1. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Sketching a general setting, the large plot hook, and some background in a prologue

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by E. C. Scrubb, Mar 13, 2013.

    Prologues are generally frowned upon, from what I understand, but if used correctly, they can be pretty effective. What I am wondering, is if this method of using one actually falls in the concept of "prologue."

    It begins with an older man setting up the last of three instruments. Then he goes and sits down at the entrance to the cave he's in, and watches a small group of teenagers in the valley below. His actions and thoughts provide the reader with the overall general (very general) setting, history (without a info dump!) and plot of the story, with I hope, a good plot hook at the end that comes as he dies.

    The teenagers he sees are the MC and supporting MCs of the story, so its also an introduction to them. The entire scene is just over 600 words. What say you? It's WAY too short to be a chapter. It could be an introduction, but the MC, other supporting MCs aren't introduced, nor is anything specific about their life, except that they are all walking together and seem to get along.

    So, prologue? Introduction? First scene of chapter one?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Bird cage liner. I'm assuming the old man plays no significant role other than bookending the story.

    Why not focus on the group of teens? What are they doing? Does one of them have a problem to work through?

    You scene with the old man merely delays entry into the story.

    Your prologue doesn't sound horrible. Iy merely strikes me as totally unnecessary, and as such should not appear at the oh so important beginning of your novel.

    Don't look for ways to justify a prologue. Look for ways to eliminate them.
     
  3. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I had two thoughts on his role. First, its the only time we get to Hear or see the perspective of his race of people. Second, his grandson that he references plays an. Important role opposite the MCs later in the story, so it was a way to introduce him and not have him come out of the blue later.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    He still sounds like a disposable character and role to me. If this is the only indicator of his race's viewpoint, that viewpoint cannot be all that important to the story. Likewise, the importance of his grandson does not mean his own role is important. The grandson may have had an outstanding science teacher who profoundly affected his maturation, but that doesn't mean the teacher is vital to the story either.

    It still seems like you are looking for reasons to hold tight to a beloved prologue. Let it go, and see what happens. You can always put it back later if you still think it is necessary later.

    Kill your darlings. That most definitely applies to scenes you love but that do nothing for the story.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I remember when a friend showed me a story that opened with a wagon train, and the thoughts and actions of the oldish man leading the train. Suddenly the train was attacked by villains, and some shiny heroes turned up to save the day.

    The shiny heroes turned out to be the main characters; the old guy and the whole wagon train were just devices to frame them. I was irritated, because I found the old guy far, far more interesting than the shiny heroes.

    So I think that it's a mistake to have a prologue with an interesting character, beause your readers will want to stay with that character. It's a mistake to have a prologue with a boring character, because it's boring. :) So I don't see any way to win here.
     
  6. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Hmm,

    Thanks both. I think I'll keep the prologue as a crutch to help me get into the story. Then on first edit, I'll edit it out and incorporate the stuff I need into the story itself, then see how it reads.
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    The prologue you are describing, like any prologue, can be great or awful depending on your skills. I am always surprised at how passionately against prologues some writers are, almost as if they never read a book with a good prologue and that's weird because there are so many out there. But, with all due respect, advising anyone against a prologue automatically, is as useless as advising people not to write in a genre or a pov you dislike (don't write about vampires, that's been done to death!; don't write in first person, that's annoying! etc).
    It's not fair to project personal likes and dislikes onto others in this way, especially when they are asking for guidance.

    I love dynamic and eventful literature, and surprisingly, I love good prologues. They add another layer to the narrative, like a sneak peak, a secret revealed, but you don't know what it means. But it has to be well written and packed with intrigue or suspense. It can be 600 words or 1600, but I wouldn't go much over that. So, if your story needs a prologue, write it. You don't need anyone's approval to write your story the way you want. The only useful feedback you'll get is if you put the actual text up for review.
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Totally agree with jazzabel, above. It is so bizarre that folks think there are all these formulaic do's and don't's when it comes to writing. This silly prejudice against Prologues is just one of them.

    If a Prologue is well-written, interesting and/or exciting, and definitely underpins the story, well, heck - use it! If an important event takes place a long time before the body of the story, or even in another location, writing a Prologue makes perfect sense. Prologues are a writer's tool, just like any other, and it's really silly to say 'never use it.' It's just as silly as saying 'every story should have a Prologue.' There is not - or should not ever be - a 'formula' for writing.

    Just found this on the Wiki Answers site, which I think explains the purpose of a Prologue quite well:

    "A prologue is a passage before the actual beginning of the story that can be used to introduce characters, explain past events or history that might need to be explained, or capture the reader's attention. It's the part you can use to provide any information relevant to your story without have to go through flashbacks or unneeded conversation in your first few chapters."
     
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