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To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question. : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question.

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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Loretta Green
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To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question.

Postby Loretta Green » Sat Jan 03, 2015 8:29 pm

I know that prologues are generally frowned upon, but I am writing a suspense novel that encompasses two parellel timelines. One in the past, and one in the present time of the story. The reason why I am considering a prologue is beacuse I want to use a character's death bed confession to set the groundwork for the novel. Since this character dies, he is not an "Onstage" character in the novel itself. The actual novel is going to start with a different character in the present, The character he is confessing to. I want the reader to understand the parellel structure and that the past and present timelines are connected.
Actually, there are three story timelines. In the past there is going to be a fictionalized crime story hapening parallel to an actualy historical event. The crime story echoes the social injustice of the event. The present "Time" of the story is again going to echo the same amount of allotted days in the life of the character from the crime story. The mystery of the crime and who actually committed it is going to be braided back and forth between the past and present.
Does this sound like I need a prologue? How would any of you handle this situation?

Thanks,
Loretta Green

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robjvargas
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Re: To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question.

Postby robjvargas » Sat Jan 03, 2015 11:31 pm

Loretta, I don't understand what the prologue in your story is actually going to be.

To me, that's a no. There may be something in the writing that changes this, but the idea seems artificial to me, so I'd vote against it.

I think you're capable of segueing from one timeline to the other, getting the idea across. I don't see why the reader must be "educated" on this up front.
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Loretta Green
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Re: To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question.

Postby Loretta Green » Sun Jan 04, 2015 12:19 am

Thank you rob. I think you are right. The death bed confession should probably just be the first scene in chapter one. Guess I just needed someone to tell me what I already knew. Lol!!

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Re: To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question.

Postby robjvargas » Sun Jan 04, 2015 1:30 am

One of the great things about writing, though, is that you can try it, and shelve it if it doesn't work.
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MookyMcD
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Re: To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question.

Postby MookyMcD » Sun Jan 04, 2015 12:53 pm

Rob's on a roll. This is the third post I've looked at this morning that he's said exactly what I was thinking. Write it however you want, then when you have the whole thing done, you can look at what happens in the prologue and decide if that's the best way to handle it.

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Re: To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question.

Postby James A. Ritchie » Mon Jan 05, 2015 11:32 am

There's nothing whatsoever wrong with using a prologue. Ever. The only caveat is that it's a real prologue, and not something that should be in chapter one, chapter two, etc. A real prologue is pre-story. It's what happened at some point in the past that makes what happens when the story begins plausible, or understandable.

If it works as chapter one, then it isn't a real prologue, but it's always good to write the prologue because if you need it, you'll have it, and it may even help guide you in writing the story.

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Loretta Green
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Re: To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question.

Postby Loretta Green » Mon Jan 05, 2015 11:38 am

Thank you James. I believe that is what I am going to do. Write it as a prologue and if it turns out it should be in chapter one, then I'll move it. I think you are right. I think it may guide me in the writing.

Loretta

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Re: To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question.

Postby DrG2 » Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:49 pm

There are two reasons to not have a prologue:
1. The story doesn't need a prologue.
2. A significant number of agents hate prologues. (I happen to think such agents are idiots, but that's besides the point).

There is one reason to have a prologue:
1. You need to tell the information in your prologue, and it is a true prologue (different place or time than main story), and the information really needs to be revealed up front, rather than interspersed among the main story.

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Re: To Prologue or not to Prologue, that is the question.

Postby LilliesCarol » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:36 pm

James, your last reason to prologue is interesting. I have a question. At present, I am using a prologue/introduction in my family history novel. As it is based on true happenings in the life of my grandmother (1900 to 1945) I felt it necessary to give a reason for writing and that SOME names and places have been changed to protect the innocent. Without posting that Prologue,which I referred to it as an Introduction, is there a difference? Also it is important to note that names and places have been changed. Is there some other place to put such information? What are the differences?
Long, long afterward in an oak I found the arrow still unbroke
And the song from beginning to end, I found again in the heart of a friend
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


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