1. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    Prologues

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Miswrite, Apr 10, 2009.

    I like prologues, if they're not just infodumps. A prologue I want to write for my story would show how a character acted before a major change in their lives. It wouldn't be a backstory. It would be just like chapter, with the same amount of action. The only reason it's a prologue is because I'm going to have a big timeskip from the prologue to chapter one. So would it be okay to use a prologue if it's not an info dump and actually helps the reader feel closer to the character in question?
     
  2. Dr. Doctor
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    Dr. Doctor Contributing Member

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    I don't see why not; I've done it before. You can always put it into the main story if publishers don't like it. If it serves a purpose, do it.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I can see a prologue in this instance. The important thing about this type of prologue, in my opinion, is that it raise questions for the reader, not provide answers or obvious information.

    It could still be a first chapter, though. And other organizational patterns could be used, too. If your book is in parts, for example, you might place a scene or part of a scene from that earlier time at the beginning of each part to introduce it. In that pattern, you could even finis the scene at the very end of te book as an epilogue, if the scene is suited for that kind of delivery.

    Prologues and other presenations outside the normal timeline can certainly add value to a novel. The problenm is the the first instinct of many writers, especially new ones, is to lay out some background information for the story. That use of a prologiue is guaranteed to make a publisher groan and reach for the next MS in the slush pile.
     
  4. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    Thanks for the feedback. I've just heard so many times that prologues are rookie mistakes and shouldn't be used at all that I've gotten very cautious.

    Cogito, it's kind of funny you should suggest a scene from an earlier time at the beginning of each part, because I've actually thought about that, but am not yet sure if it's best for my sort of story.

    The change that my main character undergoes changes their behavior drastically, and I felt that I needed the prologue to show the reader how drastic that change is, which would make the situation of the character even more important to the reader. I definitely won't go into any background information, especially since in this type of story, it's not even necessary, because anything that I say would just ruin the plot, which will unfold as I write.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    One of the two novels I'm working in does have a prologue. It's a scene that is shown later in the novel in a broader context, several thousang years after the events in chapter 1. The novel istelf jumps back and forth in time, although other than the prologue, it is chronological for each of the principal characters.

    The reason for my prologue is to tantalize the reader a bit with a glimpse ahead. Also, because the first chapter begins so long ago, I don't want to start the reader with the impression that the story is set in the distant past.
     
  6. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I don't see prologues as rookie mistakes...I see prologues often done badly by new writers. Prologues themselves can strengthen a novel very nicely, but only when they are used correctly. As long as you're not using it as an info-dump and plan to use it to strengthen the reader's understanding of your story, I'd say go ahead and use it.

    ~Lynn
     
  7. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    i'm unsure what you are trying to do in your prologue. Is it just to show his/her previous life and that way the 'changes' in the character in the story which follows can be seen?

    are you going to hint at the reason for the change, in the prologue? or do this in the story?

    to me, prologues are like charcoal drawings of the story, just slight hints that shade but not colour everything in. how they were before but maybe a build up(from a background developing) of what causes the change or could.
     
  8. Miswrite
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  9. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    to me a prologue is like the way a haibun is written. which is a form of prose poetry with a haiku attached.

    the idea is the same...you write an outline basicall of what happened, without telling everything, so just hints of his/her life prior, possible leading thoughts to the change that turns their life onto another track.

    the haiku or in your case, the story, would fill in all the questions the prologue would bring to mind. it completes the picture.

    i seldom write prologues but have, seen them done, they are just foundation blocks to the story, something to place your words on.

    best writing to you
     
  10. Miswrite
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    Actually, now that I think about it, my story would benefit from the prologue being an insight into the future. It's a tough decision, though...my opening line of Chapter One is really strong, and I would hate to take away from that with a prologue!
     
  11. David Forbes
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    Okay, first post here and I'm going to do a little bit of bragging. :) I hope it's warranted, but you can be the judge.

    As others have already said, prologues are fine if they aren't info dumps. They are often effective as hooks to get the reader immediately interested in the story. In those cases, less information is often desirable. You want to create interest but not answer all the questions you may have raised.

    In my first novel, I had a pretty effective prologue. (Disclosure: I'm a published fantasy writer. I'm not here to self-promote, but I will share what I think is valuable info about writing and the biz.) It was what landed me an agent, and also got the interest of my editor. My agent considered it so effective he directed other new writers to read it to see how to craft a really effective hook.

    My prologue was fairly long, about 18 pages in print. It concerns characters that we do not meet again for several hundred pages. There is an unanswered question in the prologue that makes the reader wonder a) what happened to the characters? and b) when will they appear again?

    Info-dump prologues will get you a certain rejection. Back story should be woven into the main narrative, not dumped into the reader's lap up front.

    Anyway, I just stumbled on to this place and thought I'd poke around a bit. I probably won't have time to post much but I'll do what I can.

    Good luck with your writing!

    Dave
     
  12. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I'd honestly say that I see more prologues in fantasy than any other genre. I think that they're almost vital to fantasy novels but I could be wrong, since my book isn't fantasy..it's just regular ol' fiction.

    ~Lynn
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i just checked 6 adult market books by from fairly to hugely successful novelists... 3 had prologues and 3 didn't... of the 'hugely' successful, 1 [patterson] had a prologue and 3 [crichton, higgins, connelly] didn't...
     
  14. David Forbes
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    Fantasy novels often do have prologues, for whatever reason. Thrillers and other plot-driven books sometimes use them as hooks, but sometimes not.

    Does your story need a prologue? If your first few chapters are slow (the old, "my story really gets rolling around chapter four" line of thinking) then instead of a prologue to grab interest, get rid of the three unnecessary chapters.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good advice from david...
     
  16. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Agreed. If your chapters are boring, get rid of them...please don't make the readers suffer through them...

    ~Lynn
     
  17. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Last year when I was talking with a couple of literary agents, they both told me that an old industry joke about first-time authors is, "Throw away their first three chapters and you've got a pretty good story!"
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Are you sure it's a joke?
     
  19. NaCl
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    Obviously, it is one of those truth-in-jest jokes. What I found interesting is that they both told the same joke independently of each other. It gave me the impression that this might be a fairly common sentiment in their profession.
     

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