1. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    Prologue or not?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Daydream, Jun 16, 2011.

    Hey so I'm trying to figure out whether I wanna have a prologue for the novel im currently writing. This is mainly because theres alot of history I want the readers to know about, since it has a large impact on ym characters. Also to give the reader an idea of how the world came to be. One thing im worried about is whether it will just bore the reader to read a prologue on history. I for one have found that books with a prologue were harder to get into, but that's just me. Also I'm not sure how to really catch my readers attention in the first paragraph with a prologue.

    So yeh racking my brains trying to figure out what to do :( Any suggestions?
     
  2. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    There was a lovely thread/debate about prologues in this thread you may want to check out.....
     
  3. Suadade
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    Suadade Senior Member

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    Nobody can definitely say that "books with prologues are bad" - and nobody can say the opposite either. It simply depends on the situation, and varies from book to book, and, of course, from writer to writer. If you can pull it off, the prologue will work.

    And, also, history is not boring. The way history is presented can be boring - but if you have interesting history which you present in an interesting way, obviously the end result will be interesting!

    So basically - don't cut the prologue because you don't feel confident prefacing your book with history. If, however, you're not confident about your ability to convey your history, then don't have a prologue.

    Hope I helped. =)
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The biggest knock on prologues is that they delay the reader's entry into your story. Better to just get into the story. As for history, the question to ask is, "Does the reader really need to know this?" If so, then the best thing to do is find a way to introduce it directly into your story.
     
  5. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeh that's what I thought too. It's also the reason I find it harder to get into books with a prologue, because I'm anxious to start the story properly.

    The other reason is: When people go into a book store to read a book they usually flick to the first page and read it. I just feel like when people see a prologue they would be less interested. I'm probably wrong though ><
     
  6. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just get into the story and include the information later. It doesn't have to be more than halfway through the story - lots of stories I've read do start with something interesting, then as soon as the author feels like everyone's caught up, maybe even five or six pages in, they start to relax and give the history lesson before anything happens that might be affected by it.
     
  7. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeh I had a look at that prologue thread and it helped alot. I'm gonna give the prologue a miss and find a way to incorporate it into my story :)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a wise decision...
     
  9. barnz
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    barnz Member

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    Prologues have their place, but history and infodumping isn't one of them. That kind of backstory is more gripping if it's within the actual story, because it will be relevant to the conflicts and characters - moreso than a history lesson. If an author is preaching to me about the line of kings and mythology of the place, I can't help but think: Why do I need to know this? Should I care?
     
  10. MatthewR
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    MatthewR Member

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    Ditto, although I'm a hypocrit for saying so as I have two (possibly three prologues that I should probably just make into chapters.)

    In a novel written from POV of several different characters I used my prologues to get a glimpse into the antagonists life. Although Again I'm toying with just turning them into full-fledged chapters and making him a regular character.

    As for the history lesson bits... skip it nobody reads them if they don't hook you. Think about shopping for a book in Barnes and Noble and you pick up a cool looking novel and the first 10 pages are a history lesson instead of a compelling story... Are you going to finish much less buy?
     
  11. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    I don't read the prologues. Terrible I know - but the knowledge they hold doesn't effect my enjoyment of the books. I may read one if I've already read other books by the same author, or the same series. However if this is your first book actual readers maybe put off - and editors may not bother.

    I don't see the point in a prologue - you after all have the whole rest of the novel to fit this stuff in.

    Good Luck
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Definitely write the prologue. Then when you've finished the novel delete it. After you've done that, check the novel to see if there's anything the reader won't understand, and fix it at that point in the novel.
     
  13. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Oh dear. My book is a book in a book. I use the prologue to set the setting with the author, and the epilogue - containing a plot in its own right - to close the story re the author. I don't see another way to to do it. Maybe prologue/epilogue are the wrong terms?
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    One way would be use the prologue as Chapter One and directly incorporate it into the story. As for the epilogue, if it really contains its own plot, it might be rather long for an epilogue. Can the plot function as a subplot within the main body of the work?
     
  15. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like this idea, think I'll give that a go thanks :)
     
  16. _Lulu_
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    _Lulu_ Member

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    I don't judge a book by whether it has a prologue or not. I just read the other thread and I'm shocked by how many are against it. I think each story is different, some may need a prologue and some may not. Do what works for you, don't base it on someone sticking it back on a shelf if it has a prologue or not. It's certainly not something I take into consideration when I buy a book.
     
  17. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think I have ever encounted a prologue that told the history and backstory of the setting. At least not that I am aware of. Most of the prologues I have read were more or less chapters. They often had a character witnessing or being part of some event that becomes significant later or explains why something happened. But it might aswell just be Chapter 1.

    Like in A Song of Ice and Fire. The prologue in Game of Thrones follows a small group of Nights Watch and the first encounter with the Others/wights(not sure which)

    It was written and treated just like any other chapter.

    These prologues I don't mind.

    But I'd hate to come across one with a bunch of backstory and stuff.

    Personally I read the Prologue and consider it Chapter 1. Unless it were to be backstory and all that junk then I'd skip it.
     
  18. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read a book with similar structure (though that was about a play, the prologue was the first part of the play, and epilogue the last. The rest of the book was about the actors), and what they did was just start the book without writing any kind of headline like prologue or chapter one. It just started. Then chapter one came a few pages in. Then the epilogue was done in the same way.
    I thought it worked very well for that particular story.
     
  19. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's nothing wrong with prologues; they're just so often used the wrong way.

    Right way: As a bonus story the reader can safely skip and still enjoy the main story.
    Wrong way: As a replacement for the first chapter of the book.
    Even more wrong way: As a place for the writer to dump things he thought were really neat, like the fictional world's creation story, but which don't really have a place in the book, and will likely bore the reader.
    Horribly, unforgivably wrong way. As a place to dump information vital to understanding the rest of the book.
     
  20. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    George Martin and Guy Gavriel Kay write brilliant, gripping prologues, with plot and action and character interaction between characters hello I'm from the department of redundancy department.
     
  21. ImaginaryRobot
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    ImaginaryRobot Member

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    As a general rule I feel that prologues should be focused on characters that aren't your main viewpoint characters in the rest of the story, but who are doing something that either precipitates your main characters' actions or in some way affects them significantly.

    If you're looking at introducing some history, rather than a large prologue, you might look at what Frank Herbert does. He precedes each chapter with a short excerpt from a historical account. The trick there is to make each excerpt directly relevant to your chapter without being too obvious.
     
  22. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    Or simply make the prologue about something that happened a long time ago, when the character was different.

    The prologue of the story I'm working on (theoretically) deals with a character when he's 20, arrogant, and assumes the world is to be given to him on a golden platter. Dark stuff happens in the prologue. Flash forward 10 years, and he's pretty much changed, and that's where the story proper begins.

    There isn't much emphasis on what has happened in those ten years -- other than subtle hints -- and the story keeps on moving forward.

    Then again, this is very specific.
     
  23. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    To me, I think it is more interesting for the reader to learn about the world in which they are entering for the read by learning as they go throughout the story. If you prologue the history that 'makes' the characters who they are, you lose the ability to use that information in an entertaining/intriguing way during the actual story.

    Write the prologue for yourself almost as an outline but do not use it. Use it as your reference for story/character elements you wish to reveal later.

    Why give away something that the reader would be more fulfilled to learn as the story goes?

    That and I always feel that the prologues assume the reader would be too dull-headed enough to figure out things themselves when, in fact, readers are usually pretty good at building these things in their own minds.
     
  24. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    If it's important to say, a prologue is a good thing. If you decide that it's not that important or can wait to be told, don't have one.
     
  25. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Not really. It's effectively a book-in-a-book concept ... If I can avoid Prologue/Epilogue somehow I would love to.

    BTW, the P/E are written in the first person, whilst the book is written in the third person. P/E altogether is ~8000 words, whilst the main book is 80-90K (I am not finished yet). I believe it works, but if you have another suggestion, I would love to consider that. As it is a bit off topic, feel free to PM me.
     

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