1. Leiela
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    Leiela New Member

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    To prologue or not to prologue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Leiela, Aug 31, 2015.

    ok I'm struggling to decide if I should keep the prologue at the start of my work.

    Some Background :- The Story is a Gothic Fantasy ... fantasy with 2 main protagonists. The story is told though Close 3rd Pov though both of their eye's. They don't actually meet till midway though the book and at that point it shifts so one of them very much takes the lead.

    The world ticks on daily and most humans think they rule it, but beneath the surface is another supernatural world where vampires and werewolf's etc are real. Note : I'm aiming for a dark theme in the book, we aren't talking fluff vampires who fall in love with mortal girls here. The aim is to have something which doesn't quite reach the 'horror' niche but likewise doesn't show vampires as 'missundersood' creatures.

    Vampires aren't inherently evil.. however the reality of vampire society is that its a dog eat dog world, the tough survive and the weak quite literally get eaten. Add to that .. the drive for blood and the century's of life, it's a world where it's hard to keep your humanity. So as the vampires age they find it increasingly more difficult to keep a connection with the mortal world.

    The 2 main characters are a warlock and a newly embraced vampire. The warlocks/vampires have been at war for centuries.. im comfortable with the intro of the warlock that takes place in the 2nd chapter.

    The vampire is the one I'm having difficulty with. The vampire lead is female and the story is really a coming of age story for her where she learns to accept her new 'condition' and hunts for the vampire which turned her.

    Chapter 1 opens with her being dragged to see the vampire leader having been found 'turned' and abandoned. (creating new vampires is strictly monitored/controlled within society so her existence is a breach of their laws) The whole first chapter is supposed to give a glimpse of how tough her life will be, she's given to 'another vampire' to look after/teach but he really doesn't want her and sees her as burden he could do without.

    So questions ....

    1) The first chapter is 'her awakening' I'm writing In close 3rd person so I want the tension to be high, she's confused, sick, beaten and bruised, she likely won't understand 10% of the discussions that are happening around her by the vampires making a decision on her future.

    I've tried writing it from Third Person Omniscient but it just ended up as an info dump which didn't work as the conversations the vampires had didn't feel 'natural' they are talking amongst each other they don't need to explain to each other specific rules, vampire biology or why the 'mentor' doesn't want her.

    I debated writing it from the mentors POV but I really don't want to many POV character's floating about and I don't want to give readers too much insight into his head early on . Any ideas on how to write from her POV ... without leaving readers totally baffled at the end of it?? she is injured, in pain and confused but I don't want the readers to be.

    2) There is a scene before chapter 1, whilst she is still human her 'last night' as a human if you like. In this scene to would learn about who she was and her life. in this scene the key point is her 'first encounter' with the main warlock character. It's important for later storylines that this meeting happened while she was human.

    I've written it and it gives a good introduction into who she is and that she's a good person it also sets up the warlock, but I feel it doesn't really set the scene for the book and I'm concerned that it doesn't draw in the readers as much as hitting chapter 1 would.

    Ideas?

     
  2. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only way to comment sensibly would be to first see what you actually wrote and how you used the POV.
     
  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You should be aware that some readers deliberately skip prologues - some people really don't like them. So you have to make sure that the information you give in the prologue isn't crucial to know for the rest of the book. If it is crucial, make it Chapter 1. It's okay if there is a time-jump between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

    POV isn't going to make the info-dump problem go away. You can make that mistake or avoid it in any POV, just as successfully. The trick is to give the reader the information they absolutely need to understand just enough about what's going on for it to be not-boring and also intriguing. The entire conversation doesn't have to make sense, as long as it's not so out-there that your reader's head in spinning. Then you can reveal more details as time goes on.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Please...I'm begging you...not ANOTHER FRIGGIN' PROLOGUE THREAD!!

    Good rule of thumb - if you feel the need to ask, "do I need this?" you should cut it.
     
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @Leiela what Ed is referring to is the fact that this particular issue has been hashed and rehashed many times on the forums. As a new member, you probably haven't seen the other threads on the issue, but if you do a search for posts with "prologue" in the title you'll find them, and the opinions expressed in them are pretty much going to be what you'll see in response to this thread.
     
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  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, @Leiela, I didn't notice it was your first post. Welcome to the forum. However, my advice stands. When you ask "do I need this?" it's usually your inner radar sounding the alarm.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why not?

    I'm not joking. It's good, in fact it's usually best, for the readers to be confused by whatever your main character is confused by. Why would you voluntarily give up the dramatic tension and interest of the reader learning along with the MC?

    A novel isn't like an essay or a research paper, where you should prepare the ground for every fact and ensure that the reader understands the whole picture as you paint it. Mystery and confusion in a novel are good things.
     
  8. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    After writing my ongoing novel for two years now, and being against prologues on general principles, I dropped one in 'just to see what would happen' (I'm far into the story and thus feel safe 'testing' it out) . . . and discovered I love it. I didn't call it a 'prologue' just something like "9 Years Ago". It's not an info dump (yay, I'm proud of that!) . . . what it accomplished was to give the reader some insight into the main character that the antagonist doesn't know for quite awhile (gives the reader a sense of knowing a secret). It's not a fantasy or anything in that genre so I didn't need to 'build a world first'.

    In the end, I might keep it. Not sure yet.

    My suggestion is write the story without it. When you're close to done, drop it in and see if it was really needed. Most important.....do not start your writing with a prologue in your first draft - just get on with the story and re-visit the issue later on.

    I'm new here too, but not new to writing. Don't feel bad for asking a question that has been covered before on the forums - over time, the consensus of the issue might change and having new information is always great.
     
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  9. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    I think this site is extremely well thought out and I like the way when you enter a thread title it flags up similar ones. However, no one really wants to dig thru a load of threads to see how well their issue might already have been covered; new members may want to join in on discussing something that’s ‘been done to death’ by older members; and I presume most want to discuss an issue with specific reference to their story. We can all google about an issue to get a generic response. (Not that I’m trying to knock Ed or Steerpike, because I think they are often generous with their time.)

    As it happens, the Crime novel I’m currently reading has a prologue. Personally I don’t think it was necessary but it does get the reader straight into action. Generally, I don’t come across many prologues in my reading and tend not to like them.

    I have recently seen agents writing that they are fed up of various things at the start of books – clichés, and information dumps are two that spring to mind. Leiela, you’ve put a lot of effort into writing your question and I suspect if you hadn’t included the word prologue you might have got more feedback. Your question is about building the world quickly and grabbing and keeping a reader’s interest. You can do this with or without a prologue and I think you’re looking for ideas and comments on the ideas you have had as to how you might do that, rather than whether you should do it in a prologue. You also ask about POV and your overall question seems to be as much about POV as the prologue. (There are bound to be loads of threads on POV but not specific to your story.)

    Your apparent preferred Chapter one – with her being dragged etc is straight into the action/high tension which many writers feel the need they have to do. I don’t think you do.

    I’m no expert but I think you need to be mindful of changing POV. I’m sure you know that.

    You mention a warlock character for your alternative start but most of the information you have given is about vampires though the warlock is one the main protagonists. So, can’t comment much on what to do with the warlock.

    I like the idea of starting with the girl. I don’t know how she interacts with the warlock but there must be an option to build up tension with her worrying about what has happened between her and the ‘rogue’ vampire.

    Is there also an option of some sort of vampire council or court discussing the ‘rogue’ vampire and the girl – as a way of introducing the world? (Assuming you don’t already do this. The vampire leader clearly knows about her.)

    I like the idea of building up the tension or action a little more gradually while introducing the characters and their rules.

    I can’t really tell without knowing your story, but these two events along with meeting the warlock (maybe?) feel a reasonable way into the story prior to your girl being dragged to the vampire leader. The scenes feel like normal flow, not a prologue and part of building the tension slowly without an info dump.

    Hope that helps in some way.

    (Damn – I used to hate consultants at work who got paid loads for mainly repeating back what you tell them and I seem to have mainly done that!)
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's more or less exactly how my own prologue came to be. It was definitely the last chapter I wrote, and I only put it in when my beta readers who read my 'completed' first draft wanted to know more at the outset. In my case, the prologue (which was not an info-dump) gave the readers insight into the main character that the other characters didn't know for quite a while. So more or less the same thing.

    There is merit to your suggestion that you should write your story without a prologue, then decide later on if you need one. I think that would be conducive to much better and more relevant prologues.

    I don't have any patience with people who automatically skip prologues on principle, but I am sympathetic to their concerns that it might be an unnecessary info-dump—especially if it comes from a new and untried writer. There is only one way to find out. Read it. Or at least give it a chance.
     
  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Boy, do I love THAT statement. If you don't mind, I'm going to quote it in my signature ...giving credit where credit is due, of course. If you don't want me to, let me know and I'll remove it.

    I would probably add that confusion isn't great if it's the sort that means the reader hasn't got a clue what is going on, or doesn't know who is speaking lines of dialogue, or things like that. However, if the confusion is that they don't know WHY something is going on? Aha. Solving that mystery might be the whole point of the story!
     
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  12. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's probably a matter of semantics but I wouldn't consider confusion good or ever aim for it in my writing. To me:
    Mystery = the author is keeping something from me to keep me interested
    Confusion = the author hasn't written clearly enough for me to understand this
     
  13. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    This may have been mentioned, but don't sell your readers short. You don't really have to do as much exposition as you might think. Readers are generally pretty genre-savvy, and will likely look over the dust jacket synopsis before jumping into the book.
    As for informing the reader about the more unique aspects of your world, let those details trickle in organically. Your protagonist is a new vampire? She'll have questions about her world. When she bumps into an issue, she can either work out the solution herself ('She fell into the water and began thrashing, frantic to get her head above water. Then, she realized--her lungs weren't burning. She relaxed, letting the current nudge her along. Of course; she didn't have to breathe anymore!') or a more experienced vampire can guide her through the rough spots. As she learns, so does the reader.
     
  14. Leiela
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    Leiela New Member

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    Hi there, sorry for not getting back to people I didn't disappear :) Life in the real world unfortunately needed to take priority.

    Thanks for all the suggestions, I've gone ahead and wrote it all dumping the Main POV character in at the deep end. I'm not new to writing per-say but its my first real attempt at writing a fully story.

    Having thought around it I think I have found another way of convoying the information I didn't to get across the prologue without making the prologue to make sense of the wider story arch.

    Having sat on it for a couple of weeks and come back to it im not 100% sure my opening piece is really doing what I wanted?

    Please read and HELP! Issues im having ....

    1) POV ... I seem to be dipping in and out of Close 3rd. I'm not quite sure where it goes wrong but it doesn't feel right.
    2) Im not sure im getting the fear/tension right. I tried to make it clearer/understandable and I think I lost the panic she would rightly be feeling along the way. I get that readers don't need to understand 100% of what is going on, but I need to figure away of making make sense as a story opening and still be setting the scene for the book.

    Anyway .... im not sure what the protocol is but if anyone could spare me a few minutes to give it a read and critic i'll send you message with it in.
     

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