1. Kammygirl
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    Kammygirl New Member

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    Trying to Avoid a Prologue. Need suggestions.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Kammygirl, Mar 2, 2013.

    First I wanted to say I am new to the forum and so far I am enjoying it. Everyone seems so helpful with great ideas.

    In my story I am trying to explain how things came to be the way they are. Basically how/why the main character(s) exist and where they come from. I have written all about the people my main character(s) descend from but I am trying to figure out placement within the story. Initially I thought about doing a very short prologue. That tells you there was an event in the past but you don't know exactly what or what the outcome was of said event. And I planned for my main character(s) to find out about their history as they went along. But the more I write the more I realize that their ancestor has such a major history that she needs her own story within a story. I really would like to avoid an extended prologue. I also thought about switching back and forth between past and present but I'm not sure I like that. Have I exhausted all my options? Do I just need to pick from one of these: prologue, switching back and forth or let the main character(s) find out as they go along? Which sounds more interesting for readers?
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Hmm...
    I think pick and chose the most important information from this back story...you may be trying to put more in than needed. Why exactly does she need her own story? The readers are meant to be reading a story about your main character, are we not?

    It's better to expose the information in doses throughout the story. That would be a preferred method as it's more realistic for the character to find out bit by bit and there's also more suspension. Most readers do not like being info dumped in the middle of the story.

    Actually, thinking about now...Where She Went by Gayle Forman had an interesting exposition method. I actually liked it. There would be one or two chapters in the present and then another one in the past, telling the back story. But it was written in a way that got you interested...Maybe have a read yourself if you want to.

    But to summarise, exposing the back story bit by bit is more preferred.

    I hope this helped...I know I rambled quite a bit lol
     
  3. Kammygirl
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    Kammygirl New Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I thought the ancestor might need her own story because of who she is. She is sort of the reason their kiind exists and my main characters are supposed to be the redemption of this race of people. The ancestor failed at something and for the most part made their world the terrible place it is in the present. These sequence of events are pertinent to the story. However, I do agree with you and think finding out as they go along sounds like the best option. The reader will find things out as the main character does. Hopefully this doesn't lead me into a bigger problem of going off on a tangent when I do explain bits and pieces here and there.

    I'm definitely going to check out Where She Went Thanks.
     
  4. ms627
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    ms627 Member

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    If you can tie in the bits of information you'd have in the prologue in the first few chapters, that would be ideal. However, rather than a "prologue chapter" or something of that sort, a short paragraph before you jump into the story could work as well. With the ancestor, maybe having a cut in the story where the ancestor's story is put in, as the main character hears it.

    Kinda repetitive, but I hope it helps!
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't think you always need to avoid a prologue. My protag's early years are important for character building and backstory, but the the story really happens when she's a young adult. I heard the same things, don't use flashbacks, avoid a prologue and so one. But there are decent books that use these formats. I tried chronological and it just doesn't work. So I've decided to use short flashbacks and tie each one in to something current in the story. I'm still debating using the prologue, currently leaning toward using it. It's a scene when she's 10, it's important, but all the other flashbacks are post puberty. I can't find anyway to turn the scene with the protag at 10 into a good first chapter and it doesn't fit in with the other flashbacks. It differs because in the other scenes my protag is thinking, learning, experiencing. In the 10yr age scene, we merely see what she's like and how other people interact with her.

    I agree though that if there is considerable character or backstory there that matters to the story, maybe it should be your first chapter rather than a prologue.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I should add, I wrote the scenes I wanted even though I wasn't sure how I was going to arrange them. IOW, don't let it stop you from writing. It may be that the arrangement of the story elements will make sense to you after you've written more. Just be ready to toss a chapter out if you later find it just doesn't fit in.
     
  7. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Instead of focusing so much on going "backwards" with the story, try moving "forward" and having the characters mention the past in little bits.
     
  8. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Have the characters figure out things with the readers so you can help everyone develop along with the revelations. I say this because I have a character who's very similar to the one you described in that she created a race among humans and plays a large role in the development of civilizations as a whole.

    In my opinion having said character's past revealed as the plot goes along through small revelations is one way to help give weight to the character's importance as other characters react to it
     
  9. Kammygirl
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    Kammygirl New Member

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    I've done the same thing. I've written all of the scenes for this character. Where she came from, how she tried and failed her mission and what that meant for the future generations including her descendants (my main character). I just didn't know where to put all of this. And then I started to get worried and wondered if I was going to have to toss it all since I didn't want to do a prologue. I thought about giving her the first chapter instead of a prologue as well but I feel like that would leave me with the problem of having to switch back and forth between past and present. I have so much to think about. This will drive me crazy if I let it.
     
  10. Kammygirl
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    Kammygirl New Member

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    I've also been thinking about adding the ancestors history in the form of nightmares of my main character. Sort of like she dreams about her, doesn't know who she is but basically sees everything through her eyes from back then. Is that completely predictable or does it solve my problem?
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    So the chapters are about the mother(grandmother?) of your protag?

    That sounds conducive to a main character having flashbacks about the ancestor. I'd look for things about the ancestor that specifically tie into the main character's story.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I like this idea a lot. Forget my last post, I think this solves your problem. I'd still look for history that ties in with present.
     
  13. Kammygirl
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    Kammygirl New Member

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    She's actually further down the line. A great great grandmother to be more precise. The MC knows of her as most of her people do but she has no idea that she is apart of her family line. This is when she finds out who she is and her destiny. My MC was born ultimately to do what her ancestor could not do.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    In that case your dream sequences fit in all the more. Skip the prologue, do the dreams. :) (Just my opinion, of course.)
     
  15. Kammygirl
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    Kammygirl New Member

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    I am going to take your advice about history that ties in with the present. I have been so focused on what happened in the past and what is supposed to happen in the future that I hadn't stopped to think that maybe I could have my MC travel the same "life path" that her ancestor did.

    Off topic: I am new here so I haven't figured out the complete navigation of the site. So can someone tell me how to multiquote. On other forums you click the multiquote on one post and then quote on the next one and when your message box pops up it will have both quotes. I've searched but I haven't figured it out.
     
  16. David K. Thomasson
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  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't believe hard rules like, no prologue or no flashbacks, make sense. It depends on your story.

    I made my flashbacks short in order to avoid disrupting the story. If they were longer they wouldn't work. But a single prologue wouldn't have worked in my story. I didn't know any of this until the story was well developed. It was after I got well into the main story that fitting the backstory in came into focus.

    I'll take a look at your book. :)
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    Another option is something Orson Scott Card did in Pathfinder (I never finished the book). He opened each chapter with a short piece of a second parallel story. Since I didn't finish the book I don't know how the second story tied in, so I'm just commenting on the style.
     
  19. David K. Thomasson
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  20. mikeinseattle
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    mikeinseattle Member

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    Interesting thread. Good points.
     
  21. jannert
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    I really enjoyed reading this thread, because I've experienced the same issue myself.

    Writing my inciting incident as a Prologue was suggested by a person who read the first draft of my novel (an experienced writer himself.) He said it would have been better if he'd known the 'end at the beginning' rather than having to wait throughout the entire novel to discover - during the big 'reveal' at the end - the problem that was dogging my protagonist all along.

    I duly wrote a Prologue which was not an info-dump, but contained a shocking incident that overhangs the novel. Knowing about this incident made a big difference to the way the rest of the story sat with readers.

    Instead of constantly wondering: "what is WRONG with this guy?", my readers now focus on: "how on earth will this guy deal with his past, and what happens when other characters find out about him?" Much better storytelling, simply because I wrote a Prologue to start things off.

    (I should mention here that my protagonist is offered to the reader through the eyes of another character - a character who doesn't know the backstory - so it was either a Prologue, or the big reveal at the end.)

    Some people say a Prologue should always be called "Chapter One." I think that's just a silly prejudice. If the inciting incident happens long before the rest of your book takes place, it makes perfect sense to call it a Prologue.

    I talked to someone once who announced, proudly "I never read Prologues!" It turned out she had them mixed up with "Introductions." Ach well, can't please everybody...

    Basically - do what you think your story needs. I would avoid using a Prologue as simply an info-dump of dry background information; just work that in during the body of the novel. If you have a major personality or event that is important to the rest of the story, go for a Prologue, and damn the torpedoes!
     
  22. mikeinseattle
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    mikeinseattle Member

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    Also I'd add that you keep in mind that a prologue doesn't necessarily have to be so dry, an info dump as someone said. It could be done dramatically, with interest. You could choose from several devices to convey the necessary story data. Or, just craft a full on eventful scene, in action.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2016
  23. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Sounds like a good idea ;)

    It also gives you a bit of foreshadowing too.
     
  24. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Actually...

    When written correctly that earlier event can fit into Chapter 1. It could be your opening even then. Just depends on how it's woven into the story. :)
     
  25. rodereve
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    you can put in small pieces of info or history at the start of every chapter (like Dune) or do outside conversations like someone pointed out (Ender's Game)
     

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