Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Reilley Turner, Jun 9, 2015.
In a story, do you HAVE to include a prologue?
Why would one "have" to include a prologue? What is making you ask this that you feel it's somehow compulsory?
And, did you do a search for the term "prologue" here in our forum, because, jinkies.....
I don't know, for the back story?
And no, I just posted a new thread. I will remember to search the forums next time. Sorry. :/
If you are planning on trying to get your work commercially published, understand that not only are prologues not required, there is a real bias against them in the industry at present, probably due to overuse and misuse. Of course, there are plenty of perfectly useful prologues out there. But these days, you'll probably not find too many that are actually called "prologues". They're often called something else, or, as in Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves, not called anything at all.
Backstory is a great example of what you should not do with a prologue.
^-- This right here.
This is the #1 reason to NOT write a prologue. A prologue can exist for many reasons, but it should never be this one.
Should I just use chapter 1 to introduce the main character? Or if not, where should I put the back story, if anywhere?
What would a prologue be used for then, if not a backstory?
Most prologue debates on writing forums seem to have two camps.
Those who think prologues should be avoided at all costs and those who think prologues are useful in some stories.
No-one argues that you have to have a prologue.
Pretty much everyone agrees that prologues which are just info dumps are a temptation to be avoided.
Okay, so how would I explain the history of a character or the history of an event that happened, say, 50 years prior?
You tend to try and keep this to a minimum at the start of a story. Most readers aren't interested in the history of a person they've never heard of and most backstory isn't vital for readers to understand right away, so can be drip-fed through dialogue, character thoughts etc as necessary and as is convenient to the flow of the story.
If there is a specific scene that occurred some time before the main story that is important for readers to know straight away, then It could be argued that is story rather backstory. At that point there is an arguement that it could be a prologue, but even then it's safest to present it as a real time scene from the point of view of a character. Not as a historical summary.
Most of your mc's history is stuff YOU need to know as the writer, but the reader does not need to know. And whatever the reader does need to know to completely understand the story and the character should be provided in the course of the story at the moment the reader needs to know it.
There are a number of ways to introduce your mc. I generally prefer to begin chapter one with my mc in the middle of a dilemma, crisis, problem or decision point of some kind. I want something that is going to pull the reader in right away. In the novel I am pitching right now, I open with my narrating character livid over the fact that his son has bullied another boy. He is so angry he's ready to beat the boy, but knows he can't do that. He struggles for control and slowly eases back from the brink.
Hope this helps.
Clearly you don't need prologue, since most novels don't have them. I agree that a prologue just for backstory is a bad idea as well. I often skip prologues when they are included because they are poorly done, or full of boring backstory, or what have you.
Figure out where your actual story starts and make that Chapter 1.
The backstory is the backstory of how a character is "born", as he is not born naturally, but through someone "playing God". Also, it introduces two of the main characters.
I'll try to put this in somewhere else, but the story, in my mind, seems incomplete without the backstory. :/
Yeah, I hear a lot about publishers not being too keen on prologues these days.
I like to use them a lot of the time, but I keep them short: just enough to tempt but not enough to bore.
Okay, and introduce the "backstory" in bits and pieces?
Also, could I add the complete backstory as a sort of a "bonus" in my book?
If everything flows from the nature of his birth, then, yes, that's important. Can you do it in a compelling scene? No more than two pages? Grippingly written? Then, I would do it that way. But don't call it a prologue.
Maybe when the character has a bad dream? Then he wakes up and the scene changes?
Or, I might have a place to put it in the chapters.
1. 1 gets knocked out
2. 1 talks with 2 later about 1's dream that 1 had when 1 was unconscious
what do ya think?
That's one way. If another POV character was there, you can describe it that way without using a dream sequence.
The only character that was there was the evil character, and 1 doesn't know of the evil character, as he was basically "inactive", in a way.
I think backstory is best worked into the story itself, whether through dialogue or exposition, and not in infodumps - so yeah, work it in a bit at a time. And don't overdo it, in my opinion. As the writer, you'll know a lot more about the characters and world than the reader will ever need or want to know. If you want to have an appendix with all the backstory and worldbuilding in it, I think that's fine. I never read those, but some people do.
This sounds very much like the theme of Orphan Black.
It's towards the end of the first episode before we even get a hint about the backstory, and halfway through the first series before it is explained, and even then only partially.
Point being, it's much more gripping to have an unexplained mystery somewhere in there, rather than telling the reader everything at the first available opportunity.
It's not always the case, either, but try to include back-story in parts. Spread it out, like you're feeding your story on a drip. Stories with chunks of character description, back-story, and continuous actions are like paint by number.
So, combining the mixed signals I'm getting, could I leave 1's origin story until the very end, where 2 tells him hestitantly? Or should I wait until later?
So in a sense it's like getting to know a person, yeah?
They don't tell you all about their birth from the outset. Instead you do things together and then, over time, trust is built, or circumstances trigger accounts of past events, and after a while you get a sense of the person, but also learn about where they come from, etc.
Okay, I will scrap the idea of a prologue, but I will still keep the prologue "chapter" handy, just in case an opportunity that I may use the information arises.
I now have a idea of what to do. Thanks, all of you.
Yeah, you should keep portions of your work you remove just in case they come in handy. But don't try to crowbar them into your story. If it doesn't work it doesn't work.
Separate names with a comma.