1. Kitti
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    Kitti New Member

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    Unsure if prologue or simply the first page

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Kitti, Jan 18, 2015.

    Hello,

    As the title suggests.

    I've begun my novel with a scene which is about a page in length, from the POV of a significant character, before switching to the next scene from the POV of the main character.

    I then had a minor flutter, thinking perhaps the first page should be a prologue, but realised that I rarely read anything with a prologue these days.

    I perused the forum first for prologue-related threads, and indeed, the general consensus seems to be prologues are largely unnecessary, but saw none that directly address this question.
    I'm inclined to think I should stick with my original thought, but would appreciate feedback on the subject from others.

    To facilitate that, I'll briefly-ish outline the start.

    The stand alone, first page: Main character is dying, paramedics arrive when she is unconscious, at the last minute. Paramedics do their thing. They do manage to save her and take her to hospital (although I probably won't state that so obviously, it may end as they take her to the ambulance/similar).

    Switch to next section: Main character wakes up. Cue her thoughts, sensory stimuli, feelings as this happens. Leading into a hospital scene and rest of chapter.

    To me, that feels good as 'chapter one', without the need for a prologue. However I was uncertain if perhaps there was a technical reason to label something a prologue at times, although I couldn't find anything suggesting that would be the case here.

    Thanks in advance for any constructive comments :)
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    Is the body of the story written in first person? If not, I don't see why the story couldn't just open with a description of her being attended to by paramedics. Not really a prologue, just the story opening, which then continues with her in the hospital. If the rest is in first person, then I guess that page would be a sort of prologue, but you wouldn't need to label it as such.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I can't think of a good reason to feel compelled to call that a prologue. If you prefer to call it Chapter 1, stick with that.
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd go with calling it chapter one. It seems pretty connected to the rest of the story, so I don't see a need to set it off with the "prologue" designation.
     
  5. Kitti
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    Kitti New Member

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    It's written in the third person, although a useful point to consider for future reference. Thanks.

    Yes my feeling is that it's the opening of the story. I'm deliberately limiting it to a page in length as any longer seems unnecessary. It's useful, and in this case reassuring so far, to hear other people's opinions.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't call it a prologue, because it really doesn't fit the definition, but I'm not sure I'd call it Chapter 1 by itself. And is this first page from the POV of "a significant character" or the MC? But my main thing is the length. One page? Why not just the first scene(s) of the first chapter?
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    My impression was that the first page was just a scene, and then the rest of the hospital stuff was the rest of the chapter? Did I misread?
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Possibly I misread it - I saw the "standalone" thing and guess I assumed she meant that as either the prologue or the first chapter. :p
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I'm a fan of prologues in the right place, but I agree with the other people here who said this doesn't sound like a prologue. If this is a significant character whom we will meet again, and this scene leads directly to the next one, I'd just include it as part of Chapter One, as the starting scene. Or - you could include it as a short scene at the start of a book, but don't give it a chapter title at all. I've seen that done a lot recently.

    A Prologue implies that it's a chapter set apart from the rest of the story in some significant way. Either it's a POV character we won't meet again, or it's a scene from the past that is not directly connected to Chapter One but provides the framework for the story, or it's an inciting incident that happens a long time ago, or shows something that the reader needs to know but will be kept hidden from the characters in the story till later on—that kind of thing.

    However, if your character is taken ill (or dying) and rushed to hospital, followed by a scene where she/he wakes up in hospital, that seems pretty connected ...unless I'm missing something.
     
  10. Kitti
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    Kitti New Member

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    @BayView and shadowwalker I did mean the first page was a stand alone scene, which would be the first page of chapter one, with the next scene continuing the chapter. :)
     
  11. Kitti
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    Kitti New Member

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    @jannert From the limited and slightly vague information I found when checking, I would agree with your reasoning.
    Being something of a perfectionist I wanted to ensure I wasn't missing anything either :)
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Changing POVs, unless you are writing with an omniscient narrator, should be done with a new chapter.

    Call it a chapter, not a prologue. In my opinion, a prologue is typically a bit more in depth than a one page scene which precedes the story.
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree about the new chapter for a new POV thing. I think a scene break is enough of a distinction.

    Do you have a reason for saying it should be a new chapter?
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Just out of curiosity, does anybody know what to call those little introductions that sometimes start novels these days? They don't have a title of any kind, and usually only run about a page or page and a half in length? They often appear in books that are written in First Person, and often contain a bit of philosophy, or 'preliminary remarks' made by the character (not the author.) I have no idea what to call them.
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    If you are going to change back and forth within the same scene, you only need a new paragraph.

    But in this case @Kitti said:
    So she's changing scene and POV. A new chapter or a new scene is an arbitrary choice as long as you designate the change either with '###' or a new chapter.

    Editor's blog: Mastering scene transitions
    If the scene stays the same and just the POV changes, all that's needed is a new paragraph.
    So while you can change scenes within a chapter, you need to do something formal to show you've changed scenes. Changing POV within the same scene is a different animal. Clearly there you don't need a new chapter.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Tell "never change POV within a paragraph" to the many authors who have done it. Or to Virginia Woolf, who changed within a single sentence :)

    Honestly, as with italics, or any other of the myriad questions to these kinds of subjects, it's all a matter of what you can do and do well. If you can pull off a mid-paragraph POV shift, then great. If you don't have the skill to do it well, then you're better off making the shift at scene or chapter breaks where it doesn't take any special skill to do it.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    "Should be" doesn't equal "never don't". I take it back in order to avoid a useless discussion.

    As for changing POV within a paragraph, some people also neglect to change paragraphs for a new speaker. If you want to go by the philosophy that one can throw the grammar book out, be my guest. I don't think because you can find one or two popular authors who chose to break a basic rule, one should assume the rules are useless.
     
  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just for clarity, though, because your first two posts seemed a bit contradictory to me:

    Changing POV at a chapter break - pretty much everyone agrees it's fine;

    Changing POV within a chapter, with a clear scene break - pretty much everyone agrees it's fine;

    Changing POV within a scene, without a formal break - some controversy on this;

    Changing POV within a paragraph/sentence - should be reserved for true experts or best sellers?
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The rule isn't a useless one. It sets forth the easiest course of action, particularly for beginners. Ultimately, it comes down to what you're capable of. A writer shouldn't feel constrained by the so-called rules. I've read a fair number of works that play with POV shifts. It's not just one or two authors, though if you're looking at popular, commercial fiction (as opposed to literary fiction) you're less likely to see it.

    EDIT: And my comment was directed to the bolded quote from the blog, that says never do it.
     
  20. GingerCoffee
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    Yes.

    Not a problem, just needs a new paragraph. The OP example was about changing POVs and the scene.

    Should be reserved for writers who are doing it for a reason. Should not be done because someone thinks grammar rules are meaningless.
     
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    POV shift isn't really a grammar issue to me. In any event, I don't think anyone who knows what they're doing says rules or guidelines are meaningless and that's why they don't follow them. They're doing something because it is true to their vision of the story and they think it is effective. There's no use getting defensive because of a preference in one direction over another, the only thing that matters is whether the writing works.
     
  22. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, it's controversial b/c I don't think it should be done! ; )

    Again, all standard disclaimers apply - if someone knows what they're doing and decides to do it for a reason, okay, fine. But for me, for the standard genre writer? I think we should have a scene break when we change POVs.
     
  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Being defensive has nothing to do with it. How many people in this forum fit your description of knowing how to write well but choosing to do something that can make them look illiterate?

    How can any of us help each other if every time one points out 'rules' (for lack of a better name) someone chimes in to discount said rules? The choice of using the italicized thought convention is not analogous to choosing to use or not use basic grammar.

    (When a new paragraph is needed is grammar by the way. I'm surprised you don't know that.)
     
  24. Kitti
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    Kitti New Member

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    Ok.

    Well thank you all for taking the time to share your various insights to my OP.
    Perhaps the rest may be useful to other people too.

    :)
     

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