September 16, 2019, 01:48:53 PM

Author Topic: Prologues  (Read 17593 times)

Offline Peat

Re: Prologues
« Reply #60 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
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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #61 on: August 04, 2017, 03:51:30 AM »
ugh you all are so finicky.

Offline Not Lu

Re: Prologues
« Reply #62 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.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #63 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.
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Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: Prologues
« Reply #64 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

Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #65 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???

Offline S. K. Inkslinger

Re: Prologues
« Reply #66 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)

Offline Not Lu

Re: Prologues
« Reply #67 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.

Offline Yora

Re: Prologues
« Reply #68 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.

Offline Nora

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #69 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.
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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #70 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.

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Prologues
« Reply #71 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.

Offline Lanko

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #72 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.
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Offline Peat

Re: Prologues
« Reply #73 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.
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Prologues
« Reply #74 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.