How long must a Prologue be?

Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ice Queen, Apr 23, 2011.

  1. Show

    Show Contributor Contributor

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    Yet the reason so much emphasis is placed on reading (and reading "everything you can get your hands on," a line I've heard tossed around more than once) is supposedly so writers learn how to write well. Since anything old (ie the classics) is not within the "growing trends" of the day, and much of the stuff that is new is a poor example of how to write well, there's little left that really is a "good example on how to write well."

    And you're right, forum posts ARE opinion. Such as what defines a "adequate" story. One person's adequate is another's masterpiece. I think one's goal should be to tell their story in the best way possible and not worry whether others see it as "adequate" or something more. You'll never get everyone to agree because art is largely subjective. Unless your story so blatantly violates writing rules as to make it unreadable, it'll likely be more than adequate to somebody and it's just a matter of finding that person.
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I base my opinion on personal experience, where 90%+ of the prologues I've read were poorly done and/or unnecessary. So if I have a couple of books in hand and I'm trying to decide between them, the inclusion of a prologue is a strike against one and I'm likely to put it back. There may be some problem associated with this, but Show has gone strangely quiet on the issue.

    In any event, assuming that your story actually starts at Chapter 1, then the prologue is superfluous. If you believe it starts at the prologue, and if you truly believe that it doesn't make a difference what you call it, then why not call it Chapter 1 after all?
     
  3. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

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    I already explained this for you in another post, remember? right now i can't remember which one it was though.
    So would you say it's the word 'prologue' rather than the text in itself that makes people freak out? :rolleyes: because if I should call it chapter one instead you can't say it's superfluous...
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    No, I don't think it is the word. The author usually identifies where the story starts and calls that Chapter 1. Then the prologue is added as something that comes before the story, which is most often a mistake, in my view.

    If it were just a matter of calling it something different, then there wouldn't be much of an issue. But prologues, in my experience, are generally unnecessary, and the use of a prologue tells me the author knows quite well the story starts elsewhere.
     
  5. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

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    I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this, Lol. ;) I get your point but I still want to keep my prologue... :rolleyes:
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    As you should. Even though I tend not to be a fan of prologues you should definitely write your story as you see fit. It's an art form and not a science. I may well like your prologue if I read it. I know other writers on these forums who use a prologue and are quite good. It's an interesting academic point, I suppose :)
     
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  7. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But if that information bogs down the first chapter, that suggests that the information is boring. And if the information is boring, is it a good idea to make that information the first thing that the reader sees?

    Now, maybe the information doesn't need to be boring. Maybe an engaging and absorbing scene or series of scenes could be written, that cleverly communicate that information without signaling themselves as boring explanation. But in that case, why call that a prologue - why not just make it the first chapter?

    I don't have a problem with a flashback or flash forward or viewpoint difference or any of the things that often characterize a prologue. But when that writing is presented as a prologue, quite often - no, not always - the fact that it's a prologue seems to be used as an excuse for the writing to be less interesting and engaging than the main book. And I don't think that a relabeling and perhaps a font change is ever an excuse for that.

    ChickenFreak
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Yeah, this is exactly right. The fact that an author realizes that some information is bogged down and boring is precisely the reason to eliminate it, not to move to the very start of the book and call it a prologue.
     
  9. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    Then perhaps this thread should be retitled "How to execute a prologue well - if you insist on using one" since that seems to be the real debate at hand now that the OP's question has been answered and it still continues on?
     
  10. Ice Queen

    Ice Queen New Member

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    Lol, yes I agree Trish- if I knew how to change the title... XD;

    Anyways, a Prologue containing information doesn't have to be boring it does of course depend on how it's written. I also don't think it's entirely true to say, the Prologue isn't part of the story because it doesn't always take place in isolation of it, eg. those prologues which start at a median or perhaps ending point of the book and then works back.

    Perhaps a Prologue could be called Chapter 1 in some cases, but I think the main reason that these are called a different name is to indicate some kind of separation from the rest of the book- perhaps separation in time, even in character viewpoint, or just because (as in my case) it's an important moment or turning point of the book.

    And of course some may think that there's no point in including one, but others will disagree- the main thing is that nobody can dictate to anyone else how to write their own story and what works best for it.

    I mean, even Shakespeare wrote Prologues for a lot of his plays, he just called them a Chorus instead. (a rose by any other name...)

    :3
     

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