1. terrwyn
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    terrwyn Member

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    Prologues

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by terrwyn, Jun 25, 2012.

    Just a quick and simple question to see how everyone else feels. What do you think about prologues? Do you think they take away from the story or add to it? Maybe they just confuse you or maybe you feel it's a good way to introduce suspense?
     
  2. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    In my opinion, only use it IF it can draw in the reader. Personally i don't use them.
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    There have been millions of threads on this, even debates...just look below at 'similar threads'
    Personally I don't like them. Most of the time, the story doesn't even need them. Back story can be revealed through the text.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Most novels with prologues would be better if the prologue were removed. If a prologue is there to present background information, LOSE IT! Never, ever, EVER, subject the reader to a history lesson before they have even begun the story.

    Some people put in "teaser" prologues that give a glimpse of a scene later in the novel. In one of the novels I'm working on, I had such a prologue, but I have since scrapped it,

    Your best strategy is to enter the story itself as quickly as possible. In accordance with that, my general recommendation is not to use a prologue at all. I won't go so far as to declare that all prologues are redolent rubbish, but I will say don't put one in without a damned good reason. And re-examine your reasons several times over the course of writing and revising your manuscript. Don;t search for reasons to remove the prologue; look for, and ruthlessly challenge, your reasons for keeping it.
     
  5. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like anything else, make it interesting, and I don't care. I've not myself found much use for them (much more use for epilogues, personally), but I ain't gonna chuck a book cause it has one either.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, there are threads all over the place on this. One group doesn't like them, another group does, a third doesn't care one way or the other. All I can say is that prologues are like any other part of the writing - it's either needed or not, well-written or not. They are not inherently evil, unnecessary, or the death knell of a story.
     
  7. tinyplanets
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    tinyplanets Member

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    I am using a prologue for the book I am currently writing. The story has is a mildly paranormal, fatalistic theme. The MC is told randomly, by a psychic, that the fate of three girls depends on a decision she makes. Saving them will require her to make a personal sacrifice.

    I wrote the prologue to describe the desperate situation one of the girls is in. I felt that this would help the reader to want the MC to make the altruistic choice.
     
  8. Mikael
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    Mikael New Member

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    In my opinion they can be great to really drag the reader into the story, especially if you feel that your first chapter don't offer as much action and/or you don't present the story in the way you feel is necessary.

    Take Dan Brown for example. Don't he always use prologues to give you an understanding of what the book is really about? His first chapters are usually dull, so his prologues work very well in his favour if you ask me.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No, thanks.
     
  10. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    A prologue shouldn't be used as a substitute for a poorly written first chapter. The prologue should be a well-written and necessary part of the book. The first chapter should be as well-written as the rest of the book. If there's a problem with engaging the reader in the first chapter, writing a prologue should not be the solution. Rewriting the first chapter should be.
     
  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Like Cogito said, never use the prologue for a history or geography lesson. If I wanted to learn history, I'd go pick up a history book; if I wanted to learn about geography, I'd watch science documentaries that discuss all the various aspects of geography.

    To be honest, I like to dive into the story. If your character is an orphan, don't stop me so you can show me his parents getting killed years prior. Let me enter the story and discover, on my own, why he's an orphan and how he deals with it. Don't tell me the history or the geography of the world. Let me gradually learn this from the characters themselves in their action and dialogues.
     
  12. Warde
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    Warde Member

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    For the most part, I agree with others that it's the quality of the writing that is important, not the presence of a prologue or lack thereof. However, it's also important to note that a surprising number of people simply skip past prologues. I find this a little odd as I tend to assume that if a writer puts in a prologue it's because it is important to the plot. However, I have known a number of people who claim to ignore prologues on principle and would thus tend to avoid using them unless I felt that including one was absolutely necessary for the story in question.
     
  13. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    If it was important to the plot, it should have been chapter one.

    Let me give an example of why prologues are usually bad. I critiqued an unpublished novel a year or two back. The prologue set up an interesting character, put him through some interesting situations and created some interesting questions.

    Then killed him.

    So I'd spent about a dozen pages becoming interested in a character and his life, but that character would never appear in the rest of the book. If I'd been reading it in a book store it would have gone straight back on the shelf.
     
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have to disagree. Something that is important to the plot can occur anywhere in the story, for one thing. For another, prologues impart information that add understanding and appreciation of the plot, the characters, the whole situation of the story.

    There are always going to be prologues which some readers/editors/agents feel were unnecessary. Those same prologues will be considered essential by others. There are people who automatically skip them, and others who will always read them. Prologues are not, in and of themselves, unnecessary or badly written.

    ETA: Seems I'm repeating myself. Oh well...
     
  15. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    But a prologue only comes at the start. Either it's important to the story, and should be chapter one, or it's not and should probably be left out.

    There are writers whose prologues I always read, such as Clive Cussler when I still read his books. But in that case, the prologue was an interesting story in its own right and it was more like a bonus short story at the start. Most prologues I see in unpublished novels are attempts to push extra information into the book that the writer was unable or unwilling to put in the right place.
     
  16. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I like prologues which have hints of mysteries in them, but I agree that most prologues are just not necessary. It is irritating when writers use prologues as some kind of quick-fix solutions for problems like back-story info, setting descriptions etc.
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why does it need to be Chapter One if it's important? A prologue is not the first chapter. It is information, important to the story, which occurs at a separate time or place to the rest of the story, and needs to be read before the rest in order to give the reader that extra insight for a full understanding and appreciation of the events/characters/plot of the story.

    Just because people have read a few bad prologues does not make them bad. It's like saying one has eaten some wormy apples, so no one should eat apples - or if they do, they should call them oranges.
     
  18. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Double post
     
  19. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    Because chapter one is where the story starts.

    Prologues are similar to voiceovers in movies; sometimes a voiceover works as part of the movie's style, but normally it's included because the test audience don't understand the movie so the director has to tag it on to explain what the heck the movie is about. Similarly, prologues sometimes work but are normally an attempt to cover up holes in the story that the writer isn't skilled enough to fill properly.

    You don't read that many bad prologues in trade-published books because most unpublished books with bad prologues remain unpublished.
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would submit that if they remain unpublished, there's more reason than a bad prologue. :) And, as you note, you don't see that many bad prologues in trade-published books, so I'm at a loss as to the animosity toward them.
     

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