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  1. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Creature of Quarantine Contributor

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    Prologues and Epilogues

    Discussion in 'Novels' started by J.T. Woody, Apr 7, 2020.

    Are these things really necessary?

    In my Genre fiction class a few years ago, I read that prologues were bad. They are info dumps used to spout expositional information before the actual story begins. The example given was Pawn of Prophecy. "Long, long ago, This happened. And then This happened. And This guy is clearly the villain; he did this. and his brothers did this. and then war/battle...etc." basically like the yellow scroll of text beginning almost every Star Wars movie before dropping readers unto the day and the life of the MC.

    The consensus is: don't do this! it is TELLING what happened versus SHOWING and it disconnects readers.

    But then, I've read prologues that don't do this (I cant think of an example off the top of my head at the moment).
    And epilogues... its basically the end of the end of a book.

    My question is, are they necessary? Would i be losing something if I included them? When are they called for and when is it not necessary?

    HOW DO YOU USE THESE THINGS??
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    First of all, the yellow Star Wars thing is called a crawl, and it's awesome :D (even if half the movies are no good these days.)

    I would agree that exposition masquerading as a prologue is terrible. I would disagree with whoever said they were all bad though. In my opinion, a good prologue is a teaser, a scene that sets up good storytelling with its own little self-contained proto-chapter. How to pull this off, I don't know. Mostly I think if you have something good that belongs in a prologue, great. Do it. If not, you don't need one anyway.
     
  3. The Bishop

    The Bishop Active Member

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    So I can't give a little background to the situation at the beginning of the story? It's not a prologue, it's part of the first chapter, but it is definitely telling. However, it's from the main character. I think that epilogues are absolute garbage. I will never see the reasoning in epilogues. End the story and leave it, dude. I don't care about anything past the end, and if you need it, make it the end. Don't use epilogues. Prologues are the same thing, start it where it needs to start. But what I said earlier, is it really so bad to drop some important information for a page or two? If it's being told in the first person, is it really telling and not showing? I mean, it's the character speaking, not me dropping off some load of info. Sort of it is, but when it's a character, does it matter? And if it's needed, wtf do you do?
     
  4. Aaron Smith

    Aaron Smith Banned Contributor

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    Some works are of such epic proportion that the forestory could warrant its own book. And if that is not the story the author wants to tell, then it is most likely not a book you would want to read either. An apt prologue can then be enough to orient people regarding time and place.
     
  5. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you want to write a prologue or an epilogue, do it. If your readers don't want to read them, they don't have to. If they refuse to buy your book because you have a Prologue, well hell mend them. You can't please everybody.

    Just ensure that all your chapters are well-written and engaging. A boring infodump isn't a boring infodump because it's a prologue. It's because it's a boring infodump. Call it Chapter One, and it will still be a boring infodump.

    Prologues and epilogues have both stood the test of time, and they do serve a purpose. Learn what these purposes are. You don't have to employ them in your story if you don't want to, but that doesn't mean other writers shouldn't. They are just ways to organise the story, so the reader knows what to expect.

    And yes, sometimes people DO want to know what happened 'past' the end of the story—or to characters who aren't in at the final scene, but whose story arcs are important to tie up. I never skip either a prologue or an epilogue. They are both legitimate parts of the story.

    It even happens in movies. Remember the movie, American Graffiti? It had a cracker of an epilogue, which actually changed the way you thought of the characters you'd just been watching onscreen. It added an immense amount of depth to the story.

    As writers, we shouldn't let other people's prejudices lead us around by the nose.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020
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  6. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Creature of Quarantine Contributor

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    @jannert and @The Bishop , don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "dont use them, these things are bad." I'm saying "I learned X in class... But X isn't always bad, so how do I use X so it doesn't become bad?"
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that was the generic 'you' I was referring to, not 'you,' JT! I just get so angry at this issue, I tend to lose my Mod-erate sense of perspective. :) How dare people tell writers how they must or must not write? If it works, it works. The trick isn't to always use or never use a writing tool, but rather to understand what that tool does. Then a writer decides if it will work for their story, or not.

    I would not rate an instructor who told students they should not use a prologue or an epilogue, quite frankly. A good instructor should be pointing out the advantages and the pitfalls that can come with each device. That way the students go away enlightened, not cowed into submission. Hell, the instructor might even come up with both good and bad examples of each ...so students can make up their own minds what works, and what doesn't.

    How dare they throw perfectly good tools out of the box, simply because they don't know how or when to use them? :mad:
     
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  8. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    Well, the way I have used prologues is to get another POV in.
    In my last story I wanted/needed to include a scene with dead characters discussing things they kept from my main character as a child. I considered having some weirdo flashback moment where my main character remembered listening to her family talk about her but that was such a stretch. I realized a short prologue (under 1k) from her mother's point of view would be a much better solution. It answered some questions that needed answering later on and teased about what is going to happen with the main character.

    Just started another book I'm likely adding a prologue to. It's from the secondary main character's POV. A little taste of his mind without having to do shifting POV throughout the entire book. I thought it might be fun.
     
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  9. The Bishop

    The Bishop Active Member

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    I agree that you shouldn't be told what to do with your creative pursuits, or even how you should do it. I don't, however, see the point in either an epilogue or prologue. In my mind, they serve no purpose other than needlessly coming before or after the story actually starts. I think that if you have a story and want to tell it from start to finish, make the start chapter one, and the end the last chapter. It's like a teacher giving an assignment before the school year starts and then giving you one after it ends. It's unneeded in my mind.
     
  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Pimpin' ain't easy, but it sure is fun.... Contributor

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    Has anyone actually done this before? Like, "This looks like a good book but it has a prologue-(throws book across room)-no thanks!" Seems silly. Kind of like no reading a book because the author in the picture has blond hair.
     
  11. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Creature of Quarantine Contributor

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    you'd be surprised....
     
  12. dbesim

    dbesim Contributor Contributor

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    You can use prologues in many creative ways and it’s up to you to utilise them in any way you like. For instance, you can use a prologue to capture an important moment in the book that happens many chapters later and capture a part in the middle while holding off the mystery until that moment. Similarly epilogues can be used to throw a reader off their comfortable understanding of the ending and shake them up with something unexpected. Both can potentially have its uses when creatively deployed. :)

    I like this! This is an excellent example of creative ways how prologues can be effectively applied.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2020
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  13. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    All the prologues I've ever read have been pretty useless. They weren't all info dumps, more like a teaser trailer, but I feel like the first chapter should be that in a way. I dislike it when the writer uses them as a short short and an excuse to make the first chapter boring. I've yet to read one that made me feel like it really needed to be there.

    Epilogue I tend to read if I liked the book and the characters. I like to hear what happened to them maybe 20 years down the line.
     
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  14. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Senior Member

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    A question - is it always the writer's decision to have a prologue/epilogue in the book?

    Or does an editor/publisher say this book needs this or that they before they will publish it?
     
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  15. The Bishop

    The Bishop Active Member

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    I'm sure it's the writer's choice. I don't think an editor or publisher can make you do anything
     
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  16. Que

    Que Member

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    Yeah, prologues and epilogues can be good or bad, depending on how well you write them and how well, or not so well, they are received. If a prologue introduces me to the character and his or her problem in a dramatic, attention-getting way, then I tend to call that good. But not if it's just a flash back or flash forward teaser that makes the first chapter seem dull and boring. Epilogues? Some of you have made a good case for them, but I tend to think a story should tie up as many of the loose ends as possible and then just end. Kurt Vonnegut comes to mind...
     
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  17. Que

    Que Member

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    That's true, Bishop, but keep in mind that if your target audience is a particular publication, the gate keeper to getting your writing published is the editor who has criteria for submissions, and that typically involves the editor's keen understanding of the likes and dislikes of the publication's readers. Some will "gently" suggest you make certain changes, and some will... well, not so gently tell you "My way or the highway."

    Cue
     
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  18. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Pimpin' ain't easy, but it sure is fun.... Contributor

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    No, but they'll only pay you to do exactly what they want.
     
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