1. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    "What Agents Hate" - In first chapters

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by marina, Oct 11, 2008.

    You may have already read the article, "What Agents Hate," that was posted on Writer's Digest. It's about what they hate in first chapters.

    Any thoughts on their list? I was surprised that prologues was on it, and the mentally reflecting protagonist is something I do frequently.


    Here are some of the things they hate:

    * Prologues
    * Lots of description
    * Opening line: "My name is..."
    * A predictable opening; nothing unique in voice, character, outlook, situation
    * Expressing the character's backstory before getting to the plot
    * Info dump in the first few pages
    * Opening with the protagonist mentally reflecting on their situation
    * Virtually unflawed heroes/heroines
    * Inauthentic dialogue used to tell you who the character is instead of showing
     
  2. Fire of a Rose
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    Fire of a Rose Member

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    I laughed when I read the one that said, "If I wake up with a strange man in my room, I reach for a weapon, not enjoy the view." And reading this is probably going to change my introductions in places.
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Prologues are a tricky thing. They have information that you need in the story, but are not necessarily part of the story. The question is, is there another way to get the information out, or do you even need to call it a prologue instead of chapter one?
     
  4. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I read the article and not only did I really like it, I'm relieved to say I haven't made any of those fatal mistakes. Of course, it's wholly possible I've made all-new mistakes, not listed.
     
  5. Scarlett_156
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    Scarlett_156 Active Member

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    Baaaahahahahaaaa!! That's a good one. That's one of my pet peeves with amateur writers. One that's not discussed in the article is the "bad guy getting the ultimate comeuppance" scenario: Some despised stereotype or character wakes up in a weird place that (DUNT, DUNT, DUNNNNNNN!!!) turns out to be Hell.

    But on the other hand--it's certainly no secret what motivates people to become literary agents in the first place.

    It's like doctors--when you hear someone say, "I decided to become a doctor because I love helping people," IT'S ALWAYS A LIE. yours in Chaos, Scarlett
     
  6. ZionsRodeVos
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    ZionsRodeVos New Member

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    Very interesting.

    I think I have done some of the things on the list, most likely the info dumps and describing too much before getting to the action. I'm going to have to go back and look at my stories again.
     
  7. Rosetta Stoned
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    Rosetta Stoned Member

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    I don't understand people's beef with prologues. I know that sometimes prologues just act as annoying, hasty "info dumps" for the writer to barf a bunch of facts he or she was too lazy to work into the story; however, honestly, if the writing of a prologue is executed efficiently, it can be a wonderful extension of a story, especially the mysterious or vague ones that don't reveal their meaning until later in the plot. What is it about seeing the word "Prologue" that makes people instantly shriek and slam the novel shut?
     
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  8. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I don't think they slam the novel shut. They just skip it and get to chapter 1. At least that's what I always do.
     
  9. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be honest, when I open a book and see a prologue, I often skip pass it and go right to chapter one. If it's not too long - maybe a paragraph, about 1/2 a page or so, I might read it. I want to just get right to the story. I might later go back and see just what the prologue was all about.

    I was surprised to see prologues listed as a pet peeve for agents because it seems that a lot of books I read have prologues. Maybe the problem for them isn't that a prologue is a bad literary tool, but that it's one not used easily/properly.
     
  10. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I'll read a paragraph and if it looks like backstory or a history lesson I skip it. Usually you can pick up on information in a prologue reading the actual story, which makes a prologue redundant. I've occasionally seen good ones, but I often find good ones could have easily been titled Chapter One.
     
  11. Shadow Dragon
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    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's more or less what I did. Granted mine was actually important to the story. :p
     
  12. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whenever I see a prologue, I read it. Unless, like in the PERN books, it's part of every book in a series I've been reading. It takes maybe twenty minutes at the most to read your average prologue. Not really that big a deal. Also, if the reader even just skips it, it doesn't really cause much harm, does it?
     
  13. Rosetta Stoned
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    Rosetta Stoned Member

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    I guess so. I always read them, though, because if the author took the time to include a prologue then it probably serves a purpose other than taking up space.
     
  14. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, it's supposed to. So I try to give the author the benefit of the doubt.
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I agree with everything in the article.

    I also do not like reading prologues. Unless it is short, I will skip it.
     

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