1. Noya Desherbanté
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    Noya Desherbanté Senior Member

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    Prologue too long?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Noya Desherbanté, Nov 12, 2010.

    My story starts with a prologue/beginning chapter which is completely different, apart from tone, to the rest of the book. Basically an old lady has died and they're clearing out her flat - the old lady turns out to be a character of huge significance later on. The beginning chapter is very police procedural-y, and we get to know the clearers a bit. It's set in the present day, and quite down-to-earth, if you know what I mean.

    The next chapter, the main story, is set in a very stylised past, and has a very strong fairytale 'ring' to it. It has a young boy as the MC, who has absolutely no link with the clearers and the old lady's house, or even the old lady until much later on. I would call the prologue quite heavy and the main story more 'sparkling', although I plan to include some very gothic elements...

    My problem is basically this: there's a fair bit of information to get over in the prologue, and hence more time is devoted to the clearers' characters early on. At the moment it's 1,500 words approx., although when I finish it'll probably be 1,700-2,000. Is this too long just hinting and creating atmosphere? The old lady (or at least her 'presence'; she's dead) looms large from the first sentence, and really, she is the driving force behind the book. But when I then focus on this young boy, d'you reckon it would jar badly?

    Oh, it's hard to get across without revealing too much!! :dead: I'm thinking general devices would be to hint heavily in the prologue, add objects that maybe the young boy uses. Or symbolism? Thoughts, anyone??

    Thank you, as always. I love knowing there's other writers out there with similar worries! :cool:
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Get to the story as soon as possible.

    It sounds like you are using a prologue to present backstory - a very bad idea.
     
  3. lumivalko
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    lumivalko Member

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    I don't think that making a long prologue is bad, but if it's very different from the rest of the book it might give the wrong impression, so that some readers will be repelled by the prologue, especially if it's heavy to read, some readers then again might be repelled by the rest of the book because of the expectations the prologue gave them.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just a suggestion you could have the lady pop in as a narrator watching the clean-up happening etc?
     
  5. Top Cat
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    Top Cat Senior Member

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    Try writing the prologue anyway. In the write you could trim it a little - or get feedback on it. It might work surprisingly well as an atmospheric intro. Or it could be a bore. ;P
     
  6. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    Maybe you could take some things out of the prologue, to cut down on any possible boringness, and add the info you remove from the prologue to character interaction/memories/other world sources later on.

    It seems that when people read, prologues can sometimes detract from the "now" of the book and leave the reader feeling like he/she's being preached to. A shorter prologue and more subtle sources of information later on might be a good change. Of course, nobody can know for sure what would be better unless they'd read the book anyway, so don't take my advice for fact, especially since I'm inexperienced at writing to begin with.
     
  7. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    So how can I introduce the specifics to the reader early on, without explaining too much and going all 'info dump'?

    In my case, it's a dystopian story, and I felt people needed to understand from the get-go the kind of 'world' they find themselves in, and why/how things are the way they are.

    But that makes for a long prologue...

    I've had people suggest to take it out completely, and to do a glossary instead (or even a 'timeline' of events).

    Do you have any other tips?
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know if it will work in third person as well but in my book I have a combination of a story book, my wikkipedia characters (that you can ask for information) and a mural with pictures depicting the history.

    Combination of dialogue and setting the scene through visual can help.
     
  9. Zebadiah
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    Zebadiah New Member

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    info dumps are pretty threatening. i dunno how the world of your story works, but mayhaps there are more subtle ways to reveal such info. dreams (recuring perhaps, with more depth revealed each time?), letters, stories mentioned in passing et cetera. if that doesn't work maybe the prologue could be split to intriguing essentials, and you elaborate on them throughout the story in small between chapter bursts that could be relevant to the story at the time and so not ripping the reader from the main story. subtlties or non too detracting spurts.

    and even in the main story, symbolism as you say is a good idea as long as it's susteined. if the old lady doesn't show up again until much later, you don't want the reader to have forgotten about that early scene. just small gestures that could be related back to the grandmother somehow, enough to stengthen those essential points in the mind of the reader.

    you could just write it, for better or for worse, then get to the main story; then later on go back and re-write it to accomodate the larger plot so that they relate better.
     
  10. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks for the tips. I like the dreams idea, my MC has that 'tendency' so perhaps it could be utilised more.

    I don't have any 'info dumping' going on in the story (I hope!), in part because I had this (admittingly long) prologue.

    But now I'm cutting down on it drastically, or removing it completely.

    I guess I need to decide what details are essential, as you say.
     
  11. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    Invariably yes.
     
  12. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Prologue

    My opinion:
    Sounds like you have a prologue that should be part of the story.

    Heres a good way to do it.

    Interlace dialogue and narrative that draws out a reflection of the past. Then use past perfect tense to break it down into small quick clear flashes.
    It will build tension to why its important.

    Now if its not important to the plot and doesn't build tension, no matter how valid to making your world 3-D, it needs to go.

    Every line in a novel, needs to move the plot forward, create tensions, give new information that is needed , or finalizes some sort of solution. There really is no exception unless your in the historical fiction section.

    People get away with it, but the one key factor of every successful and well liked author, is making every line count.

     
  13. Newfable
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    Newfable Senior Member

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    Agreed. A prologue can be helpful, but you don't want two introductions. A prologue is nice when, like your case, something important, yet unrelated in a lot of ways, needs to be explained or presented. Ask yourself: is there another way I can present this? If there is, explore it. When you do, if you find you don't like how your other options turned out, then keep the prologue. But it's best to make it short so the reader can get into the story.

    A prologue can best be thought of someone wanting to read a book, when a friend, who's read it before, has to explain something critical about the book before it's read. So keep it as short as you can, and/or as interesting as you can. With a prologue, you'll need two hooks instead of one, so pay attention to those as well.
    I'm reminded of nineteen Eighty-Four, and other novels of the like. When you're explaining a new environment or setting or oddity to the reader, they'll usually ask, "What's that?" Explain it there. This lets the world present itself to the reader through the character, which can be quite powerful and impactful to the story if done well. In cases like this, prologues tend to seem tacked on, as most of this kind of explanation can be done later on throughout the story. Again, with a prologue, you have to worry about two hooks, and an explanation to the world and setting usually isn't enough of a gripping hook for a reader.
     

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