1. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    How do I format a double prologue, untitled?

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by Dnaiel, Oct 24, 2016.

    My novel starts with two prologues, both untitled. How do I handle this in my manuscript, format-wise?
     
  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    What? o_O
    How and what in the blazes are you talking about?
    Chapter -1 and 0 are now a thing?
    Probably be best to write a prequel as this seems to be a backstory far to large
    in size and scope for a normal prologue. Never heard of a prologue to a prologue.
    How exactly does having a backstory to a backstory work? I am beyond confused. o_O
     
  3. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    Thank you, but that's not what I am asking. And it's not a prologue to a prologue; they're separate scenes. They're more like a very brief foreshadow and then a bit of an external analepsis. Maybe those don't qualify as prologues, though. I dunno. In any case, double prologues have been done before. Clive Cussler does it. Michael Crichton did it. The movie Brave does it. And my novel absolutely. does. not. work. without. them.

    How can you know?
     
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  4. ChaosReigns

    ChaosReigns Ov The Left Hand Path Supporter Contributor

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    I'm intrigued to see how this will pan out, hope you find answers
     
  5. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe start with something like First Prologue, First & Second Chapter, Second Prologue, Third Chapter?
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    My general view is that if a story doesn't work without a prologue, there's a problem in the story. However, I have seen double prologues used in more than one novel. I don't care for it, and I'm going to be tempted to skip those sections, but it has certainly been done.
     
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Well now that I know what you mean by a double prologue, I find that premise a bit strange.
    Though it is one I have never heard of, if it is necessary to prelude your story in such fashion
    then what do I know. I have heard of other oddity on here such as a 60+page prologue, so
    suspect that anything is possible if it is needed to put context to a story. Though I find
    most prologues are not really needed, but it is not up to anyone but the author by whom
    it is writ. :)
     
  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    IMO there's no real difference between a prologue and chapter/section 1 - if you've got two prologues then essentially that chapters 1&2 where different things happen to different people before their being tied together in chapter 3 or later.. look at a typical tom clancy , about the first third of the book is prequel/prologue to the action that comes later.

    "Without remorse" is a good example - where in the actual prologue Ex SEAL John Kelly's pregnant wife is killed in an RTA and in unrelated action Robin Zacharias is shot down over north vietnam and captured, and Pamela madden watches her friend helen being tortured to death (three threads in one prologue) , then in the first 3 or 4 chapters John meet Pam , falls in love with her, helps her get off drugs, and finally she is kidnapped , raped and murdered by the drug gang she used to mule for , whilst at the same time the pentagon discovers where Zacharias and other high value prisoners are being held despite being declared as KIA

    Thus that who section could be seen as a multi prologue for the actual story which then kicks off (where John Kelly goes on a revenge inspired killing spree to get all the gangsters involved in Pam's death, while at the same time preparing to go into north vietnam to scout a mission to rescue Zacharias and the rest) - and yes i know that the whole story is more complicated than that, i've just hit the high notes to illustrate my point.
     
  9. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    I was hoping for some guidance on how to format the manuscript with untitled prologues. Without that input, I'll have to assume that I will simply leave the manuscript as it is. I relied on the document that William Shunn published at http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html . Each prologue starts halfway down the page without titles.

    What I have produced isn't like some information dump I've seen in many amateurs. And there's no problem with my story for needing these prologues; the story is in great shape.
     
  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Format wise i'd have them as sections in a single prologue ... sticking with clancy as an example he regularly has two or three (or sometimes more) unrelated parts to a prologue .. per my example above "without remorse" has three , "debt of honour" has , I think, four and so forth
     
  11. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Oh.

    I would say "possibly italicized, possibly not, but otherwise the same as the present-day chapters" then.
     
  12. Lyrical

    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Sorry you got a lot of feedback you weren't looking for. There is a widespread opinion here that prologues are generally bad and to be avoided. Some people think they're fine, but those voices tend to be the minority. Two prologues is an unspeakable breech of protocol, apparently. I think it's your book, write it how you want to.

    I'd probably format them how you have it, or perhaps with roman numerals.
    Halfway down the page, titled with a bolded I for the first one, and II for the second. Then your chapters titled as you want. Unless you're using roman numerals for your chapters, then I'd use something else. Something to differentiate them from the beginning chapters.
     
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  13. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    Ah. Roman numerals. That looks like a really good way of handling this. Thank you!
     
  14. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Just a question. Did you write your prologues before or after your novel? I've never done a prologue, but I'm wondering if it would help jumpstart a story or if it's a way to address things after the story is finished. And since you have two... Did you plan on having two? How did that happen? Also, I think the roman numerals is a good idea.
     
  15. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    CAVEAT: I am not a published writer. The following is written without authority or experience. I can be, and often am, wrong.

    It was the first thing I wrote. But by that time, nearly the entire story was already in my head. The only reason they're there is to help the reader understand what kind of story they're getting into because without that, halfway through the story things start to shift enough that most readers would be jarred by the eventual changes at the end. I sprinkled in a few other similar segments related to the prologues where I felt the pacing called for it. Yes, I planned on two prologues. How it happened is a subject too long, and probably too boring, to explain.

    I think the biggest reason prologues are sometimes disliked is because they can feel like a raging river of mud that was poured in a circle around the story. If the story starts with a river of mud that your reader has to wade through to get to the good stuff, then that mud had better be an important part of the good stuff.

    So it really depends on what you're writing. The amateur writer might not realize that not everyone will drool over the backstory and details, especially if they aren't even necessary to follow the story. This is a matter of perspective. Can the writer remove him- or herself enough from their own precious world and see things from the readers' perspective? Once in a while, as in my novel, a story kinda needs it. The tricky part is creating it in a way that a reader will actually enjoy it and that it will benefit the story as a whole. I crafted mine with the same strategy often recommended for novels in general; pull the reader into the story as quickly as possible because after a few pages, they've made their decision whether to continue reading or to put it back on the shelf. George Lucas accomplished that with his Star Destroyer in Star Wars. Right at the beginning, he captivated every audience member with the camera placement and the size of the pursuing vessel in a conflict. That's the whole idea.

    If you do a prologue, do it in a way that makes your reader fascinated, curious, excited, etc. as quickly as possible, and in a way very relevant to the story. I think I pull it off in my novel with the first sentence.
     
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  16. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    Interesting thread for me.

    I'm 110K words (half way) into my first novel. Currently I plan to have a 520-word prologue that happens decades before the story and causes what occurs, followed by a 1340-word epi-prologue (pro-epilogue?) set many decades later that shows the reader how the MC turns out - her challenges overcome, and living a good life. And then the story starts, the story of how the MC got to that end from where she started, which was abandoned, alone, and nearly dead.

    Am I crazy? Is there no chance to get that out of the slush pile?

    It's hard SF by the way, but with a lot on the interpersonal relationships of the MC, her family, and her friends.
    Not much fighting, only one assassination attempt, and only one short (one day) war. Omnia Vincit Amor. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2016
  17. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    It seems like you'd be losing quite a bit of suspense if you tell readers how the MC ends up at the start of the book. Is there a reason you want to do that?

    Otherwise - there are agents/publishers who really don't like prologues. So you'll be at a disadvantage if submitting to them. Submitting elsewhere, it probably won't be a problem, as long as there's a real, good reason why your prologue needs to be there.
     
  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    tbh a 22ok word novel is going to have trouble getting published anyway, unless your name is clancy, or tolkein
     
  19. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    The story is 220K words. Fortunately it breaks nicely, I think, into two halves.
     
  20. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    Because I believe the interesting part of any story is the details. The story isn't a who-dunnit. The reader's going to be able to guess that the MC will overcome the obstacles in front of her - that's what usually happens, right? So the interesting part is how. The epi-pro-log doesn't spoil that.

    My inspiration for it is my favorite novel, Cordwainer Smith's Norstrillia. The opening of the book tells you the entire story in a paragraph. It's wonderfully done, and doesn't detract from the book at all. I've read it and re-read over the past three decades, still have that old paperback. It doesn't matter that I know how it ends. It doesn't matter that he reminds me how it ends at the beginning.

    The prologue, I think there is, and it's also short and a story in its own right. The epi-pro-log maybe not as much, but even though it occurs one hundred fifty years or so after the prologue and one hundred years after the story starts in the next chapter, it links the two together, but hopefully just enough to make people want to know more.

    Plus, the story starts with the MC weak, uncertain, scared - pitiable but not necessarily likable. The epi-pro-log shows the MC as someone I hope you'd like to know - confident, strong, caring, easily amused, and in love with life. I'm hoping that if the reader likes the MC as she becomes, they'll be willing to follow her on her path to doing so , during which, again and again, it will seem physically impossible.

    I do appreciate your comments. It's made me think about why I wanted to do this, which will sharpen my effort.
     
  21. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In terms of formatting, I would simply put it at the head of the ms. I wouldn't necessarily title it, but I would definitely have some kind of heading to orient the reader to time and/or place (depending on the story).

    In my case, the prologue was the last thing I wrote. It is a single page, and I did call it a prologue, followed by the heading: "Off the Cuban Coast - 1985". In submitting the full ms to an agent who regularly advises debut authors not to use prologues or else, if one must be used, don't call it a prologue, I simply headed it with the place/time reference.
     
  22. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    How did those authors who wrote these before do their formatting?

    Is there some way to distinguish between the two prologues? If, for example, each of them is written from the POV of a different character, you could just title each of the prologues with the name of the character. Or if it's a location, same thing. Or if it's two different time periods (Monday and Friday, or December and May, or 1183 and 1215) you could title them that way.

    If you use this device, you won't even need to call them prologues, which should confuse and distract prologue-haters, who might actually read your stuff by mistake. :)
     
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