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Author Topic: Prologues  (Read 17625 times)

Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #15 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.
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Offline Yuan François

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #16 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.
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Offline Sindran

Re: Prologues
« Reply #17 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.

Offline G_R_Matthews

Re: Prologues
« Reply #18 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  :-\ )
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Offline apj868

Re: Prologues
« Reply #19 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.

Offline Sean Cunningham

Re: Prologues
« Reply #20 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:

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.
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #21 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
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Offline nbhagat

Re: Prologues
« Reply #22 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.

Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #23 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.
“It’s a dangerous thing, pretense. A man ought to know who he is, even if he isn’t proud to be it.” - Tomorrow the Killing, Daniel Polansky

Offline G_R_Matthews

Re: Prologues
« Reply #24 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 :) )
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Offline Idlewilder

Re: Prologues
« Reply #25 on: December 28, 2013, 10:41:39 PM »
I like a good prologue.

Make Another World.

Offline tcsimpson

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #26 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
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Offline Sindran

Re: Prologues
« Reply #27 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?

Offline Idlewilder

Re: Prologues
« Reply #28 on: December 30, 2013, 12:12:23 AM »
Further question: how would they know to go back?

Make Another World.

Offline Yuan François

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Re: Prologues
« Reply #29 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.
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