1. Abraxas
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    Abraxas Member

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    When to write a prologue?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Abraxas, Feb 7, 2011.

    Question: Ladies and gentlemen, in the course of writing a novel where a prologue is inevitable, when do you write it? Do you feel that starting your project by writing the prologue gets the creative juices flowing, or are you of the belief that a prologue should feed off the main body of work, and be written after one has already gotten some headway into story?

    Just curious. I'm currently struggling with a prologue, and I'm wondering if it's because I'm simply choosing the wrong time to write it (before I write the novel proper).
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You write it when it fits your creative process. You going to redraft it anyway so any first verion you write will be "wrong" anyway.
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I believe things like back story which prologues are (right?) should be weaved in the story. Personally, I skip prologues because most of them bore me and they don't really effect the reader from understanding the story (most of the time)
    Hope my opinion was useful xD
    Maybe you should just start with chapter one and see where it takes you?
     
  4. karon_sin17
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    karon_sin17 New Member

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    It couldn't hurt to write it. Whether or not you use the Prologue, or rewrite it, it can give you ideas for later in your story. Plus, it gets you started.
     
  5. Abraxas
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    Abraxas Member

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    Thanks, that's what I'm thinking.

    Here's my issue, specifically: My work takes place in an entirey self-created setting, which I feel needs a bit of explanation if even the first few chapters are to make sense. I'm trying to avoid the dreaded infodump here. Perhaps my issue isn't the prologue, so much as the rate at which i release info about the world to the reader.

    In a strange setting, is it appropriate to brief the reader on the nature/history of the world, or is this something that should be revealed through the writing?
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tolkien did a prologue, and honestly. it was a really bad info dump, and since then it been begun a bad tradition of unnecessary prologues in fantasy.

    Readers are smart. They will understand the world from context. Just tell the tell. The readers will understand.
    There are very rarely a need for a prologue and very seldom the books do get better from them. Trust me.
    If you doubt me try to remember some kind or prologue you really liked. I guess very few spring to mind.
     
  7. amateurvoice
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    amateurvoice Senior Member

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    Agree with you on that one. When I first tried to write the beginning of my novel in process, I knew what I wanted to do, but I couldn't figure out how to start it. When I created a prologue for it, it helped me get the story going and my ideas came together more naturally from there on. It also gave me ideas for later on in the story that progress it along nicely.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I vote for revealing it through the writing, and also for trusting your reader to be a little smarter than you think they are.

    Now, that doesn't mean that you can't _write_ the prologue, if the lack of it is tripping you up in writing the main novel. But I would do so with the goal, in the back of your mind, of making the prologue unnecessary and eventually eliminating it.
     
  9. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Yet another prologue question. My novel is a historical fiction about the evolution of man. I kick things off with a brief prologue of the history of the universe covering the time period from the the big bang to the first signs of life on earth. Really, I did make it brief, though it covers a large span of time. Does this sound acceptable?
     
  10. Abraxas
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    Abraxas Member

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    Sounds good to me. I'd recommend covering in your prologue information that may never come up in your main work.
     
  11. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Thank you, that's exactly what I did.
     
  12. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah now this is something I can talk about.

    Although my setting is not self-created, my book takes place in the future in a world that is different from the here and now in many ways.

    I had one hell of a prologue and thought I could never do without it.

    Then I did some thinking, a lot or re-writes and now only that which is really necessary for the reader to know has been interwoven into the story.

    So for me this is the best way to go.
     
  13. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it doesn't come up during the actual story, it shouldn't be in the book.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Instead of a prologue I have created a collection of wikkipedia characters for my book, they are able to supply the information my characters need when it comes up. Have you ever watched NCIS? The original series has Abi and Ducky who are eccentric, full of infomation and because of that are able to waffle a bit and still amuse people.

    My first book has a 800 year old Abbot and a King's Valet who my MC can go to for infomation, and sometimes they read him a bedtime story.

    My third I used a schoolmaster who had been in stasis (he is pre-mortal/immortal character in my books when they are wounded mortally in someway they go into a cocoon to heal - he was beheaded repair took a long time) - his situation itself allowed me to introduce information, but I also gave him a new job as keeper of the archives.
     
  15. Abraxas
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    Abraxas Member

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    Let me clarify: In the case of exposition that wouldn't come up in the main body of work, in the same context, without an awkward infodump that ruins the pacing of the story.

    I mean, if an infodump (of a sort) is absolutely necessary, the prologue seems to me like the best place to put it.
     
  16. Heather Munn
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    Heather Munn Member

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    If one does write a prologue, it seems to me it's important to limit its length. Maybe even have a self-imposed word-limit for it.

    Do you all who've written prologues have a good sense of how long is good?

    I'm thinking of writing one for this novel, not because it's necessary for background but because it's my one chance at seeing through the eyes of my secondary MC before my primary MC takes over as first-person narrator... I'm thinking a page, two pages max, something like that. (I mean book page/double-spaced computer page.)
     
  17. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've written an epilogue to my lastest work in progress but it could equally be a prologue to the next book. It has to happen in order for the next book to work but is not essential to either story. (I need to resurrect his lover)

    It is around 300-500 words long - I like them no longer than 2 pages when i am reading them (and I am a geek who quite likes prologues lol)
     
  18. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    Mine is very short and covers what I consider to be fascinating details about the origin the universe, the Milky Way galaxy, our solar system, and earth, in that order. In a way, it kind of sets a scale of perspective for the tiny beginnings of life on earth. I suppose I could write it up into a first chapter. I'm not sure that's the best approach though. Then again, maybe I'll give that a try and see what it looks like.
     
  19. guamyankee
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    guamyankee Contributing Member

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    The more I consider it, for a first novel, a prologue might be a very bad idea for the final version. The first thing an agent is going to see is your prologue, and right off the bat he might label you as inexperienced. Hmm.
     
  20. Abraxas
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    How so? Are prologues a crutch, by necessity? They needn't be, when written correctly...
     

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