safely assume that most posts on this site are opinions. Pretending otherwise is disingenuous.
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just like noting opinions which are stated as facts, particularly when those opinions could work to the detriment of other writers.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    As I said, your opinion clearly differs. I believe the prologue obsession is far more likely to be detrimental. Even if the writer decides to go ahead and use a prologue anyway, at least he or she should examine the choice critically.

    For what it's worth, I don't think all prologues are bad. Only the vast majority.
     
  22. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As with a great many aspects of writing, it comes down to whether or not you have a good reason for doing it. Dumping backstory is not, in my opinion, a good reason, and for the reasons Cogito gave (and gives any time the subject of prologues arises). I can't remember the last time I read a novel with a prologue, and none that I've ever read really stand out in my mind.

    In fact, can anyone name a novel with a prologue wherein the prologue really drew the reader in and made him/her want to really tuck in? I'd be interested in the results.
     
  23. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    You can't really say that "Prologues are bad" or "Prologues are good", it all depends on what it contains and how it's relevant to the story.

    If you're providing extra setting, I normally wouldn't bother. However, some prologues add to the story, and help the reader to understand. For example, without the prologue in Lord of the Rings, we'd all wonder why an unassuming hobbit has in his possession the most powerful item in the entire of Middle Earth.
     
  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The Lord of the Rings is cute in some places, boring in others, and has spoilers for the book in yet others. Not a necessary read for the story. You can skip it and understand the book just fine.

    Which is a good lesson, in any event. A certain percentage of readers will skip a prologue, so why have essential information there and nowhere else?
     
  25. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    True, but you can skip most chapters in any story, and still understand the general gist of what's going on. I'd be able to understand LotR, but I'd still have a niggling thought in my mind about why Frodo had the ring.

    And, yeah, people do tend to skip prologues, but I find this problem is easily solved by entitling the prologue "Chapter One".
     

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