Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction => Fantasy Book & Author Discussion => Topic started by: Justan Henner on December 26, 2013, 05:37:32 PM

Title: Prologues
Post by: Justan Henner on December 26, 2013, 05:37:32 PM
Someone commented in another thread that they do not read book prologues, and as someone who always reads the prologue (except for Scarlet Letter because I thought it was a preface and historical notes) I thought it a bit odd. More interesting than odd I suppose.

As a reader, does anyone else out there ignore the prologue or do you always read it if a book has it? I know it's one of those rules for beginning writers that you should not include one, I suppose that is probably one of the reasons, is that people skip them, but I've always seen it as part of the book.

I can see why, in certain books, prologues are unnecessary. While they set up for the novel, in some cases they don't seem to serve much purpose over all. 

For example, books like Wheel of Time, the prologue of the first book doesn't make sense until like 3-4 books in (I mean, really make sense) so it is a bit of wasted space compared to the actual plot of the novel. A Song of Ice and Fire is an example where the prologue is more neutral. It serves as a reminder that the Wights are the real threat that's facing Westeros, but overall doesn't mean anything until much later.

Novels like Malazan Book of the Fallen, Even though I know that most of the prologue is important, it doesn't feel that way while reading it and by the time it does make sense, you've forgotten about it.

Despite that, a Fantasy novel without a prologue seems a bit off to me. Perhaps it is because I am so used to them in fantasy novels that they seem a part of the genre. But it's true, it seems like most prologues are kind of meaningless (in fact, it seems like most authors write their prologue in cryptic, foreshadowing language, or out of context  dialogue that the prologue is meaningless until the second read).

Personally I think a prologue is vital device for expressing a jump in time for an important event that needs to be in the book. I'd much rather see a character in the event itself than have a flashback or have them simply tell me about it, but I think it needs to be done correctly so that there is a firm transition between the prologue and the actual novel. If I can't see the direct result of the prologue on the rest of the novel within the first half of the novel, (and preferably sooner unless it is a big shocker that makes sense at the end) I think the prologue is kind of a waste of words.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: G_R_Matthews on December 26, 2013, 05:57:38 PM
I don't think there can be a hard and fast rule on prologues / epilogues or middleofthebook-logues (if they exist).

Like you I always read them; they can create a mood, give an important piece of info that only becomes clear later on, be a foreshadowing device in a multi-book series, give you world-lore etc. Basically, they can perform a vital function in a book - ignore them at your peril :)

Quote
a firm transition between the prologue and the actual novel. If I can't see the direct result of the prologue on the rest of the novel within the first half of the novel, (and preferably sooner unless it is a big shocker that makes sense at the end) I think the prologue is kind of a waste of words.

Is a good point too. The prologue must reveal something that is used in the book (or series). You quote the Wheel of Time where it becomes clear later on. I think that a prologue should be a prologue - which is cack-handed english for it can't be the first chapter. The segue from a prologue chapter 1 into a real chapter 2 can be jarring if it hasn't been properly labelled.

Like many things a prologue (typed that word so many times now!) is a literary device that has its place. I think that badly used prologues will always give other prologues a bad name :)
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: DBASKLS on December 26, 2013, 06:27:23 PM
The prologue is part of the book - why on earth wouldn't you read it?
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: ScarletBea on December 26, 2013, 06:42:06 PM
The prologue is part of the book - why on earth wouldn't you read it?

This.
And I would add "obviously".

Unlike some of you, I actually quite like when the prologue is not directly linked to the start of the book; when it's written in a different style, under a different POV, showing light on something only hinted at during the rest of the book; and sometimes I re-read just the prologue once I finish the book, and it suddenly means something different from when I first read it...
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: G_R_Matthews on December 26, 2013, 08:12:52 PM
I think that a prologue should be a prologue - which is cack-handed english for it can't be the first chapter. The segue from a prologue chapter 1 into a real chapter 2 can be jarring if it hasn't been properly labelled.

Quote
I actually quite like when the prologue is not directly linked to the start of the book; when it's written in a different style, under a different POV, showing light on something only hinted at during the rest of the book

The same thing said two completely different ways :)
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: AshKB on December 26, 2013, 09:07:21 PM
I'll read prologues, but when writing them, I do try and have a point to them that comes apparently fairly soon. It can just be hints that what happened then is tied into the rest of the book, but it's a setting piece; there should be a point, not, 'ooooh, mystery, they'll never guess until the third book'. Things can be clearer later, but narratively speaking, I think it should tie in (in some form) sooner rather than later.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: AnneL on December 26, 2013, 09:34:09 PM
I usually read them, unless I've seen the author be ineffectual with them before.  I think they are useful primarily to creative narrative tension, where the readers knows something the main characters don't. Although the prologue is not chapter 1, it has to hook the reader as much as a chapter 1 would, and this is where a lot of less effective prologues fall down. A prologue is an appetizer and part of the meal, not a fancy place setting for the meal. If there is a prologue the story needs to start there somehow. 
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Elfy on December 26, 2013, 09:49:50 PM
I don't know that fantasy novels HAVE to have a prologue. I've read plenty that don't and I've read plenty that do. I've also seen an agent say that they personally don't like receiving submissions with a prologue. The person that said they didn't read them on the other thread confused me a little. I'm not sure if they were saying that they didn't read prologues ever or that they didn't read them as a way of getting a feel for the book when they first pick it up. If it's the latter I can understand as the prologue doesn't always give you a good idea of the book, because it's not always related and can be written in a different style from the rest of it. If it's the former then they're doing themselves and the book a disservice, it's there for a reason, that reason may not become apparent until another book in the series or until the end, but it isn't put there just to waste space. To me, not bothering with the prologue is kind of like just skipping a chapter for whatever reason and then wondering why another part of the book doesn't make a great deal of sense.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Yuan François on December 26, 2013, 10:30:59 PM
I remember saying once that I don't read prologues... Simply because I'm always eager to rush to chapter one, and most times, the prologues won't make sense until you're into book 2 or 3. Even when it isnt, and is just a prequel to the story, example Christopher Paolini's Eragon, the prologue carries little benefit to the story, because it is, most times, repeated in the body of the novel.

I only take interest in reading the prologues after I've finished the entire series and am hungry for more...  ::)

For me, It's almost tradition not to read the prologue ... I've never been at a disadvantage for not reading them... To me, it makes the book more interesting and mysterious - if that makes sense. It gives you the chance to figure out things yourself. It...enhances the suspense.

 Not all things need introduction. Sometimes you have to appeal to the readers like you already know them or like they already know your story. Books without prologues seem to do just that.

At the end of the day, in most cases, the contents of the prologue are repeated in the bulk of the novel.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Yuan François on December 26, 2013, 10:41:18 PM
I don't know that fantasy novels HAVE to have a prologue. I've read plenty that don't and I've read plenty that do. I've also seen an agent say that they personally don't like receiving submissions with a prologue. The person that said they didn't read them on the other thread confused me a little. I'm not sure if they were saying that they didn't read prologues ever or that they didn't read them as a way of getting a feel for the book when they first pick it up. If it's the latter I can understand as the prologue doesn't always give you a good idea of the book, because it's not always related and can be written in a different style from the rest of it. If it's the former then they're doing themselves and the book a disservice, it's there for a reason, that reason may not become apparent until another book in the series or until the end, but it isn't put there just to waste space. To me, not bothering with the prologue is kind of like just skipping a chapter for whatever reason and then wondering why another part of the book doesn't make a great deal of sense.

I get your point. But if the prologue was as important as any other chapter, it would be... a chapter. It would be Chapter one. It sets itself apart, but not because it is more important than the chapters. There is a bit of inferiority in the prologue. It seems to be a modifier, and not a chapter on its own.

I found this on a blog... http://www.foremostpress.com/authors/articles/prologue.html
Quote
A prologue should reveal significant facts that contribute to our understanding of the plot. It should be vivid and entertaining in its own right (who wants to read a boring prologue, no matter how much of the background it explains?) It should make us want to read on.

If every prologue offered just that, then it could set itself apart in a positive way...
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Elfy on December 26, 2013, 10:53:29 PM
I don't know that fantasy novels HAVE to have a prologue. I've read plenty that don't and I've read plenty that do. I've also seen an agent say that they personally don't like receiving submissions with a prologue. The person that said they didn't read them on the other thread confused me a little. I'm not sure if they were saying that they didn't read prologues ever or that they didn't read them as a way of getting a feel for the book when they first pick it up. If it's the latter I can understand as the prologue doesn't always give you a good idea of the book, because it's not always related and can be written in a different style from the rest of it. If it's the former then they're doing themselves and the book a disservice, it's there for a reason, that reason may not become apparent until another book in the series or until the end, but it isn't put there just to waste space. To me, not bothering with the prologue is kind of like just skipping a chapter for whatever reason and then wondering why another part of the book doesn't make a great deal of sense.

I get your point. But if the prologue was as important as any other chapter, it would be... a chapter. It would be Chapter one. It sets itself apart, but not because it is more important than the chapters. There is a bit of inferiority in the prologue. It seems to be a modifier, and not a chapter on its own.

I found this on a blog... http://www.foremostpress.com/authors/articles/prologue.html
Quote
A prologue should reveal significant facts that contribute to our understanding of the plot. It should be vivid and entertaining in its own right (who wants to read a boring prologue, no matter how much of the background it explains?) It should make us want to read on.

If every prologue offered just that, then it could set itself apart in a positive way...
Interesting. How do you go with films and TV? They regularly have prologues as well, do you leave the cinema or turn the show off until the 'action' starts? What if the prologue introduces an important character that doesn't come in until later on in the book and you're left wondering why and everyone else is going 'oh yeah, them, from the prologue! Now I get it!' do you then stop reading and go back to the prologue?
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Yuan François on December 26, 2013, 11:11:31 PM
If needs be, but we're talking about books here.  ;)

How many times do you see an author taking such a risk? So as to put the most important information in the prologue? My point is, I've never been at a disadvantage for reading the prologue. You pick up a book, you look at the title, you examine the cover. You want to read it. Straight to chapter one. It's just the habit. My habit, that is...

It's not about the action. It's about the story being told. Most prologues don't tell the story; they tell what the story may be like. Why certain things will happen. But as the reader, you don't always question what happens, because, naturally you assume certain things, and with the evidences that are given in the book, figure out certain things.

If an entire book, say 120,000 words, is decided on one single prologue of say, 3,000 words, then something is wrong. It's just my point of view. I understand yours. But neglect of the prologue doesn't have much consequence.

Look at movies with prequels. Say, X-men, or LOTR. Did it take the prequel for the story to make sense? I don't think so. If I'm going to read a prologue, I read it last.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Nighteyes on December 27, 2013, 02:04:46 PM
I think prologues are pretty essential.   Not reading them is like refusing to watch a film or tv show till opening credits have kicked in. 

There is an argument though that some writers especially in the fantasy genre don't actually seem to understand what a prologue should be.  As earlier posters have said a prologue should reveal pertinent information or foreshadow later events through a different POV, an event that takes place years before or a future event.

Robert Jordan's Eye of the World has a very good example of a prologue.   Sadly in later books he completely lost the concept of a prologue and wrote prologues that were over 100 pages long and should have simply be labelled as chapters 1 to 4. 

Another bad prologue is Red Seas Under Red Skies. Good book but the prologue stank. Anyone who has read it will know what I mean!
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Arry on December 27, 2013, 03:09:55 PM
I want to read the story the author wants to tell,  how he wants to tell it. So, yes I read prologues. That said, I can understand that sometimes it's not clear why it's there. But that is also part of the experience.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Dan D Jones on December 27, 2013, 04:17:03 PM
Yes, I will almost always read a prologue.  I do it reluctantly, hissing and spitting and muttering under my breath, but I do read them.  The below quote isn't the reason I don't like prologues, but it captures the reason remarkably well.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/08/21/elmore-leonard-10-rules-of-writing/

Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”


Prologues are hooptedoodle.  They're lazy writing or a cheap trick.  If they contain essential background material, then the author is too lazy or inexperienced or unskilled to properly fold the material into the story.  If they contain an attention-grabbing cliff-hanger that gets answered at the end of the story, then they're a desperate attempt to grab your interest and force you to read the rest of the book, evidently because the author feels the book isn't interesting enough to keep your attention on its own.

There are exceptions but they are precisely that - exceptions, exceptional, unusual, outside the norm.  A highly skilled writer can break all the rules s/he likes and still write a book that leaves me panting for more.  Most writers aren't that highly skilled.

Yes, that's a strong opinion.  It's mine.  I'm entitled to it.  If you absolutely love prologues and think I'm being a narrow-minded, judgmental boor, then that's your opinion and you're entitled to it too.  We can still get along.  You can read the prologues with pleasure.  I'll read them too.  I won't like it, but I'll do it.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Doctor_Chill on December 27, 2013, 05:12:21 PM
I think that if people switched the title of "Chapter 1" with "Prologue," people would say it's bad. I have no clue what's wrong with prologues. Maybe I've been sheltered to the numerous bad ones. Probably have. But I don't understand what people have against the mere idea of a prologue.

Looking back, Red Seas Under Red Skies had a horrible prologue, but it did ramp up the tension quickly. The Lies of Locke Lamora's prologue does a good job of setting up the alternating time lines and beginning with backstory and emotional connections. Just read A Game of Thrones's prologue. So atmospheric and intriguing. Just think if the book didn't have it. It's like taking key parts out of the story.

Now, I will say that David Edding's type of prologues aren't my cup of tea, and I think that's where the hesitation comes from. But people, what kind of smart writer does that anymore, unless they're trying to channel the familiar and nostalgia of past Fantasy? Why do we still rail on prologues? They're there for a reason. Skipping it is *sometimes* (most of the time) crazy.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Yuan François on December 27, 2013, 05:15:17 PM
Yes, I will almost always read a prologue.  I do it reluctantly, hissing and spitting and muttering under my breath, but I do read them.  The below quote isn't the reason I don't like prologues, but it captures the reason remarkably well.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/08/21/elmore-leonard-10-rules-of-writing/

Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”


Prologues are hooptedoodle.  They're lazy writing or a cheap trick.  If they contain essential background material, then the author is too lazy or inexperienced or unskilled to properly fold the material into the story.  If they contain an attention-grabbing cliff-hanger that gets answered at the end of the story, then they're a desperate attempt to grab your interest and force you to read the rest of the book, evidently because the author feels the book isn't interesting enough to keep your attention on its own.

There are exceptions but they are precisely that - exceptions, exceptional, unusual, outside the norm.  A highly skilled writer can break all the rules s/he likes and still write a book that leaves me panting for more.  Most writers aren't that highly skilled.

Yes, that's a strong opinion.  It's mine.  I'm entitled to it.  If you absolutely love prologues and think I'm being a narrow-minded, judgmental boor, then that's your opinion and you're entitled to it too.  We can still get along.  You can read the prologues with pleasure.  I'll read them too.  I won't like it, but I'll do it.

And I have a similar point of view.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Sindran on December 28, 2013, 03:23:15 AM
I've never heard of a person not reading the prologue. It's part of the book, it may even be essential to know what's going on later in the book. Weird. Sure, sometimes I think they're unnecessary but if it's there I'll read it.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: G_R_Matthews on December 28, 2013, 09:53:50 AM
Now, I will say that David Edding's type of prologues aren't my cup of tea, and I think that's where the hesitation comes from... They're there for a reason. Skipping it is *sometimes* (most of the time) crazy.

I picked up Edding's books as a teenager (a long time ago) and loved those prologues :) If I'm right he managed to turn them into whole books later on - Polgara and Belgarath. I think, you can see I am vague here, that he stated one of the reasons for writing the books was to play with the genre a little - creating a magic system that people couldn't go around shouting out magical phrases and wiggling fingers (and what is magic without wiggling fingers :P ). The Prologues can be viewed in a similar way and/or just a reversal of all of Tolkiens 'history of middle earth' stories and bits/pieces.

I have nothing against prologues, I quite like them. They do a job, and as long as they do that then they will be here to stay :)

(This vague post is brought to by me - sorry  :-\ )
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: apj868 on December 28, 2013, 11:31:29 AM
I always read the prologues, they are as much a part of the book as any other chapter (or an epilogue if the book has that).

Prologues if done right can be an excellent opportunity for early world-building or the introduction of a threat that is in the background for much of the book. If done wrong though they can be a waste of space that could be used to tell more of the "main" story.

I have read many books where the opening 100+ pages seem more like an extended prologue than the start of the book, that one can be even more annoying than a short prologue that has nothing to do with the main plot.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Sean Cunningham on December 28, 2013, 12:04:20 PM
I don't trust prologues. When I'm reading a Kindle sample, I'm trying to decide whether or not I'm interested in the rest of the book. I'm looking at characters, world, story and writing style.

The prologue can be in third person while the rest of the novel is in first. The prologue can be about some character who I will get to know and become quickly attached to and then chapter 1 has nothing to do with them.

I've read prologues that would have worked much better as a flashback for the main character introduced in Chapter 1, because by then I would have gotten to know the main character and come to care about them a little and maybe share in whatever emotion the flashback is trying to evoke. As in, "Wow, that was a horrible thing Jane went through back then" as opposed to "Okay, this scene has kind of horrible things happening in it but who are these people?"

If I spend too much time in Chapter 1 wondering what the hell it has to do with the prologue I just read, then I've fallen out of the story and I'm much less likely to continue reading it. It's very easy to forget to make that quick connection for the reader.

Dan quoted Elmore Leonard above. I'll quote from Kurt Vonnegut's rules for writing (http://thoughtcapital.wordpress.com/2007/04/13/kurt-vonneguts-8-rules-for-writing/):

Quote
5. Start as close to the end as possible.

I would much rather begin with Our Protagonist struggling in the ashes of a ruined world because I would be thinking What was the terrible catastrophe that did all this? I will be hooked to Our Protagonist's perspective and I will be intrigued. And then later on, when the author skillfully doles out the answer, revealing it piece by piece to both me the reader and to Our Protagonist who's struggles I have come to care about, it will feel like a reward. It will feel like it means something.

There are always exceptions, but for these reasons I regard prologues with deep suspicion.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: ScarletBea on December 28, 2013, 01:28:53 PM
I would much rather begin with Our Protagonist struggling in the ashes of a ruined world because I would be thinking What was the terrible catastrophe that did all this? I will be hooked to Our Protagonist's perspective and I will be intrigued. And then later on, when the author skillfully doles out the answer, revealing it piece by piece to both me the reader and to Our Protagonist who's struggles I have come to care about, it will feel like a reward. It will feel like it means something.

See, personally I really don't like this, the flashback-type story, when it starts with the apparently main event and then works backwards. It's something that really bugs me, whether in books or films, or TV.
Give me a prologue anytime ;D
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: nbhagat on December 28, 2013, 03:03:50 PM
I tend to avoid them due to the fact that I am extremely excited to start the book. I can't hold it in once I open it and go right over the prologue.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Doctor_Chill on December 28, 2013, 04:35:30 PM
I would much rather begin with Our Protagonist struggling in the ashes of a ruined world because I would be thinking What was the terrible catastrophe that did all this? I will be hooked to Our Protagonist's perspective and I will be intrigued. And then later on, when the author skillfully doles out the answer, revealing it piece by piece to both me the reader and to Our Protagonist who's struggles I have come to care about, it will feel like a reward. It will feel like it means something.

See, personally I really don't like this, the flashback-type story, when it starts with the apparently main event and then works backwards. It's something that really bugs me, whether in books or films, or TV.
Give me a prologue anytime ;D

cue Red Seas Under Red Skies. I'm with Scarlet. I hate these kind of prologues.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: G_R_Matthews on December 28, 2013, 10:00:37 PM
See, personally I really don't like this, the flashback-type story, when it starts with the apparently main event and then works backwards. It's something that really bugs me, whether in books or films, or TV.
Give me a prologue anytime ;D

Bit like the film Titanic, no prologue, no flashbacks (as such) but you knew how it was going to end! Same with Pearl Harbour... if a book starts on a high then it can be difficult in the flash-back sections to reach a similar high (or higher high).

To talk of Eddings and Tolkien (I apologise if these appearing in the same breath annoys anyone) but they started small, in the stories as, I would imaging in life (from babe to man), and built to the exciting high point.

Too much of "this is how it ends, now lets look at how it begins" in a prologue can be self-defeating.

(I should register an interest, admit to having a 'horse in this race' etc - my book has a prologue and I am not apologising for it :) )
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Idlewilder on December 28, 2013, 10:41:39 PM
I like a good prologue.

Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: tcsimpson on December 29, 2013, 11:25:54 AM
I like prologues. More often than not they add some decent backstory and worldbuilding to the rest of the book or might build tension. Take WOT, since many mentioned it. It let me know what the One Power was and the POTENTIAL of it.

As for rules of writing, besides the obvious grammar etc, I have learned to take them with a grain of salt. What works for one person might not work for another. This very post shows that we don't all like or dislike the same thing. If we did we would live in a world of black and white with no variation. Who wants that? You cannot please all the people all the time .... and it's the very reason we have enjoyable variety.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10257246/And-the-first-rule-of-writers-club-is...-there-are-no-rules.html (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10257246/And-the-first-rule-of-writers-club-is...-there-are-no-rules.html)
There is no one right way.
I'll end with this:
"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." - W. Somerset Maugham
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Sindran on December 29, 2013, 11:44:56 PM
Question to those who don't read prologues: if something comes up later in the book that relies heavily on the prologue for understanding it, do you go back and read it?
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Idlewilder on December 30, 2013, 12:12:23 AM
Further question: how would they know to go back?

Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Yuan François on December 30, 2013, 12:58:06 AM
Question to those who don't read prologues: if something comes up later in the book that relies heavily on the prologue for understanding it, do you go back and read it?
Yes. But as far as I'm concerned, any introduction of a character should not be too heavily dependent on the prologue...
We would get to know the character later on in the book.


Christopher Paolini's Eragon had a prologue wit ha character, Arya, who played a major role in the novel. It described the conflict between her and someotherguyIcantremember whilst trying to protect the dragon egg. But it didnt matter much. The mc was inquisitive, and all questions were answered.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Yuan François on December 30, 2013, 12:58:59 AM
Further question: how would they know to go back?

When the book is finished and questions aren't answered, I guess.   :s
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: AnneL on December 30, 2013, 01:17:37 AM
A lot depends on the pacing of the story, too. A long prologue in which nothing much happens I might accept in a big long book that I know is going to take a while to gather steam, but in a shorter book I want a snappier or more eventful prologue.  But even in a prologue in which nothing much happens, I want it to show me that something is at stake.  If it's just setting up framework for the actual story, it's redundant.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Dan D Jones on December 30, 2013, 03:08:15 PM
I would much rather begin with Our Protagonist struggling in the ashes of a ruined world because I would be thinking What was the terrible catastrophe that did all this? I will be hooked to Our Protagonist's perspective and I will be intrigued. And then later on, when the author skillfully doles out the answer, revealing it piece by piece to both me the reader and to Our Protagonist who's struggles I have come to care about, it will feel like a reward. It will feel like it means something.

See, personally I really don't like this, the flashback-type story, when it starts with the apparently main event and then works backwards. It's something that really bugs me, whether in books or films, or TV.
Give me a prologue anytime ;D

What's the story that's being told in the book?  If the book is the story of the cataclysm, then I'm not overly fond of starting after the fact and jumping back to tell the story.  On the other hand, if the book is the story of characters dealing with the aftermath of the cataclysm and the details of the cataclysm are essentially just backstory, then I have no problem with flashbacks and such filling in the info you need to understand the aftermath.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: nbhagat on December 30, 2013, 04:11:54 PM
Sounds like new Man of Steel movie.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Justan Henner on December 30, 2013, 05:48:42 PM

How many times do you see an author taking such a risk? So as to put the most important information in the prologue?

Honestly, I'm a firm believer that the first ten minutes of a movie are the most important part, and that the first twenty pages of a novel are as well. They should set the mood, or rather the lens through which you see the rest of the book. However, I do think that a lot of authors fail in that respect, by providing information that is either too relevant to the overall story arc and not the current story arc (like wheel of time) or by seeming completely detached from the entire novel. For me, the best prologues are those that introduce a character that is incredibly important to the overall story, but for some reason doesn't play a large role in the beginning chapters, (time difference, location, etc.)

Sorry if others have said things like this already. I posted this and then walked away for a few days because of family stuff haha. I'm replying as I have things to say, before I've read the entire thread (which I hate to do, but didn't want to forget my point).
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Justan Henner on December 30, 2013, 06:02:39 PM
Prologues are hooptedoodle.  They're lazy writing or a cheap trick.  If they contain essential background material, then the author is too lazy or inexperienced or unskilled to properly fold the material into the story.  If they contain an attention-grabbing cliff-hanger that gets answered at the end of the story, then they're a desperate attempt to grab your interest and force you to read the rest of the book, evidently because the author feels the book isn't interesting enough to keep your attention on its own.

There are exceptions but they are precisely that - exceptions, exceptional, unusual, outside the norm.  A highly skilled writer can break all the rules s/he likes and still write a book that leaves me panting for more.  Most writers aren't that highly skilled.

Haha, I have a similar view of flashbacks/Dream sequences. I would much rather see the scene in person, in the prologue, than see it in a flashback or a dream later on. I think you're right, a poorly written prologue can be a big detractor, but I don't think prologues themselves are lazy writing/a cheap trick. I think they're a clever trick, difficult to master, but more than worthwhile if you do (and potentially damning if you don't).
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: xiagan on December 30, 2013, 06:49:36 PM
I always read the prologue and even if you don't understand it at the time (Eye of the World, Way of Kings), it still gives you a scope and will make you read the book in a certain way.

I recently added a 3rd person prologue to my 1st person novel because there was some information I couldn't get in in a believable way otherwise. If you write first person, you can't show stuff your character isn't interested in or thinks is common knowledge.

Since my prologue takes place after the main action of the novel, I did a fair bit of foreshadowing in it too and I think it really helps the flow of my novel.

I agree that a prologue is not a good way to find out if you will like the book. If you can't abide first person, my third person prologue would have fooled you.

I've never been at a disadvantage for not reading them...
Well, that's something you just can't know. There is no way finding out if you would have enjoyed the book more if you had read the prologue because you can't read a book for the first time again. ;)
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Arry on December 30, 2013, 09:49:04 PM
I don't think prologues themselves are lazy writing/a cheap trick. I think they're a clever trick, difficult to master, but more than worthwhile if you do (and potentially damning if you don't).

This.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Sindran on December 31, 2013, 05:59:22 PM
Prologues are hooptedoodle.  They're lazy writing or a cheap trick.  If they contain essential background material, then the author is too lazy or inexperienced or unskilled to properly fold the material into the story.  If they contain an attention-grabbing cliff-hanger that gets answered at the end of the story, then they're a desperate attempt to grab your interest and force you to read the rest of the book, evidently because the author feels the book isn't interesting enough to keep your attention on its own.

There are exceptions but they are precisely that - exceptions, exceptional, unusual, outside the norm.  A highly skilled writer can break all the rules s/he likes and still write a book that leaves me panting for more.  Most writers aren't that highly skilled.

Haha, I have a similar view of flashbacks/Dream sequences. I would much rather see the scene in person, in the prologue, than see it in a flashback or a dream later on. I think you're right, a poorly written prologue can be a big detractor, but I don't think prologues themselves are lazy writing/a cheap trick. I think they're a clever trick, difficult to master, but more than worthwhile if you do (and potentially damning if you don't).

See, that's what I'm talking about. If the character is going to have an important flashback it is better to stick in the prologue.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: EricaDakin on January 04, 2014, 05:32:49 PM
Personally I don't see why you would skip the prologue. That's like saying 'I'm not reading chapter 3 because I don't like chapter 3s'. Okay, that's an extreme example, but the author wouldn't have put in a prologue unless they felt it was relevant.

I also see them as giving relevant information which isn't about the book's main protagonist. To me, if a book or a series has a clear protagonist but hops between viewpoints, then Chapter One should be about the protagonist. If you have important information to reveal before that, it's a prologue.

I'm not an expert of course, but that's what my gut feeling says, and I often go with my gut...
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Evazorek on January 06, 2014, 07:48:02 AM
I usually read the prologue to a book. If it's a book that is new to me that I have not heard of before I will read it as a means to gauge my interest in it. If it's a book that has been recommended to me or is part of a series I am familiar with I will generally read it just before I start the book to whet my appetite for what is to come.

I think the only time I don't read the prologue is when I have a kindle edition of a book because it's just easier to get stuck into the book than going off to find where the prologue for it is. if that's the case though I will probably have already read the prologue online before getting the book.

I like prologues, they feel to me like the authors attempt at making a trailer for the book and I enjoy trailers as they serve to get me excited for the content I am about to consume. Like trailers, however, I prefer my prologues to be as spoiler free as possible and to not give any of the good parts away. :)
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: ScarletBea on February 24, 2017, 06:36:08 PM
I remembered this discussion when I found Brent Weeks' article on prologues:

http://www.brentweeks.com/writing-advice/writing-advice-prologues/ (http://www.brentweeks.com/writing-advice/writing-advice-prologues/)
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: ultamentkiller on August 01, 2017, 05:04:53 PM
Okay, @ScarletBea, I have a bone to pick with you.

Me: Wow. I just visited Brent Weeks' website for the first time in a while. And it looks so different. And here's some writing advice about prologues I haven't read! Wow, this looks different than what others have said. Let me come here and find an old topic about prologues. Aha. Here's one. Now I'll scroll down this page and skim over some comments... Dammit! It's already here, with no comments about it!

I have been foiled.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Lanko on August 01, 2017, 05:34:36 PM
Okay, @ScarletBea, I have a bone to pick with you.

Me: Wow. I just visited Brent Weeks' website for the first time in a while. And it looks so different. And here's some writing advice about prologues I haven't read! Wow, this looks different than what others have said. Let me come here and find an old topic about prologues. Aha. Here's one. Now I'll scroll down this page and skim over some comments... Dammit! It's already here, with no comments about it!

I have been foiled.

Eclipse is gaining followers for his threadomancing cult.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: ScarletBea on August 01, 2017, 06:17:42 PM
Sorry for foiling you, hehe - not my fault nobody replied :P
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Peat on August 03, 2017, 12:07:02 AM
Problem is there isn't a huge amount to reply to in that article! Its a pretty succinct summary of the main problems  in using prologues and there's not a lot to say other than "Yup, got that right". I wish he'd done something on how to do it right mind and when to consider using the tool.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: The Gem Cutter on August 03, 2017, 01:40:08 AM
His best point relates to the fact that using a prologue is starting your book twice. Taking this further, one must accomplish the same tasks in the prologue and chapter 1:
1. Communicate the kind of story and story-telling the reader can expect.
2. Some indication of what kinds of endings are on or off the table.
3. Present hooks

Bonus points if you have different hooks in each.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Peat on August 03, 2017, 01:58:06 AM
His best point relates to the fact that using a prologue is starting your book twice. Taking this further, one must accomplish the same tasks in the prologue and chapter 1:
1. Communicate the kind of story and story-telling the reader can expect.
2. Some indication of what kinds of endings are on or off the table.
3. Present hooks

Bonus points if you have different hooks in each.

Ah, the different hooks is an easy one - you show the villain in the prologue and the hero in chapter one!
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: J.R. Darewood on August 03, 2017, 06:29:39 AM
His best point relates to the fact that using a prologue is starting your book twice. Taking this further, one must accomplish the same tasks in the prologue and chapter 1:
1. Communicate the kind of story and story-telling the reader can expect.
2. Some indication of what kinds of endings are on or off the table.
3. Present hooks

Bonus points if you have different hooks in each.

Ah, the different hooks is an easy one - you show the villain in the prologue and the hero in chapter one!

That's what I did!

I don't know what to do with people who say things like "I don't like prologues" That's like saying "I don't like books with red in the cover" or "I don't like books where the author has used a fragment for a sentence in dialogue more than three times in the first 200 pages"-- it just seems totally random and arbitrary to me.  Some books have prologues... that's just how they are.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Peat on August 03, 2017, 09:21:46 AM
His best point relates to the fact that using a prologue is starting your book twice. Taking this further, one must accomplish the same tasks in the prologue and chapter 1:
1. Communicate the kind of story and story-telling the reader can expect.
2. Some indication of what kinds of endings are on or off the table.
3. Present hooks

Bonus points if you have different hooks in each.

Ah, the different hooks is an easy one - you show the villain in the prologue and the hero in chapter one!

That's what I did!

I don't know what to do with people who say things like "I don't like prologues" That's like saying "I don't like books with red in the cover" or "I don't like books where the author has used a fragment for a sentence in dialogue more than three times in the first 200 pages"-- it just seems totally random and arbitrary to me.  Some books have prologues... that's just how they are.

They're disliked because a lot of books used them because they were de rigueur and for no particular reason or effect beyond that. They're the orphan farmboy of literary devices.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: J.R. Darewood on August 03, 2017, 10:36:19 AM
I also like orphan farmboys.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: The Gem Cutter on August 03, 2017, 12:07:54 PM
One last item, relating to starting your book twice. Chapter 1 has to be able to function without the prologue, because a lot of readers will skip a prologue. Which is why I kept mine to a single page :)
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Eclipse on August 03, 2017, 12:37:45 PM
One last item, relating to starting your book twice. Chapter 1 has to be able to function without the prologue, because a lot of readers will skip a prologue. Which is why I kept mine to a single page :)

Didn't  one of your favourite author have two prologue lasting 70 pages in one of his books? R.S Bakker
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: ScarletBea on August 03, 2017, 12:51:45 PM
I also don't understand people who skip prologues ::)
It's a part of the book, and must be included - it's like visiting a place but wanting to appear immediately there, whithout passing through the road there, right?
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: cupiscent on August 03, 2017, 01:00:26 PM
I didn't read the prologues in the Belgariad until about the third time I read the series, and mostly when I re-read these days I skip them as well. They're tonally completely different, and provide background/mythic information that is always recounted in the text anyway. There is no reason for them to be there.

In general, I'm not a fan of prologues. Most of the reasons for having one are sort of cheat / cheap reasons - you want to show the villain/threat/whatever (which suggests to me your actual start is weak) or you want to evoke some epic feel (which you should do in your main text if you want it) or... I don't know. I'm not sure I've ever read a prologue that really worked for me. And, indeed, I can think of two books off the top of my head that were amazing, but I nearly didn't read because of the prologue. (Those books are: Hartman's Seraphina and Abraham's The Dragon's Path.)

I don't skip prologues as a matter of course, though. But if - as was the case with Eddings - I'm bored or getting lost in the prologue, I might skip to the first chapter to see if it keeps the same tone/approach/whatever is making me bounce.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: The Gem Cutter on August 03, 2017, 03:06:34 PM
I do not have a rule for reading prologues, but I am prone to skip them if they are long or not interesting - just as I am wont to do for any prose. And in my mind they're as much a part of the book as anything else, so I do not recall which books have them or not.

For my part, I do not like prologues that are separated by great swaths of time or distance, as a rule, the 'expositionary prologue' so to speak. Prologues are supposed to set up Chapter 1, not provide backstory. I think authors writing converging tales often feel compelled to show you that, just so you know, there's another character WAY OVER THERE that we'll be getting to in a moment - which is of course sort of foolish, since the whole point of jumping POVs is to experience the shift, and not only requires no setup - but suffers for it.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Not Lu on August 03, 2017, 04:33:16 PM
All that really matters about a prologue is that it's interesting and contributes to the main plot.

I think Brent Weeks is off the mark when he says you have to start the book twice... and that's bad. By his logic, if you change POV then you have to start the book again and again for each POV. The Wheel of Time series has 147 POVs. It didn't seem to hurt the story.

Each POV just needs to be interesting and relevant to the story. Same for a prologue.

Besides, the real question is: Should there be epilogues in books? I mean, if the author did their job the story would be finished in the last chapter. Why have an epilogue?
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: The Gem Cutter on August 03, 2017, 05:46:59 PM
Not Lu: At any transition, within a chapter, between them, etc., there's a risk of losing reader interest. A prologue has this risk at its leading edge and at the transition to chap. 1. But unlike the POV shifts you mention, this has more weight because a reader has not purchased the book yet or invested scores/hundreds of pages when they flip open and sample the first page of the prologue.

And no one said anything was bad - only that you have to ensure the prologue and Chapt. 1 are both extra engaging. Now, all chapters should be engaging, but not all need to be engaging right off or to the same extent the way beginnings need to be. By Chapt. 5, we're either on board or not.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Peat on August 03, 2017, 06:48:11 PM
I didn't read the prologues in the Belgariad until about the third time I read the series, and mostly when I re-read these days I skip them as well. They're tonally completely different, and provide background/mythic information that is always recounted in the text anyway. There is no reason for them to be there.

In general, I'm not a fan of prologues. Most of the reasons for having one are sort of cheat / cheap reasons - you want to show the villain/threat/whatever (which suggests to me your actual start is weak) or you want to evoke some epic feel (which you should do in your main text if you want it) or... I don't know. I'm not sure I've ever read a prologue that really worked for me. And, indeed, I can think of two books off the top of my head that were amazing, but I nearly didn't read because of the prologue. (Those books are: Hartman's Seraphina and Abraham's The Dragon's Path.)

I don't skip prologues as a matter of course, though. But if - as was the case with Eddings - I'm bored or getting lost in the prologue, I might skip to the first chapter to see if it keeps the same tone/approach/whatever is making me bounce.

Heh. I mostly brought The Dragon's Path on the strength of the prologue and regret doing so.

I do disagree with the bolded though. The use of fairly small-scale, contained, ordinary settings for the beginning of the Epic is a classic move. It grounds the reader in the story quicker and all that. It does also put a fairly hard stop on how much epic feeling you can stick in the text to begin with though. Using a prologue is often a far more sensible way to give a story an epic framing in those circs.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: cupiscent on August 03, 2017, 11:37:20 PM
Heh. I mostly brought The Dragon's Path on the strength of the prologue and regret doing so.

Hah! And there's the flip side. :) (Though, the info and themes from the prologue do come back into the story, and they're a big part of the overall plot... but that particular scenario and concept is never really central.)

I do disagree with the bolded though. The use of fairly small-scale, contained, ordinary settings for the beginning of the Epic is a classic move. It grounds the reader in the story quicker and all that. It does also put a fairly hard stop on how much epic feeling you can stick in the text to begin with though. Using a prologue is often a far more sensible way to give a story an epic framing in those circs.

I definitely agree that that sort of thing is very common, but I still don't like it. My dislike is comprised of a range of things, partly that I'm bored of orphan farmboys (sorry Bradley! ;P) and partly that I've lost patience in my old middle-ish age with the style of fantasy storytelling that feels like it needs to ground me in the mundane before taking me on a grand exploration. I'm a fantasy reader; I'm here for the wonder. If you can't at least show me the horizon in the first chapter, my general feeling is that this story is going to move too slow.

I very, very definitely note that I am speaking for myself here, and not for the majority of readers. I mean, a prime offender in this category for me was The Name of the Wind, which drove me mad with tedium for most of the first half, but is obviously wildly popular. (Its prologue / framing narrative promised that there was going to be Epic Heroism guys, honest, trust me, you're going to love it, but that stuff took its sweet time showing up...)

Speaking of me being a weird fantasy reader...
I think Brent Weeks is off the mark when he says you have to start the book twice... and that's bad. By his logic, if you change POV then you have to start the book again and again for each POV.
To be honest, I think that's not a bad way of looking at it. Especially if you're bringing in a new POV early in the book, yes, you do need to convince the reader all over again that this is an interesting story. If they're already invested, like TGC covered, then your sell is less hard. (Both Jordan and Martin have heaps of POVs, but both of them kept it tight and interrelated to start with.) I vividly remember reading one book where I turned over to the sixth chapter, and found it was yet another new POV - every chapter had been a new one, and none of them were involved with each other, and I didn't care about any of them yet, and that's when I took the book back to the library.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Peat on August 04, 2017, 01:08:50 AM

Hah! And there's the flip side. :) (Though, the info and themes from the prologue do come back into the story, and they're a big part of the overall plot... but that particular scenario and concept is never really central.)

Yeah, I saw when I flipped to the back  ;D Problem was, the tone of the prologue really grabbed me, and the tone of the rest of the book, not so much.

I definitely agree that that sort of thing is very common, but I still don't like it. My dislike is comprised of a range of things, partly that I'm bored of orphan farmboys (sorry Bradley! ;P) and partly that I've lost patience in my old middle-ish age with the style of fantasy storytelling that feels like it needs to ground me in the mundane before taking me on a grand exploration. I'm a fantasy reader; I'm here for the wonder. If you can't at least show me the horizon in the first chapter, my general feeling is that this story is going to move too slow.

I very, very definitely note that I am speaking for myself here, and not for the majority of readers. I mean, a prime offender in this category for me was The Name of the Wind, which drove me mad with tedium for most of the first half, but is obviously wildly popular. (Its prologue / framing narrative promised that there was going to be Epic Heroism guys, honest, trust me, you're going to love it, but that stuff took its sweet time showing up...)

Snap on Name of the Wind.

I... well I think I may be agreeing with you more than I agree with me here. I too am becoming impatient and wish people to get to the point. But, if going that route, it is a useful trick. And I do still enjoy it when done well, not that I can remember the last time that was, although that's partly due to authors and publishers running clear of it because they're sick to death of it.

I would also add that for me, the point is character, so I'm not sure I'm quite talking the same thing as you.

To be honest, I think that's not a bad way of looking at it. Especially if you're bringing in a new POV early in the book, yes, you do need to convince the reader all over again that this is an interesting story. If they're already invested, like TGC covered, then your sell is less hard. (Both Jordan and Martin have heaps of POVs, but both of them kept it tight and interrelated to start with.) I vividly remember reading one book where I turned over to the sixth chapter, and found it was yet another new POV - every chapter had been a new one, and none of them were involved with each other, and I didn't care about any of them yet, and that's when I took the book back to the library.

Snap again. I agree that every new PoV is a new opening chapter. The degree of sell depends a lot on how obviously related to the established plot line it is. A Darker Shade of Magic lost me on its first PoV change, Saraband's book lost me due to there being too many in the opening chapters, and I ended up reading The Fell Sword only by skipping half the chapters - elsewise I'd have put it down due to too many new PoVs.

But then maybe I'm weird too :P
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: J.R. Darewood on August 04, 2017, 03:51:30 AM
ugh you all are so finicky.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Not Lu on August 04, 2017, 05:36:48 PM
Not Lu: At any transition, within a chapter, between them, etc., there's a risk of losing reader interest. A prologue has this risk at its leading edge and at the transition to chap. 1. But unlike the POV shifts you mention, this has more weight because a reader has not purchased the book yet or invested scores/hundreds of pages when they flip open and sample the first page of the prologue.

And no one said anything was bad - only that you have to ensure the prologue and Chapt. 1 are both extra engaging. Now, all chapters should be engaging, but not all need to be engaging right off or to the same extent the way beginnings need to be. By Chapt. 5, we're either on board or not.


To be honest, I think that's not a bad way of looking at it. Especially if you're bringing in a new POV early in the book, yes, you do need to convince the reader all over again that this is an interesting story. If they're already invested, like TGC covered, then your sell is less hard. (Both Jordan and Martin have heaps of POVs, but both of them kept it tight and interrelated to start with.) I vividly remember reading one book where I turned over to the sixth chapter, and found it was yet another new POV - every chapter had been a new one, and none of them were involved with each other, and I didn't care about any of them yet, and that's when I took the book back to the library.

I agree with both of you. The most important thing is making sure the POV shift is connected in some way to the previously read story. The reader needs a reason to engage with a new character. It's less important with prologues because most readers expect the prologue to be more about the wider world or a larger story arc. They're forgiving if chapter 1 starts with a small view of the world through one POV then has the world expand as the chapters unfold.

But, then again, I'm probably more forgiving than most. I love books by Tom Clancy even though he starts with three or four seemingly unrelated POVs that slowly work their way toward each other and may never meet until the climax. Brandon Sanderson did something similar in The Way of Kings and it didn't put me off.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: The Gem Cutter on August 05, 2017, 05:32:56 AM
The reader needs a reason to engage with a new character.

I think this is a key point after a cut from a different POV. The new character and/or situation should be intriguing in some way, as a matter of course, either by similarity or contrast. But regarding the link (clear or unclear, surprising or not), the middle-ground should be avoided. The connection should either be clear and interesting - like cutting from the hunter to the prey, the assassin and her target, etc., or unclear and interesting in a way that the lack of connection to what came before is interesting on its own because it is unclear - like cutting from a battlefield where a few face many to ... a farmer dozing in a field half a world away with no immediate clue as to why - so long as it becomes clear before the next cut.

The game is such that the reader will want to know the connection, and the longer that is withheld, the greater the danger of losing them. But if you can get there quickly enough - perhaps coming to realize within a dozen pages or so that the farmer in the field is the next in line of succession, and the king is probably going to die in the battle - you can tie things together without losing too many readers. Timing varies greatly, but for my part, it should be clear before the next cut, as a rule.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: S. K. Inkslinger on August 05, 2017, 07:37:29 AM
The reader needs a reason to engage with a new character.

I think this is a key point after a cut from a different POV. The new character and/or situation should be intriguing in some way, as a matter of course, either by similarity or contrast. But regarding the link (clear or unclear, surprising or not), the middle-ground should be avoided. The connection should either be clear and interesting - like cutting from the hunter to the prey, the assassin and her target, etc., or unclear and interesting in a way that the lack of connection to what came before is interesting on its own because it is unclear - like cutting from a battlefield where a few face many to ... a farmer dozing in a field half a world away with no immediate clue as to why - so long as it becomes clear before the next cut.

The game is such that the reader will want to know the connection, and the longer that is withheld, the greater the danger of losing them. But if you can get there quickly enough - perhaps coming to realize within a dozen pages or so that the farmer in the field is the next in line of succession, and the king is probably going to die in the battle - you can tie things together without losing too many readers. Timing varies greatly, but for my part, it should be clear before the next cut, as a rule.

This. I almost quit reading ASOIF many times when the POV changes to a seemingly irrelevent character (well everytime it went to Bran's chapter, for an example). The POVs and prologue of the series doesn't seemed immediately relevant/ connected to the situation and characters at hand until much later in the books, and by then readers would already have forgotten about them. I utterly hated those types of prologues.  :P
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: J.R. Darewood on August 05, 2017, 11:15:09 AM
The reader needs a reason to engage with a new character.

I think this is a key point after a cut from a different POV. The new character and/or situation should be intriguing in some way, as a matter of course, either by similarity or contrast. But regarding the link (clear or unclear, surprising or not), the middle-ground should be avoided. The connection should either be clear and interesting - like cutting from the hunter to the prey, the assassin and her target, etc., or unclear and interesting in a way that the lack of connection to what came before is interesting on its own because it is unclear - like cutting from a battlefield where a few face many to ... a farmer dozing in a field half a world away with no immediate clue as to why - so long as it becomes clear before the next cut.

The game is such that the reader will want to know the connection, and the longer that is withheld, the greater the danger of losing them. But if you can get there quickly enough - perhaps coming to realize within a dozen pages or so that the farmer in the field is the next in line of succession, and the king is probably going to die in the battle - you can tie things together without losing too many readers. Timing varies greatly, but for my part, it should be clear before the next cut, as a rule.

This. I almost quit reading ASOIF many times when the POV changes to a seemingly irrelevent character (well everytime it went to Bran's chapter, for an example). The POVs and prologue of the series doesn't seemed immediately relevant/ connected to the situation and characters at hand until much later in the books, and by then readers would already have forgotten about them. I utterly hated those types of prologues.  :P

I actually skipped ahead *just* to read the Bran chapters b/c he was my favorite character.  You people are all aliens.  This thread is an alien thread from a planet of people who can't read half the books in existence. MAYBE YOU"RE ALL BODY SNATCHERS WHERE DID THE REAL INKERS GO???
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: S. K. Inkslinger on August 05, 2017, 11:40:19 AM
The reader needs a reason to engage with a new character.

I think this is a key point after a cut from a different POV. The new character and/or situation should be intriguing in some way, as a matter of course, either by similarity or contrast. But regarding the link (clear or unclear, surprising or not), the middle-ground should be avoided. The connection should either be clear and interesting - like cutting from the hunter to the prey, the assassin and her target, etc., or unclear and interesting in a way that the lack of connection to what came before is interesting on its own because it is unclear - like cutting from a battlefield where a few face many to ... a farmer dozing in a field half a world away with no immediate clue as to why - so long as it becomes clear before the next cut.

The game is such that the reader will want to know the connection, and the longer that is withheld, the greater the danger of losing them. But if you can get there quickly enough - perhaps coming to realize within a dozen pages or so that the farmer in the field is the next in line of succession, and the king is probably going to die in the battle - you can tie things together without losing too many readers. Timing varies greatly, but for my part, it should be clear before the next cut, as a rule.

This. I almost quit reading ASOIF many times when the POV changes to a seemingly irrelevent character (well everytime it went to Bran's chapter, for an example). The POVs and prologue of the series doesn't seemed immediately relevant/ connected to the situation and characters at hand until much later in the books, and by then readers would already have forgotten about them. I utterly hated those types of prologues.  :P

I actually skipped ahead *just* to read the Bran chapters b/c he was my favorite character.  You people are all aliens.  This thread is an alien thread from a planet of people who can't read half the books in existence. MAYBE YOU"RE ALL BODY SNATCHERS WHERE DID THE REAL INKERS GO???

Destination: Mars. Good bye sweet, sweet Earth  ;D (Talking about POVs, do you like Brienne's one, Bradley? A lot of people seemed to hate it, but I do like it, so that seemed unique)
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Not Lu on August 05, 2017, 05:35:00 PM
I almost quit reading ASOIF many times when the POV changes to a seemingly irrelevent character (well everytime it went to Bran's chapter, for an example).

I agree on Bran. The only thing interesting in his story line is when Jamie dropped him from the tower. It should have ended there.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Yora on August 06, 2017, 02:34:28 PM
I read fantasy books for plot and amazement. I care about fantastic things that characters do and interact with. In my experience prologs don't have much happening and generally start in rather mundane environments. That already makes them unattractive to me. (I think Star Wars has the best opening scene in a movie ever, and I have similar preferences with books.)

I don't think I've ever started a book with a prolog at chapter 1. But when I start a new book with the intention to see what all it's hype is about and if I will like it, I am pretty quick to skip ahead if the prolog doesn't catch me.
Though I have to say I think that I never read more than 2 or 3 chapters in a book where I did that. Skipping ahead to the first chapter is giving the book a second chance after it already lost me.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Nora on August 06, 2017, 02:58:00 PM
I get what you guys mean, but to be honest I've rarely raged against Prologues.

In The Way of Kings by Sanderson, there is a Prelude that makes SO LITTLE SENSE, I had to be warned it wasn't representative of the book and should power through. That it was normal that it made no sense, it would much later on.
If I'd not been told I could have DNF that book... But then it's followed by a prologue that is fantastic, as it's basically showcasing the magic system and gives you a taste of what is to come, before starting a long and (sometimes rather boring) story that is obviously epic in dimensions.

I still have conflicting feelings about that prelude. I don't believe it belongs here. There are too many words we don't get and won't get until so much later. Surgebinders, thunderclasts, dustbringers (no clue what that is 2000 pages in that story!), heralds, radiant... I think this had no place as an intro to the first book. It made me confused rather than curious.

But then most prologues I read anyway. I have a strong habit of DNFing stuff that bores me, so I don't really distinguish things.
I also don't read that many books with prologues.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: J.R. Darewood on August 07, 2017, 09:50:14 AM

I almost never DNF.  Like I was genetically incapable of not finishing a book b/c I need to know what happens... until i read Sanderson.  I DNF him all the time. Sometimes I go back and try to read a few more chapters, then a few years later go back again... but as of now I have never finished a Sanderson book.

What I've started doing just this last couple of years since I"m so busy is I'll read as much of a book as I have time for (like 3/4... maybe 1/2) then when I run out of time I just skip ahead to find out what happens and promise myself I'll eventually go back and read the rest of the book.  They're never bad books, it's always that I have zero time sometimes for a month or two i'm working nonstop 7 a week, and I just can't handle staying up all night and not getting any sleep for however long it'll take to finish the book.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: ultamentkiller on August 09, 2017, 04:49:07 PM
I don't have a huge problem with prologues when they're done right. The prologue for Game of Thrones was the only thing that kept me reading, but the prologues for all of the other books were pointless.
The prologue for Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson is absolutely fantastic. it sets the tone, shows you the types of powers you're dealing with, and gives you the background of the main character that justifies his existence.
And I love the prologue for the first Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne book. It sets up something that makes Aiden's chapters far more interesting than they would be if it wasn't there, and it's not even what you think you knew later on. Man that was good.

Everything else... Kingkiller. Okay, here's an epic story about fighting for survival against these evil... Oh wait. Back up. Let's here a story from the past from an arrogant asshole. The tone shifted, the narration shifted, and the entire story changed. That is exactly how not to do a prologue. Another book I put down recently, can't remember the name, shows me this person torturing a guy. Then in chapter one, that guy shows up out of prison, and the villain seems pretty... Irrelevant up to chapter 5. I didn't read past then. Here's a dark story about evil people torturing... Nope. Sorry. Change up. Ugh.

Other than those examples, I can't think of any prologues that made me excited or put me off. It seems everybody wants one, but really, it's just chapter one. Most people don't seem to understand it's purpose, other than to look cool.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Lanko on August 09, 2017, 10:31:07 PM

Everything else... Kingkiller. Okay, here's an epic story about fighting for survival against these evil... Oh wait. Back up. Let's here a story from the past from an arrogant asshole. The tone shifted, the narration shifted, and the entire story changed. That is exactly how not to do a prologue. Another book I put down recently, can't remember the name, shows me this person torturing a guy. Then in chapter one, that guy shows up out of prison, and the villain seems pretty... Irrelevant up to chapter 5. I didn't read past then. Here's a dark story about evil people torturing... Nope. Sorry. Change up. Ugh.


Well, that's a curious one. I can't count the number of people who got said they hooked to Name of the Wind because of the prologue. I haven't read the book, but ended up reading the prologue and indeed agree I never saw or thought silence could be described in that manner.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Peat on August 09, 2017, 11:27:56 PM

I almost never DNF.  Like I was genetically incapable of not finishing a book b/c I need to know what happens.../quote]

This is what synopsis are for. That, and turning to the last twenty pages of the book.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: ultamentkiller on August 10, 2017, 02:18:26 AM

Everything else... Kingkiller. Okay, here's an epic story about fighting for survival against these evil... Oh wait. Back up. Let's here a story from the past from an arrogant asshole. The tone shifted, the narration shifted, and the entire story changed. That is exactly how not to do a prologue. Another book I put down recently, can't remember the name, shows me this person torturing a guy. Then in chapter one, that guy shows up out of prison, and the villain seems pretty... Irrelevant up to chapter 5. I didn't read past then. Here's a dark story about evil people torturing... Nope. Sorry. Change up. Ugh.


Well, that's a curious one. I can't count the number of people who got said they hooked to Name of the Wind because of the prologue. I haven't read the book, but ended up reading the prologue and indeed agree I never saw or thought silence could be described in that manner.
Apparently the story in the prologue is supposed to be tied up at some point later in the series? However, pretty much every reader I've talked to has said that the ending of book two is not even close to coming back to the prologue so... Meh.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: Lanko on August 10, 2017, 02:22:20 AM

Everything else... Kingkiller. Okay, here's an epic story about fighting for survival against these evil... Oh wait. Back up. Let's here a story from the past from an arrogant asshole. The tone shifted, the narration shifted, and the entire story changed. That is exactly how not to do a prologue. Another book I put down recently, can't remember the name, shows me this person torturing a guy. Then in chapter one, that guy shows up out of prison, and the villain seems pretty... Irrelevant up to chapter 5. I didn't read past then. Here's a dark story about evil people torturing... Nope. Sorry. Change up. Ugh.


Well, that's a curious one. I can't count the number of people who got said they hooked to Name of the Wind because of the prologue. I haven't read the book, but ended up reading the prologue and indeed agree I never saw or thought silence could be described in that manner.
Apparently the story in the prologue is supposed to be tied up at some point later in the series? However, pretty much every reader I've talked to has said that the ending of book two is not even close to coming back to the prologue so... Meh.

Ah, I see. Yea, from the little I know of the story, the prologue is Kvothe after he killed a king and even in book two that seems extremely far from happenning apparently.

What I meant was how the prose was used to enrapture the reader through the use of language, since I think chapter one was Kvothe serving a bunch of guys, not exactly the most exciting thing.
Title: Re: Prologues
Post by: ultamentkiller on August 12, 2017, 06:28:04 PM
Yeah, the writing totally shifts from the prologue to chapter one, which was also jarring. And then it became a game of "do you know as many words in the dictionary as I do?"