1. kinetica
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    kinetica Member

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    Prologues

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kinetica, Mar 27, 2010.

    How long is too long?

    I ask this because I'm writing a story and its prologue may end up being six to seven pages. I've been told to just make it Chapter One, but the problem I see with that is that the events in it happen before the actual story (1,200 years earlier) and set the tone for the story. It could make a separate novel by itself, if I were to detail everything before the event I wrote about. Also, the main story is the tale of another character and their struggle, while the prologue explains that individual's companion and how they came to be, so I still see it unfitting to include it within the entire story.

    What bothers me, though, is that I think I'm making it too long and I have rarely seen any (if there are any) prologues that long. I've seen a few three pagers, but not one of my length.
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Firstly, in the writing industry it's standard to judge length by number of words, rather than page length. Given that people have no idea what font, size or other formatting you're using, it makes it easier for us to appreciate how much writing you're talking about.

    Secondly, do you need a prologue at all? As I see it, the prologue provides backstory to a secondary character? Why couldn't it be included within the story? A lot of prologues are either not prologues, or not necessary at all, and one of the biggest pitfalls is using a prologue as an info dump.

    I'd recommend having a think about whether the prologue is strictly necessary, or whether you could give the reader the same information in the body of the story, later on perhaps.
     
  3. kinetica
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    kinetica Member

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    I'm using 12 point font, Times Roman, and its currently four pages long in MS Word.

    It does serve as a backstory, and it is the opening to the entire world I have created. It's difficult to describe without showing the actual piece itself, but I'll try to summarize it:

    The main story is about an elven woman that becomes the wielder of a demonic and sentient blade. The prologue describes how that sword came to be. I open with a war scene, so it's not much of an "information dump", but I do put in a few historical/lore things in there; however, very few. I have it planned that I'm going to start Chapter One off by introducing the antagonists, but no names are given and their motives are vague throughout the first book. This book is going to explain the sword's history, through journal entries written by one of its first wielders, and the life of the main character.

    I have reviewed it for the last four months, and I just can't see what I'm writing as Chapter One. I see it serving the purpose of a prologue, just like I said, I'm afraid of the length it'll be.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Prologues can and do work, but history lessons often don't. It's a difficult balance. Names and places and events that occur have less meaning to a reader if they're not anchored with characters they've come to know, for example.

    Then, if it is followed by not giving names and only vague motives, what is going to keep the reader going and not moving on?

    Remember, your first audience (unless you intend to vanity or self-publish) is going to be agents (sought to represent your work) and/or editors (submitted to consider publishing your work). Even if you self-publish, you still have to hook and keep the reader interested.

    A second red flag turned up, which may be nothing of concern at all, but you list this as the first book...of a series or a trilogy or the like? Remember, as a first time author, your first novel should stand alone, tell a complete, satisfying story. Sure there can be openings for various plot elements to continue in other books, but trying to sell a series straight off is vastly more difficult than a good stand alone novel.

    Also, as was indicated, word count is what is used to estimate length, not pages, even if you give the font and margins, etc. Just refer to the word count listed at the bottom of your MS Word document or however it is calculated on your word processor. There used to be (and still isn't unheard of) other methods of calculating the length of a novel, but for general purposes the document count is close enough of an estimate.

    As far as length for the prologue, if while writing it, you're concerned that it's too long, then it probably is. How much does the reader need to know to move forward. That's all that is needed, and nothing more. A good action prologue that incorporates a good bit of action and adds character/color to the opening of the novel while serving its purpose of setting up the reader for what is needed to understand the story can of course be an asset.

    What Banzai was indicating, I believe, is that often the information provided in the prologue is better suited for being incorporated within the context of the story.

    In the end, don't fret over having a prologue or not at this stage. Write it and move on. Get the first draft finished. You're going to have to edit and revise anyway. At that time you can fix, reduce, eliminate or keep as is, the prologue as written based on the entire novel.

    Sorry if I rambled a bit. Good luck with your writing.

    Terry
     
  5. kinetica
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    kinetica Member

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    I took into account names and such, so I removed city names, which was the one thing that you brought to my attention. The rest are just character names now, names that pop up several times throughout the story.

    The reason I'm writing a series is because the story is too vast to just make it a stand alone novel. I've had the idea(s) for years -- seven years to be exact. Everything has to be written, or nothing at all. That's another issue I have with it, I almost need one (or two) more writers because it has became that large of a project. Some have told me to write another piece on the side... but a lot of my other ideas aren't as detailed as this one.

    I hate rules sometimes. What if a piece was written well? If a piece is excellent, why would it need to follow rules? Why can't feeling alone be enough?

    Anyway, thanks for the advice.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rules, if that's what you want to call them, can be broken.

    But one thing to keep in mind is that publishing is a business. In my opinion, you should strive to write your first novel (or part of the series) so that it does stand alone, so that there is a complete story arc. If you sell the first, the others (rest of the story) can follow. Or, as was suggested, write another great story. Get established with a publisher and establish a reader base and then the grand, multi-volume story may be possible to get published.

    Terry
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The kind of prologue you are describing, which Terry refers to as a history lesson, is what I would most urge you to discard. Instead, let the characters of your story discover the relevent bits of the past, and the reader discovers it at the same time. By then, both your characters and the reader are burning for that knowledge.

    Stick with story, not backstory.

    As for your novel being too long, why not concentrate on a sufficiently challenging first goal. You may drop some clues that there is something greater building, but keep them few and subtle. Keep the focus on the lesser objective. Then when you write your first sequel, you can being to develop the larger picture.
     
  8. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    George R.R. Martin has longer prologues in his book. I believe Game of Thrones is around 15-20 pages long (if I have to guess). That's book-format, though, not typed on page.

    It's your book. I've seen many longer prologues. Many. What genre is the story?
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    is that 4 pages double-spaced, or single?... and why not give a word count, to make it simpler?

    i agree that you probably should dole out that info as you tell the story, rather than making it an obvious pages-long info dump...
     
  10. kinetica
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    Fantasy.

    And for the people asking me the word count: 1515

    It's also not an "information dump" because I removed all but one historical thing, and it's an actual scene, a war scene that happens 1,200 years before the main story. It doesn't reveal anything other than how the sword came to be, which is brief and not fully explained--and happens during a battle, not in a wizard's tower. The story is about the sword, but its creation doesn't take away from the story since the story is about its symbolism; that is where I want interest focused on. It's a piece of self-discovery and philosophical value that I disguised with fantasy elements. And though it is a fantasy, it's more modern than the typical fantasy, and a bit steampunk.

    You'd just have to see the prologue yourself to truly judge it, but I don't plan on posting until much, much later. Right now, I'm more worried about the prologue's length, which MsMyth seemed to have given me reassurance about lol.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    So why not have the sword's origins revealed later, when the reader has reason to care?
     
  12. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Precisely what I was trying to say. A bit of mystery about it at the beginning might be a good thing, to keep the reader interested.
     
  13. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    Would love to read it, even if you don't post it. I love me some prologues. :)
     
  14. kinetica
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    kinetica Member

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    I thought about it, and I could place it somewhere else, but for the moment, I'm keeping what I wrote as a prologue. It's a major decision, so I have to see how everything else turns out around it.

    MsMyth: I'll send it to you when I finish it. Might be a few days or so, though.
     
  15. Afterburner
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    Afterburner Active Member

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    I tend to like prologues in books. It gives me some back story and gets me interested right off the bat.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    so, it's not double-spaced... that would be more than 4 pages in a book... and too long for a prologue, imo...
     
  17. bruce
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    bruce Active Member

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    When it comes to prologues, here's how I do it. I never decide to write a prologue at the beginning of a novel project. First, I will write the entire novel in first draft. It is during the revision stage that I consider whether a prologue is necessary in relation to the entire novel.
     
  18. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    Yeah, same here, and it adds instant history to the (upcoming) present narrative. I also feel that because I can see action that roots the story in the world's history IN a scene, it will hold a little more weight.
     

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