1. Wild Knight
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    Wild Knight Active Member

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    Would It Be Considered a Viable Prologue...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Wild Knight, Oct 12, 2013.

    ... if I DIDN'T use it to stage the world and explain everything, but if I merely used it to introduce the cast on their last day of normalcy before that something rolled right into the plot, planting the seed for what's to come? It was actually shown and not told?

    Just so you know, it had never once occurred to me to use a prologue to explain a world, quite frankly because I don't like explaining things much ahead of time, I merely unrolled gradually and revealed a few things along the way. So I had a laugh when I had pretty much just NOW learned that prologues are typically used to explain worlds... and even in the highest fantasy, I never explained the world right there, or even the history.

    I have a plot rolling, and since it takes place in a suburban area, a school, and then woods, and revolving around a handful of children... I wanted to know if it could viably be called a prologue if I SHOWED the last day of normalcy of the cast... and then a little seed will be sown near the end of that... and Chapter One will take place merely some weeks later, hereby making the plot start immediately? If so, then I think I might be ready to start the story.

    I had also had people criticize me in the past about a prologue that I had written long ago for another story, though it wasn't because of "infodump"; it was the LACK of information for one person, since I didn't NAME the desert that the character was in... and the other was because he had no idea what it had to do with the rest of the story (and he was right... THAT was what I thought that prologues were; something unrelated to the story that was thrown in, and NOT infodump, since I didn't even hear of the word until... last year, actually:oops:)

    Any help would be appreciated, and thank you.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Why not just start with the first chapter? It seems like your prologue is essentially just that.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Never begin with normalcy. Okay, "never" is too strong a word, but the point is that if you begin at rest you have to push hard to get things moving. You're better off starting where things are already falling apart.

    The readers will discover the characters by seeing them cope with problems. There's plenty of tie to refer back to normal times.

    Don't look for ways to justify a prologue. A prologue, even a good one, delays entry into the story. Look for ways to do without one.
     
  4. Wild Knight
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    Wild Knight Active Member

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    I guess that the Prologue WOULD take too long. (That was fast.) My only concern was that I feel like if I started the story when things are already falling apart, then that wouldn't leave a reader any time to know the characters and their personalities beforehand, and that the reader would instead want them to just die or something because they cared that little about the story. I also don't like the idea of already showing the worst sides of the characters, since I am going to really go hard on a cast of children seven and under and break them. Give them a mental hell to live through.

    But then... why NOT start the story with the kids already starting to break thanks to the antagonist having the opportunity to be near them now that he is rooming with them?

    Thanks! That fear is over! >:)
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Ask yourself why you need it? You most likely don't. Write the story, keep this intro part in your head, you should be fine.
     
  6. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    A good prologue is like the first scene in Scream.
    We see the murder happen and "oh lolz, it was just a movie." but it sets the tone and it was widely entertaining.

    Prologues should almost never be about exposition in a book, it just doesn't translate well.

    However, it sounds like your prologue is more of a chapter 1.
    If you're already using the characters and setting up the story then it's not much of a prologue.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    So in my story I have a protag with a significant past. I felt that just a reference to it here or there, even making the backstory clear within the current story just wasn't enough. Her struggles against the tide needed full chapters. I decided to write two parallel stories and interlace the chapters.

    But I only decided how I was going to manage that kind of backstory about halfway through the story. My problem was I wanted to write a story about young adult protagonist and the young adult characters around her. The story was not about a 10 yr old or 12 or 14 yr olds. So I had a reason to write the story as I am writing it. And I didn't make the decision quickly or lightly.

    Think about your reasons. I've heard many times, start the story as late as possible, you don't want the backstory to be the story. If what I did works for you, (and I don't mean the final chronology, I mean how I went about it) write both parts, the earlier years and the later years. Be prepared to dump the backstory if you find you can introduce it within the current story. Consider it part of you the writer getting to know your characters. Just don't worry about it until later.

    If you find the characters' backstory can't be conveyed with a reference the character was bullied, or went from rags to riches, or whatever, you might choose to leave it in. I could have just written that my character was bullied. But her whole being arose from that, it wasn't a simple single issue. Her struggle as a child made her who she was and put her in the situation that creates the main story.

    I wrote out the early scenes, but didn't decide what to do with them until I had a lot of the current story written.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Exactly. In my first chapter my protagonist is ten. But everything in the short chapter has a reason, danger is hinted at, the personal conflicts are hinted at, the bullying is hinted at. You can put that stuff in even if the scene is years before the main story.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    The main qualm I would have about your prologue is the short time span between it and the first chapter. Typically prologues occur a significant amount of time prior to the events in the first chapter. Also, a good prologue should give some insight into the tone of the story, or give the reader information the characters in the main story won't have (I love prologues that do that!). Using it to introduce the characters doesn't sound like the best use, IMO.
     
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  10. Wild Knight
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    Wild Knight Active Member

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    I don't have much time to really personally respond to anyone's responses here at the moment, but thank you all for the advice. How the story will actually turn out is quite another factor, and I need only write it. I guess that what I was really asking was how to get over my cold feet... and now I have some ideas about how to approach it.

    Again, thank you all so much for taking the time to respond to a n00by question.
     
  11. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    No such thing a newby question when it comes to writing.
    We all excel at different parts in story writing and even the best authors probably have a part or two where they gotta work on more.
     
  12. Smitty91
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    Smitty91 Member

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    I think that would be a bad idea. The first couple of chapters should be used to introduce the audience the characters and the setting. This allows the audience to get to know your characters and connect with them not only on an emotional level, but on a mental and physical level as well. This makes it so that the audience will care more about what happens to the characters in later chapters.
     
  13. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I've got to agree with this... except for the underlined portion. *Relative newbie shakes in her boots, despite having given the subject matter an extreme amount of thought.*

    @Cogito What if the if the Prologue does cut straight to the heart of of the story, and sets up the theme? I'm starting to get a little sensitive, given that I'm presently on a short break from writing one of my own. Despite the voiced negatives, my gut is telling me it's the way to go. I feel I have valid reasons for not opening with Chapter One. For me the only delay, is the time it takes to read it, and I think it's balanced out by the sense of anticipation it will provoke. To me, my Prologue is the hook.

    You have no idea how encouraged I am by what you've said. What you look for in a good Prologue is the very thing I'm trying to create. It appears on this we have similar tastes. I've deliberately put the reader in the know, and provided a great deal of subtle foreshadowing, so that when the ripples start becoming waves, the reader will be anticipating the consequences. I'm hoping the reader will be reading through their fingers, unable to put it down until they see how it all pans out.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It is still a delay in entering the story. If it were the actual story, it wouldn't be relegated to the prologue.

    There can be benefits from the prologue that outweigh the negatives of a delayed entry. In my opinion, those benefits are rare, Others will disagree with me, and that's fine too.

    As long as you actually weigh the advantages against the disadvantages, and don't simply assume that a prologue is automatically a good idea.
     
  15. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @Cogito Thanks for that. I certainly haven't just assumed. I've weighed up the pros and cons very seriously.

    When I first joined up here, my wanting to do the 'right thing' led me down a path of blind acceptance, but now I've come to the conclusion, there is no one 'right way' to look at things. Every idea must be explored before making a decision. It's only because I feel I'm starting to develop a sense of style, and realising that some ways of going about things suit my voice better than others, I'm prepared to breach that particular way of thinking.

    I was a bit staggered when I realised that my story perfectly fitted the classic—Prologue, Act I, Act II, Act III and an Epilogue—structure. Hardly original, but, if the shoe fits, no point in squeezing into a pair of undersized pumps, just because they are more fashionable. ;)
     
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  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've sometimes seen a "normalcy" scene that isn't *normal*, that is, isn't some boring everyday events, but is a smaller crisis than the core crisis of the book.

    For example, in Battlestar Galactica, the opening is about Galactica being shut down and made into a museum, an event that is a big deal and a big life change for the commander and crew. It lets us get to know characters and their relationships a little faster than average, as we see them in a "goodbye" environment rather than a normal everyday one, but nevertheless an environment that isn't high-speed crisis. Plus, of course, it allows the writers to sneak in some background, because the Galactica is being shut down due to the (believed) elimination of the Cylon threat. (This specific aspect would be harder in writing - on TV, I think that some long speeches can be more easily tolerated.) It also sets up one of my favorite exchanges of the whole series, after the big attack begins:

    Tyrol: ...The biggest problem is getting them over to the port launch bay.
    Starbuck: Why can't we use the starboard launch?
    Tyrol: It's a gift shop now.

    Adding concerns and crises separate from the core crisis of the story can also add good depth and texture to a story.
     

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