1. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    What's the difference between an Introduction and a prologue?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alesia, Oct 11, 2013.

    What is the difference between the two? For example, I have about 1700 words written almost encyclopedia style about my stories post apocalyptic universe and how it came to be along with setting up the current geo-political situation in the world at the time of my MC's existence. Would this technically be an introduction or a prologue? Also, my story is written first person/past tense, but this little section is slightly more formal, and sounds closer to an all knowing third person narrator.
     
  2. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I'm sure many people here will say "that sounds a lot like an infodump that would get skipped over." It would be more of prologue, although you might want to considering breaking some information up and creating an index like an encyclopedia just for fun. An introduction is usually an author's or narrator's not on the story to welcome the reader, while a prologue is essentially a brief scene that holds some meaning to the story but isn't entirely connected. It's kind of a primer. I wouldn't recommend putting your "1700 words...encyclopedia..." in either an introduction or a prologue.

    edit: prologue was my intent, my mind got away from me, I've been at the computer too long :p
     
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  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That would be a prologue, because it's furnishing the setting before the story. It's also a great way of turning potential readers away.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Info dump. Readers will skip. Yep. I would suggest cutting it out.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Does it have a purpose? Without having seen it, I tend toward the 'info-dump' sentiment in the thread. It's because that description sounds exactly like the thing the reader should learn as the story evolves.

    It's my understanding prologues are different in fiction and non-fiction. I almost never read them in a non-fiction work, perhaps a habit I developed in school. ;)

    But in fiction, I've read some things one might call a prologue (sometimes labeled as such, sometimes not). They tend to be a single event separated in time or place from the story, like a childhood event, something critical to the main character. I think there's a place for those introductory chapters. Perhaps labeling it a prologue can ruin it so it may be easier not to.

    Consider the introduction might be better shown than told. What scene can you show instead, that might represent the information you are trying to set the story up with?

    I assume you meant, "story's", possessive, rather than stories, plural. If your, "how it came to be", for example, was written as one might write historical fiction, I think a person can introduce a setting/situation as a prologue. In my opinion it's harder to do right than it is to incorporate the knowledge into the body of the story. But prologues can be done right.

    It's possible to write the story without it and decide later if you need it. You've already written it, so write the rest of your story, keeping in mind places you can incorporate the information from the prologue. Then don't be afraid or reluctant to chuck the thing at the end. My dump pile where I cut but don't paste is up to 5K words now and I don't mind.
     
  6. EYEBALL
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    EYEBALL New Member

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    AJ...I wouldn't jump to the dump just yet. Have trusted friends/accomplices read it...if your "Prologue" is well-written and captivating, it is quite valuable. Plus you obviously put some energy into it, so make sure it's not wasted. One idea is to put it in the back of the book as reference material for people who really want to dig into the history of your world/characters/political situation. Peace.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think the difference is simple. A Prologue is part of the story (as much as any other chapter) and should never be skipped.

    An Introduction is information which might add interest to the story, but can be skipped over, and or/read after you've finished reading the story. Or not read at all, if this is your preference.

    Introductions are often written by somebody other than the author of the story.

    Often an Introduction contains information about the author him/herself, or additional information about the story's setting, or problems that might have plagued the story's publication, or critical reviews of the story ...stuff like that. These are usually 'infodumps,' but can be very interesting ones. But they are NOT part of the story itself.

    ................

    @GingerCoffee -
    Yes, I've seen this done. I've seen Prologues offered up recently without any title at all. What a shame that we feel we need to resort to this sneaky subterfuge, in order to counteract the current prejudice and misunderstanding of a perfectly legitimate literary device—a device that has a very clear purpose! It's like being afraid to put numbers on chapters, or some other silly nonsense...
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
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  8. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    "Introduction" is an alternative title you can use instead of "Prologue", otherwise the readers, agents, neighbor's dogs, and alien invaders will skip it and quite possibly never ever read your novel.

    Kidding. But I'd imagine you'll be better off sprinkling that information here and there, ease the reader in as the story progresses. We don't have to know everything right from the start.

    You might also want to check how successful writers have tackled the issue when their story is set in a PA world. Many have probably started the story right away, no intros or prologues that discuss how things came to be. Besides, not many settings are so unique the reader couldn't fill in the bits you left unexplained. Ok, so there was a nuclear war and many humans escaped to the Moscow metro system. I don't even care how the war started, tbh, but I can imagine some countries had a dispute they couldn't resolve in any other way. I'm more interested in how the characters survive down in the metro with mutants and whatnot lurking about.
     
  9. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I've got to agree with everything @jannert says, especially about authors having to resort to subterfuge. That's a shame. I'm in the middle of writing a Prologue at the moment. It is in no way, shape or form, an info dump and is essential as it sets up my main theme and serves to illustrate how one simple act can change a person. It could be argued that it could be included in the main bulk of the story by other means, but it's just too damn important, to be casually slotted in elsewhere, and because many events in a different time frame are going to be alluded to that way, I don't want it to get lost in the mix. Of course I could simply just have it as an opening chapter and shunt forward eight years, but it feels wrong somehow—disorientating, almost. It needs a clear line of demarcation, but one that eases the reader into Chapter One.

    As @Alesia is describing it, I'll admit, I'd probably find it a turn-off. I'm not a big fan of settling with a book of fiction, only to find I'm viewing a several paragraphs of something that reads like a text book. I read fiction for entertainment and enjoyments sake, not to be lectured at. To me a good prologue should cause ripples, especially emotional ones that effect the bulk of the novel. Alessia is mapping the landscape, so to speak. Personally, I would try and find another way to let the reader swallow this info in palatable bites, instead of trying to ram it down their throats. It's coming across like the scrolling script one sees at the very start of some feature films. It's not an engaging way to draw the reader in. Sometimes it's better to cut to the chase.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @obsidian_cicatrix
    That's the best way I've ever seen that idea written down. Absolutely right, in my opinion.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    a good prologue captures the readers' interest from word one and makes them eager to read what comes after it, does not turn them off by being a thinly disguised info dump that's more boring lecture than captivating story...

    as for definitions, i haven't found any better discussion of the differences [or lack of same] than this:
     
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  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with what others have said, above. I don't like prologues generally, and the worst offenders are the infodumps that serve to give a bunch of setting backstory. I'd skip it, or more likely not even buy a book where I saw that kind of prologue.

    I like most of what @obsidian_cicatrix says about prologues, except that I'm a bit leery of writing one that is "essential," for reasons stated elsewhere (namely, that many readers skip prologues, and if it is essential, that's going to hurt their impression of the book, maybe significantly; it's the reader's own fault, but that doesn't stop the negative comments or word of mouth that result).

    If I'm going to read a prologue, I'd like it to be engaging and relatively short, and I'd like it not to have information without which I can't follow the main story.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Just out of interest, I just checked all the novels currently stacked up on both sides of my bed. These are all ones I've read already, but haven't found a place for, on my main bookshelf:

    Lewis Man, by Peter May, published 2012 - Prologue, but no Epilogue
    Dream Wheels, by Richard Wagamese, published 2006 - Prologue AND Epilogue
    The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, published 2006 - Prologue AND Epilogue
    I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett, published 2010 - Epilogue, but no Prologue
    The Quarry, by Iain Banks, published 2013, no Prologue or Epilogue
    The Bird of the River, by Kage Baker, published 2010 - scene breaks but NO CHAPTERS AT ALL
    .................

    In short. Do what works.
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    This is on my list. I love Kage Baker. Have you read Anvil of the World?
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    YES!!! Omigod. Somebody else who loves Kage Baker! She's one of my very favourite authors, and I was totally undone when she died so prematurely a couple of years ago. I've read that whole Anvil series, most of the Company, as much of her sci-fi short stories as I can find, and a few other things as well. I still have a few unread Company stories, but ever since she died I've been reluctant to read them, simply because I know that's it. That's all she wrote. Literally. Well, actually not. I haven't read any of the Nell Gwynne series, but will probably read those too. Someday...

    What is there about me and favourite authors? So many of them die prematurely. It's like I'm some kind of curse. Iain Banks. Kage Baker. James Welch...

    I subscribe to Kage's sister's blog on Wordpress as well. It's excellent, especially the first few years. Lots of great anecdotes about Kage. She was quite a character. If you're interested, I'll give you the link by PM...
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Please do. Kage Baker was a wonderful writer, and I was also sad when the died.
     
  17. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    That's my exact intention. It was more a matter of what to label such a thing - regardless of it's placement within the two covers. My thoughts were if I left it an "info dump" encyclopedia of whatever, label it an introduction. If it were the MC speaking and it lapsed directly into the main story, then I'd label it prologue. The point behind this is (speaking as the MC): This is what's going on in the world politically, which is directly why I currently have this job that has taken me to the place I'm at right now where I may possibly be about to meet my demise because of said geo-political situation (if that makes sense)... Major event happens... Begin chapter one.
     
  18. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    Thanks for that.

    But...

    ... if I can clarify my position somewhat :) and I say this realising that I run the risk of appearing grossly self indulgent. I couldn't give a tinker's cuss if I get published or not. I don't write for any other reason than I love it. I'm middle aged, and new to this. I'm not writing for the masses. I'm writing primarily for myself, and if it so happens I come across someone with similar sensibilities to myself, I'll be happy to pass my novel on. I write with a very specific aim in mind. I wouldn't dream of handing it over to someone who would be so judgmental that they'd say, "Shit! A Prologue." and either put it down, or immediately skip to what they consider to be the opening chapter. Put simply, they just wouldn't 'get' it. As I am learning to express the thoughts in my head, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I am only prepared to compromise so far. That goes for both style, and structure. To do anything else, would compromise what I feel is the integrity of what I'm trying to create. I aim to use my writing to connect with individuals. It is a means of expressing myself, and if someone would like to read between the lines to see what makes me tick, all well and good. If not, I have a great time with my characters, and set up. It is a luxury I can afford.

    What I find rather amusing, is that my exposure to this forum is the very reason I now feel as I do. I will not be seduced into misrepresenting what I do, in the hope of acclamation of the masses, or profit. I'm not having a poke at anyone who writes for these reasons—to each, their own.

    Getting back to the original post: (I know... about time. Blame it on the lack of meds. ;))

    @Alesia

    At this point, does it truly matter how you classify it? Surely it only matters, when you decide whether to stick with what you have, or change it to the MC's POV. Personally, I like the idea of the MC POV much better, but feel that it would need to be extremely well written, to not read like an info dump, especially if that is the only voice present. My advice, if you go down that route, would be to do it with feeling, don't just write an account. Make me feel the utter devastation, don't just tell me about it.
     
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  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I'm with you on that. I think it is exactly the right attitude to have. And, frankly, I think it is the right attitude to have whether you wanted to be traditionally-published, self-published, or not even publish at all.
     
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  20. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @Steerpike.

    That's encouraging. Thank you. It's only recently I've started to question why I write at all. Despite all the warnings I see daily, it occurs to me that if someone is a skillful enough writer, these constraints are neither here nor there. I'm not a great writer, I may never be, but this is what I aim for. I want to be the kind of writer who can write freely without having to give these things consideration. I set the bar high.
     
  21. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    THANK YOU!
     
  22. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just a couple quick comments (as I'm heading off to bed)...

    What the OP is describing does, unfortunately, sound like a massive infodump - the worst reason to have a prologue. If it's included at all, I'd make it more of an appendix, written in the same style as the book, but one that could be referenced if the reader chose to do so. At the same time, the more pertinent information it contained (which the reader has to have to make sense of the events in the story itself) should be woven into the story as it progresses.

    As to the difference between an introduction and a prologue - I like mamma's cited definition of an intro, but disagree totally on the prologue's. A prologue is most definitely not the same as the introduction, and I've read a lot of books with prologues and no epilogues, and vice versa.

    Last, I agree with Jannert and Obsidian as far as the subterfuge and misunderstandings about prologues. As far as readers who skip them - well, that's their loss. Heck, as long as they bought the book, who cares if they read any of it?
     
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  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eh... I'm not really writing for profit. If my goal were money, I'd do something else--my understanding is that the odds of making serious money from writing are very low, even if you do get published. I'd be surprised if the average published author earned as much as minimum wage if you divided their total earnings on the book by the total hours that they put into it.

    But I am writing to be read. And readers read when they're interested. If I want readers, and I write whatever pleases *me*, without any particular effort to interest the reader, then it seems to me that I'm putting myself above the reader. It seems to me that I'm saying that I shouldn't have to spend my time making my writing more interesting for them, but they should spend the time to dig into my writing and burrow through the boring parts and find the message that I, in my eternal wisdom, have deigned to provide.

    No, I'm not saying that that's what you're saying. But that's how I'd feel if I didn't make pleasing the reader a very, very important part of the craft. If I didn't want readers, I wouldn't feel that way--it would be fine to write purely to please me. But I do want them.
     

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