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Author Topic: To prologue or not to prologue?  (Read 3115 times)

Offline S.B Nova

To prologue or not to prologue?
« on: March 28, 2016, 06:03:11 AM »
This seems to divide people, some love it and others think it's completely unnecessary and can find it jarring.
Any thoughts?

Offline Nora

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Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2016, 07:19:45 AM »
I think these can get you started :

http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/fantasy-book-discussion/prologues/

http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/fantasy-book-discussion/prologues-love-them-or-hate-them/

I don't have an opinion to share. I read prologues, but to me they're first chapters. If they over-confuse me or turn me off, I put the book down. But the same goes for a first chapter. It doesn't matter.

Sanderson's Way of Kings walks a very fine line with its prologue. It's completely unintelligible to a first reader, and had me put the book down "for later" the first time I tried it.

More to the point, I don't even think that I understand the very essence of prologues. I guess the beginning of Harry Potter is a proper prologue, since it covers actions 11 years prior to the story, but even time doesn't seem to be a great excuse to make a chapter a "prologue".
Ultimately I don't care.  :D
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Offline marshall_lamour

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To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2016, 09:15:28 AM »
I think that there's at least a couple of good reasons for a prologue:

When after a book's completion, you find that there's information that the readers might have enjoyed or benefitted from that just didn't find a way into the story. On the flipside of this, if your story needs the prologue after the fact, it might be broken.

The other reason might be that if you have an established series, you might want to recap or tell something of the interim between that book and the last book, but this may be accomplished more artfully within the story or may not even be necessary (books with immediate succession of one another or that stand alone within the series almost certainly wouldn't need it). Again, even in this case, it should probably provide garnish for the story, rather than making up for the laziness or shortcomings of the storytelling.

This is my personal preference and probably a relatively modern approach to crafting a story. I'm certain that many or even most of the books I've enjoyed and cherished have not abided by such standards.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2016, 02:28:53 PM by marshall_lamour »
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Offline Lanko

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Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2016, 09:33:12 AM »
Game of Thrones also has prologues in all the books, no? I think Jurassic Park also had. Everyone also talks about the Stormlight prologue.

I think a good prologue will be a good set up for the story, specially when the main characters can't be there.

In GoT we get to see the threat of the zombies, but none of the main characters could be there, and the survivor appears in the next chapter to give us some character into Ned as he executes the guy for breaking the oath. We see the usual daily life, the characters think the king coming is the most important thing ever, but we know better.

In JP I think they had a dino in a container and someone died, hinting at what was to come.
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Offline marshall_lamour

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To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2016, 11:23:49 AM »
Yeah, I thought about GoT after the fact. I'm definitely referring more to expository prologues, but you might notice that GoT's prologue is mostly garnish--working well for the story but hardly essential. Plus, I believe he wrote chapter one before anything else, so the prologue's inclusion would have at least come after that--probably much later. In some ways, I could have done without it and taken its revelations as a twist later on, but I understand why he included it.
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Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2016, 12:22:53 PM »
I have a prologue but it's short and sweet and not an info. dump about past history, etc. Basically an event that sets everything in motion that doesn't need a full chapter to flesh out.
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2016, 12:46:34 PM »
If it hadn't been for the Game of Thrones prologue, I wouldn't have pushed on through Robert and Ned trying to explain their family politics through dialogue. The first 50 pages of that book were confusing as hell. Maybe even the first 100. That being said, he could've just called it Chapter One and it would've been fine.
I think the time thing is the best reason for one. Sanderson's prologue makes sense because it happens a few thousand years before the actual story. Sure, it doesn't make sense to the reader for the first time, but it's not supposed to.
Haryy Potter's makes the most sense, since it's the true beginning of the story.
Really though, the name of the chapter doesn't effect my reading. Whether it be the prologue or chapter one, it's still apart of the sequence of events.

Offline marshall_lamour

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Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2016, 02:25:33 PM »
If it hadn't been for the Game of Thrones prologue, I wouldn't have pushed on through Robert and Ned trying to explain their family politics through dialogue. The first 50 pages of that book were confusing as hell. Maybe even the first 100. That being said, he could've just called it Chapter One and it would've been fine.

It's hard for me to gauge my own reaction, because, shamefully, I saw the show first.  After the fact I could have done without, but in terms of my first reaction to the prologue in the show, I forgot it pretty quickly and was immediately engrossed in the Starks.  However, I think in many ways, that's the real trick of it--to read/watch on without necessarily being conscious of all the subtleties of your intrigue.  Anyone who had really hung onto the promises made in that prologue were probably a bit disappointed; instead, it managed to frame the whole rest of the story, which otherwise would have been (a little) hard to recognize as fantasy.

As far as calling it Chapter One, I believe GoT was pretty strict on its cast of character perspectives, and I don't think GRRM wanted to make that character seem like he was really part of that cast.  I think it also helped to rein in reader expectations a bit.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2016, 02:28:23 PM by marshall_lamour »
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Offline S.B Nova

Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2016, 06:14:52 PM »
Wow, such interesting replies! Personally, I think they should only be used if they really add something to the story, like Harry Potter for instance. In all honesty, I can't remember the prologue in GOT. A Dance with Dragons was so long, I can only recall the big bits. But George's world is so complicated, he might need one!

Offline marshall_lamour

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Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2016, 12:15:36 AM »


... George's world is so complicated, he might need one!

I think the beauty of his storytelling is that he really doesn't. He finds so many ways to tell the reader what they need to hear and hold back just enough to intrigue. Between the wiki and "The World of Ice and Fire," we get plenty of backstory to whet our appetite without burdening the body of the narrative.
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2016, 12:26:51 AM »
That's highly debatable.
Take Feast For Crows for example. I got a chapter with 25 pages of backstory and worldbuilding, and all that the character did was walk down a stream. It did nothing to advance the plot whatsoever.
He gives too much detail sometimes. In the earlier books all the legends and stuff were interesting because it hinted at the magic system and mythical races. And also I was still trying to figure out the family thing. Now I just want to see Jon Snow and Daenerys kill everything. Because that's how this should end.

Offline Nora

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Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #11 on: March 29, 2016, 12:28:21 AM »
As far as calling it Chapter One, I believe GoT was pretty strict on its cast of character perspectives, and I don't think GRRM wanted to make that character seem like he was really part of that cast.  I think it also helped to rein in reader expectations a bit.

Yes, in my eyes, it's the only point that makes his prologue valid. My only protest is that he also sometimes finishes a book by a chapter in some nobody's pov so we can witness something important to the story.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Like the faceless killing said nobody to wear his face in the citadel...

And these, does he call them epilogues?

I think the art of giving fancy names to the chapters is a bit like wearing a 19th century gentleman's cravate. Proper and stuffy and rigid and mostly pointless.  :D
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

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Offline S.B Nova

Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2016, 04:03:21 AM »
Yeah, I'm preparing myself to be lynched but I find Martin's work very overwhelming at times. I certainly like and appreciate what he's built, but the sheer number of characters and how one minute we'll be in Arya's head, the next we'll be in 'slave boy number 1's' head feels disjointed sometimes.
Don't get me wrong, I'll still be buying the Winds of Winter, whenever it comes out :)

Offline Peat

Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2016, 12:53:18 AM »
I don't care if a book has a prologue or not, but I know there are some that have stuck with me and really made me like the book in question and not many that have done the opposite.

I often find it a good way for authors to put a lot of questions in the readers' minds quickly, which is a good thing.
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Offline marshall_lamour

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Re: To prologue or not to prologue?
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2016, 03:47:14 AM »
I often find it a good way for authors to put a lot of questions in the readers' minds quickly, which is a good thing.

Rescinding my response: I was tired and misread as "put a lot of questions to rest" and ended up restating what you said. [What questions does a reader really have until the story starts? The information given in the beginning of a story should have a reader asking questions of the story until the end, and sometimes, yes, a prologue can accomplish this. An expositional prologue might guide the reader to ask the right questions of the story to follow, but I think that this is best accomplished within the story itself. An author can't really expect the reader to care about exposition without context.]

I dabbled with the idea of utilizing an interlogue in that manner, actually, and while I think I've settled on not including one, I did write it and found it to be an excellent exercise, at least. It's proved to be a great way to summarize large chunks of the work that goes into worldbuilding without the pressure of maintaining narrative flow.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2016, 07:57:30 PM by marshall_lamour »
Discover the world of Aeva in book one of the Children of Cataclysm series: Sons of Exile