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  1. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

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    Good Reason for a Prologue

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Sclavus, Nov 1, 2017.

    Ye gods and little fishes, not another prologue thread. Yeah, another prologue thread.

    I've talked with several disabled veterans, specifically those who were hurt by explosives. With a few exceptions, most of them give short answers when asked, "What happened?"

    "Grenade."

    "IED."

    "Bad day."

    This includes when they converse with other service members, again with a few exceptions. I'm grateful for those who hang a lantern on it and show what they've gone through, and I think every kid who visits a recruiter with a "war is cool" mindset ought to have a DI's foot broken off in their blessed assurance (or maybe just be required to meet with the guys I talked to).

    For my story, there comes a point where Vincent tells Blair what happened to him. Early feedback said it was a realistic discussion, but it lacked the kind of detail that would juxtapose with the emotions that follow that discussion.

    Blair has been through her own trauma, so she gets what Vincent is saying without needing the play-by-play. The readers who haven't been in combat or in the military might need a more visceral image. One reader said they didn't realize Vincent had been severely injured up front, and it jolted them out of the story to readjust their mental image of him. I'd mentioned scars and his cane and pain pills, but they didn't see how severely disfigured he is until later.

    Thus, I'm considering a prologue outside the timeline of my story that details what happened to Vincent. He was in combat and got winged by a grenade, then burned by fuel from a damaged vehicle. He was also shot several times. The prologue would cover him getting his orders for the mission, the mission itself, then Vincent waking up in the hospital to find out his best friend died saving his life. It would end with the worst news: despite his injuries, Vincent is going to live, albeit in considerable pain for the rest of his life.
     
  2. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    I feel like having the prologue might take away some of the punch of the conversation later on - we've already seen what happened, so the conversation (I hesitate to call it a reveal) would be kind of a retread for the reader. Maybe it'd be better to further emphasize the state he's in? Though it sounds like you've done a fair bit, so it might also just be that one reader.
     
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  3. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

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    Ah, my fault for implying it was just one reader. I had one in mind when I wrote the post above, but several said essentially the same thing. The reveal is in what happened to Blair more than Vincent, though it's his story. We see his state, we see bits of his past, but when I showed someone a photo of what inspires Vincent's look, they said that's not much what they imagined.

    I think part of the problem is the tendency for people to think of main characters as at least somewhat attractive, not blown half to Hell and stitched back together. Vincent looks worse than Deadpool without the mask. Picture what Christopher Nolan's "Two-Face" would look like had he healed completely, dial the damage back a notch, and that's Vincent.

    Maybe I do need to rework the descriptions in the narrative. I'll post his introduction for critique (probably tomorrow) and see what people say.
     
  4. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    You're probably onto something there. I have an affinity for grody, crusty, fucked-up-lookin' characters and I'm already pre-annoyed at the idea of people picturing them as anything less than they are. So far (and this is without reader feedback, so eh) my method is just to reinforce whatever it is at any given opportunity. My whole thing is details, so I'd say maybe pick out some particular visual aspect of what Vincent's going on that exemplifies the issue, and try to hammer that home? People will remember a limp and the vague idea of scars, but to use one of your examples, a thing that always sticks out to me about Deadpool is when he's drawn without irises even maskless. The implication that his eyes are messed up is more memorable, at least to me, than the facial scarring.
     
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  5. Sclavus

    Sclavus Active Member

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    Ooh. Idea. Thank you.

    Vincent has a tattoo on a bit of his inner forearm, one he got after he got blown up. I could emphasize that it's one of the few bits of him that isn't scarred. It's a penguin tattoo, which ties into his later tactic of dressing like a penguin to thrash bad guys. "Yeah, I'm a loony cripple, and I just kicked your ass. How's that feel?" is the idea he wants to convey to them. It'd be like a group of soldiers getting torn apart by a clown with a bum leg; it'd be humiliating if your entire force can't beat a cartoon character civilian.
     
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  6. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I agree with @izzybot - I think you need to look at bumping up your description in the opening of the novel.

    Honestly, a blow-by-blow description of the process causing his injuries wouldn't tell me all that much about what he looks like afterward, anyway.
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a fan of prologues, as many on here realise. Prologues in the right place, that is. Not as an automatic story-starter.

    I think the key question to ask yourself is this: is a description of how Vincent was injured necessary for the reader to know before the main story starts? If the answer is yes, then a prologue is a good idea. In other words, if we need to know what he suffered during the war, so we can watch how he copes with the aftermath—then a prologue would work.

    However, if the story is about uncovering the mystery of how he got his scars, or whatever, you don't need (or want) a prologue. We can learn about his experience when the other characters do, so the mystery remains intact until it's time for it to be understood.

    A prologue (of this nature) is for conveying information the READER needs to know before they start reading. If the readers aren't given this information right at the start, they won't 'get' the story.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2017
  8. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    You don't need to show what happened to Vincent - you need to show that he's disfigured. You could show that through a prologue, but that's like using a wrecking ball to crush a garlic clove.

    Have you looked into the experiences of people with facial burns (which I assume Vincent has - if not, then whatever disfigurement he does have)? People react to that kind of thing in very obvious ways, on a daily basis. It would be weird if the reader didn't have an idea of how he looks within the first few pages - or as soon as he steps outside and interacts with other people. They will stare. They will treat him like he has learning difficulties. He will sometimes get abusive comments.

    So no, I don't think this is a good reason for a prologue. I think you should probably look at how other characters react to him (particularly strangers) and make his disfigurement clear that way.
     
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  9. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Why a prologue?

    When the book comes out, it'll come with a back-cover blurb that says "Vincent emerged from Afghanistan with scars that would never heal; especially the ones that nobody could see."

    If your readers still see a Hollywood star, they're a stupid lot.
     
  10. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Hi floor, make me a sammich. :P Supporter Contributor

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    @Sclavus I have an MC that wears a gas-mask to hide his burnt face,
    and keep people from staring. But he was burned severely by an
    incendiary over most of his body. Not till book two do we get the real
    backstory of what happened, and the real reason why he wears the mask.

    These things are simply noted based on other characters noticing these
    scars on others. Since most people don't tend to describe themselves,
    it helps to have a second party to make those observations. And once
    these things are established, they really don't need to be addressed again.
    You can do this in a casual conversation, with someone that asks about
    what happened, and they would get a simple answer.

    A: "You look terrible. What happened to you before getting out?"
    B:"Well...got shot a few times. Then my jeep got hit, and gave me a make-over."

    Not the best I got, but an example of getting the info out to the reader, without
    having a prologue. If you take the prologue route, then it would be redundant to
    spend time on those events later in the story. So it can be done either way. :)

    @Tenderiser you seem to have a dangerous kitchen. Do guests have to sign a
    waiver, when they stop by for dinner? :p
     
  11. Robert Musil

    Robert Musil Contributor Contributor

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    I think this might be one of those cases where less can be more. Think of that scene in Silence of the Lambs (the movie) where Clarice is shown a picture of what Hannibal Lecter did to his last victim. The audience never sees the picture, but the look on Jodie Foster's face is way more horrifying than the picture ever could be.

    A good example of this in writing is John Darnielle's Wolf in White Van, where the protagonist is severely disfigured for the whole book. His physical appearance is never described (outside of a few details), but you get a very vivid image by the way people react to him (or how he interprets their reactions, since it's in 1st person POV).

    Anyway I guess what I'm saying to your question is that--without this being interpreted as an opinion on prologues in general--is that as a reader, in this case I would rather not be told how he got his injuries. I think this is a perfect time to feed the readers some information but let their imaginations do the rest.
     
  12. Poetical Gore

    Poetical Gore Member

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    Yeah, I mean, who the heck would stare at a guy walking about with a gas mask on his face..... :p

    You know what man, take that and flip it around. Ditch the mask. He wants to get up in people's personal space with his ugly grill and make them suffer and feel queasy because they have to look at his face. Just fuck with them.

    What I would say is "it happened in what you would call a freak accident" and leave it at that. No need for an origin story for a munged up grill, brah.
     
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  13. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Hi floor, make me a sammich. :P Supporter Contributor

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    Oh I hear ya. It is not as big an issue for him since he is in active service (also the lenses
    have been augmented with night and heat vision).

    Not really sure what you could wear out in public (civilian) setting that would not
    draw a lot of attention. Finding a sub-culture with a style that suits his tastes that
    would not make wearing some sort of mask/face covering.
    Alternatively he could have reconstructive surgery to correct it, if he really has
    an issue with it on a personal basis.
     
  14. Poetical Gore

    Poetical Gore Member

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    Dude, I am telling you, he is going use his face as a weapon. It was burned? Well, his face is a allegorical flame thrower upon all who look at him. Think about how much fun it would be to write about how queasy the "normals" are when he forces them to look at him.
    Hiding his face is not going to make it get better so why should he do it? What is left to take away from him that has not already been taken.
    "It is only after we lost everything that we are free to do anything" - fight club
     
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  15. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Hi floor, make me a sammich. :P Supporter Contributor

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    You can have a lot of fun with that. :)
     
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