1. mikespread1988
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    mikespread1988 Member

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    Writing a Prologue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mikespread1988, Apr 30, 2008.

    Good evening my friends!

    Well with my new book I need a prologue. It is a definite "yes" to needing a prologue so no more questions like "do you definitely need a prologue?" which I've heard from other people. ;)

    The deal is, how do I begin it. I felt opening with a descriptive bit where you set the scene and introduce a character was a bit of a wrong idea for a prologue because I thought it was too much for something which just gives more meaning to the rest of the book in which the world is completely different.

    In this prologue I start with a moment in the main character's life, but wouldn't know how to begin it. Do I just go straight into action?

    Your thoughts please :p
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The answer to that is probably contained within the answer to the question, "Why do you need a prologue?"

    Whatever your reason for deciding you need one, that should drive the content of the prologue. On the other hand, if the answer is something like, "Because prologues are cool," then you'll probably have to revisit what it is you really want out of the prologue.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    about what i was gonna say... you always get there first, cog! ;-)

    if you're so sure you need one, then you should have some idea of why you need it and should know how to start it...

    so, why do you need it?...
     
  4. mikespread1988
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    mikespread1988 Member

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    I wouldn't write a prologue for the lone reason that its 'cool'. I aren't that stupid.

    The reason I need it is because my main character needs a piece of his childhood shown to show the reader why he has turned out the way he has... I'd prefer not to say more really.

    Its just the actual writing of it that I'm bothered about. Do I need certain features put in it and can it be written in first-person even when the rest of the book is in third?
     
  5. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    I'm not sure. Admittedly I haven't read every book that's ever been but I've never read a book that switched between 1st and 3rd person. However, a lot of books now use italics to express character's thoughts, so you could write the prologue in italics and excuse it as 'this is what my character is thinking.'
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    An alternative is to work bits and pieces of his childhood throughout the story. A fragmented discovery like that is a lot like how real people discover their own demons.

    Those bits and pieces can arouse a reader's curiosity, too. Keeps the reader actively thinking instead of just sponging up what the writer sends through the firehose.

    Don't take my remark as assuming you were stupid. It's very easy to get stuck on an idea withought really knowing why we are stuck on it. It's usually worthwhile to go back and take another look at the assumptions, especially if we're having a tough time making it fly.
     
  7. Neha
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    Neha Beyond Infinity. Contributor

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    You could start with a flashback, or start with the toughest, or do the opposite.

    Like my prologue goes something like:


    In the heart of the sleeping town of Borjker, the MA3 stood, tall and stately, its very appearance giving a radiance of royalty. There not a single sound to be heard, for the scholars were sleeping, and there was yet an hour or two before the birds would begin their chirping. The inhabitants were just now not aware of the existence of any world except the eternal dreamland.
     
  8. MumblingSage
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    MumblingSage Contributing Member

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    I've seen the occasional one. 'The Boy Who Would Live Forever' by Frederick Pohl changed to first person POV a hundred or so pages in and threw me. It's very unusual, but the prologues tend to have more wiggle-room to be different. The italics idea sounds good to me, though.
     
  9. alias
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    alias Member

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    I find personally, i like to jump in without thinking too much about it and see where the text takes me. Usually the first couple lines are not to grand. But once those beginning are written i find it much easier to write the rest of the prologue. And after the bits that need to be improved are cut or changed.
     
  10. Gloom Kitty
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    Gloom Kitty Banned

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    In general a lot of prolouges are of past events that are important for the readers infomation. Really what you are saying isn't telling us enough to be useful. I would write it as you would a chapter, however do note that most prolouges are shorter then chapters, it depends on what you need i guess. Make sure you know the scene and if important to the story the date say if it was several years ago. I would simply try several different POVS and so on until you get it right. You will know when you are happy with what you have. Or maybe you could read a few books with prolouges in them to see how the pros do it
     
  11. mikespread1988
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    mikespread1988 Member

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    Thanks a lot for your comments guys. I decided to write two separate ones... in first-person and third. I've just finished the first-person and I'm very happy with it. I think it will work better than the third person I'm currently working on in terms of showing character thoughts, and although using italics is a great idea, I felt I needed to show more of their thoughts. I find it a lot harder to describe scenes how they should be, but I'm pleased with it overall.
     
  12. Mr Sci Fi
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    Mr Sci Fi Senior Member

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    Why can't you just change "Prologue" to "Chapter 1?" It will have the same effect.

    I did something similiar in my novel. "Chapter 1" is a flashback, then "Chapter 2" starts around 20 years later. I found no reason to name "Chapter 1," "Prologue."
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Only my opinion here, but I agree. I always get the feeling when a book starts with a prologue that the author was somehow not able to get me up to speed within the story and had to give me explanation of what I was about to read prior to the actual read. I realise that this may seem like splitting hairs, but that word prologue just puts me off a bit when I crack the cover.
     
  14. Mr Sci Fi
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    Mr Sci Fi Senior Member

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    You're 100% correct. All that should matter in a story is the actual story, not the backstory.

    I used to feel the same way. I used to insist that I needed this five page prologue full of backstory for my novel before I could dive into it. I could never seem to get the prologue right, either, so I gave up. I then got to studying writing and found that the mass opinion of successful authors is to nix the prologue completely.

    They were right. I found that with my backstory, adding it in at little pieces at a time not only helped with the flow, but it added suspense and mystery, too. You'd be amazed at what you can do with your backstory if you split it up.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have a prologue in the novel I'm working on, but its purpose is to give a glimpse into the future, not the past. The intent is to tickle the reader's curiosity, not to satiate it or provide answers for questions not yet posed.

    In a way, a story has to be a sales pitch. You need to give the reader a reason to hang around the showroom while you draw him or her in. Answers don't do that, but questions do.
     
  16. mikespread1988
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    mikespread1988 Member

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    OK guys, well I decided to just start it from Chapter One, and although writing it has been a lot easier I still don't feel convinced it works as well. The whole chapter is set in the past and Chapter 2 will start in the present, but I purposefully left it in a spot where I can include bits and pieces of the past later on in the book. I am pleased with it for now, just needs the odd touch up in places. I'm very excited about this project. :D I'll probably turn out disappointed with it eventually though ;)

    Cheers for the tips you guys, you're all a big help.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's usually a self-fulfilling prophecy... if that's the thought you start out with, odds are, you'll make it happen... why would you expect to fail?... try telling yourself that this time you'll get it right, and you'll have a much better chance to do that...
     

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