1. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    Whats the point of a prologue?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by cazann34, Feb 15, 2013.

    I've just finished reading 'The Twelve' by Justin Cronin. Really enjoyed it. Waiting with anticipation for the third book. Any way, Justin Cronin used a prologue- this was used to update the reader on what happened in his first book - just in case they hadn't read it - very considerate of him, I thought. This makes sense to me but why do other writers use prologues when there is no need to. There's no need to update the reader on past evens because there aren't any. This is their first book. So why do insist on starting with a prologue whats the point?
     
  2. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some say it is indeed pointless and shouldn't be done. Yet published works include prologues all the time. So who knows? Maybe it's just a stylistic preference or taste.
     
  3. BootsyBlueyes
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    BootsyBlueyes Member

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    Yeah, you actually don't need one. I have read quite a few books that don't have a prolouge & I don't think I will be adding one to my novel - each to their own I guess. If you want to add one, you can - if you feel a story needs one, add it. If not - there's no point lol
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're right that most stories don't need one. Occasionally, however, they are useful and appropriate, such as the example you mention. If there is a story that is highly dependent on some kind of significant previous event and it is really vital to get a glimpse into the relationships and lives of the characters, yet the story really takes place much later, sometimes it's more efficient to just give the reader that info at the beginning, rather than later on with flashbacks and reminiscences. If it becomes necessary to put in too many flashbacks or explanations, then it might be better to put those in as a prologue, to get the required info to the reader without disrupting the flow of the story. Again, though, this is more the exception than the rule.
     
  5. BootsyBlueyes
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    BootsyBlueyes Member

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    I've actually just thought - my novel does have a prologue haha its a dream sequence which could just be written into the first chapter to be fair, but I think I decided to add it as a prologue...
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes a prologue is necessary, sometimes it isn't. If it is, use it; if it isn't, don't. But don't, for heaven's sake, get this mindset that prologues are totally unnecessary and always bad and should never, ever be used except by crappy writers.

    I found this article which, IMHO, describes nicely the role of the prologue and when to use one:

    Where to Begin? When, Where and How to Write a Prologue
     
  7. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    A prologue is 90% of the times a commercial trick to make people buy a book even if they haven't read the earlier chapters. Personally i believe it to be utterly useless but some people like it.
     
  8. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I have a prologue in my current novel because it felt right to have one. The prologue describes events that too place when the protagonist was 4 years old, these events are important for the reader to understand why certain things are happening in chapter one.
    Guess what I am trying to say is, a prologue might be important to the story and I think if it is important then the story would call for it. I have no idea why I made it a prologue, it just felt right.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    How could it possibly do that? What earlier chapters? The prologue comes at the beginning of the book, before the main chapters. And frankly, if it's good enough to make the reader buy the book, how could it possibly be a bad idea? This doesn't make sense.
     
  10. FelicityMe
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    FelicityMe New Member

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    I started writing a prologue into my novel, and in time, It became part of chapter one.
     
  11. haribol
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    haribol Member

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    I always hate prologues and in fact the book itself must be a source of understanding books and if anybody lengthily write prologues he is not a good writer. Dostoevsky does not have to give a prologue since the reader gets so much immersed in his nooks that he kind of starts comprehending everything in the book.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why does anyone do what doesn't need to be done?

    because they want to! :rolleyes:
     
  13. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Right. That's why so many excellent and best-selling authors have prologues. :rolleyes:
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Chances are it would be better as part of the first chapter. I've done two novels that, in first draft, I started with prologues. Both times I went back and made the prologue Chapter One.
     
  15. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Too often, with beginning writers, they see a lot of information that they can't figure how to get to the reader in the body of the story so they do an info dump prologue. Later, with more experience, they learn that rarely is the prologue necessary and the info can readily be included in the first chapter - or the entire prologue turns into the first chap. Sometimes, however, the prologue really does have a valid place at the front of the book. Maybe not full chapter, 8 or 12 pages long but it does work. The big issue, of course, falls back to that old saw, "You have to learn the rules before you can successfully break them." Note the emphasis on 'successfully'.
     
  16. ArnaudB
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    ArnaudB Member

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    For me prologue are either of three things:

    1. A short passage which feature not the main protagonist but another character (usually the antagonist) in order to give some information that need to be introduced early, but that the hero can't know.
    2. A description of something important. Only if it can be kept short, and again the hero or other characters can't know or describe it easily. (Like events of past books)
    3. The moment before the 'breaking' announced in the back-cover summary. The 'prologue' before the "first chapter" equivalent to The 'moment before the start of the actions' and the "action and afterward."

    Third is the one I used most. It makes the difference fairly clear and straightforward.
     
  17. BitPoet
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    BitPoet Member

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    A prologue is just an opportunity for the author to ramble ;)

    Now being serious, it's a tool to excuse exposition and tell the reader that the rest of the book will (hopefully) contain less of that. Though one thing is important: the nature of a prologue is that what happens there is not in the story's timeline. If it contains action or is in the timeline of the main story, it is not a prologue, but an improperly titled first chapter. It's debatable whether a prologue is necessary at all. In my opinion it's not a technical necessity - I can always incoroporate the information into the action if I write enough - but rather an economic one. As an author I have to decide for every story I write at which point to start it and at which point to end it. In the spirit of setting realistic goals about the length and complexity of a novel, it might thus become necessary to me to have a prologue and give a condensed introduction to the setting. Though a prologue should never be used as a free ticket to use all those flowery words and twenty-lines-sentences we mustn't use in the "real story".
     
  18. Merkabah
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    Merkabah New Member

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    I can think of one instance where a prologue might be usefull. Say chapter one is kinda dull and you cant find a good way to give it some action or cut it. If something interesting happened prior to the opening mabie you could use one as a hook. I think I've seen them used that way a time or two
     
  19. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If this is a problem it still needs to be fixed, even if you add a prologue. And it's not a reason to add one.
     
  20. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    Some writers use it to cover some far away events that there MC cant see so instead of giving those events a POV in the book ,they use the prologue to set some events in motion and give the reader a glimpse what might happen later on

    All in all its another tool a writer uses, at the end it comes to you what set of tools you use
     
  21. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Exactly. And like any tool, some can use it effectively, others - not so much. That doesn't mean the tool is bad. It just means some people don't know how to use it.
     

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