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I know I've asked this before but.... : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

I know I've asked this before but....

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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I know I've asked this before but....

Postby Loretta Green » Tue Aug 25, 2015 7:16 pm

Ok, I know I have asked this before, but I still need it clarified again, if you guys don't mind. It is regarding a prologue. In my novel I am planning, my main character is a first responder on 9/11. However the bulk of the story happens in 2015. The problem is that something incidental that happened on 9/11(or at least seemed incidental) becomes very important in the present story. If the reader doesn't get a full scene of what happened that day, they won't feel the weight of what is really happening in the present. I know prologues are frowned on, but how else would I do it?

thanks for your help,

Loretta

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DrG2
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Re: I know I've asked this before but....

Postby DrG2 » Tue Aug 25, 2015 7:39 pm

Well, the other way to do it would be as flashback or reminiscence - - either in a chapter by itself, or as a scene in another chapter, or in bits of information spread out (potentially) throughout the novel.

But if you feel you need a prologue, write a prologue.

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Loretta Green
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Re: I know I've asked this before but....

Postby Loretta Green » Tue Aug 25, 2015 7:48 pm

I could do flashbacks because he his haunted by what happened. He is going to be suffering from flashback through the whole course of the novel, as the story plays out. So, you mean go ahead and start it in the present story, then just introduce the fact that he has flashbacks, then do a whole chapter of what happened? That would work. It would be less jarring for the reader, I think. Thank you very much.

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pls
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Re: I know I've asked this before but....

Postby pls » Tue Aug 25, 2015 8:05 pm

Forget the prologue concept - why not use the entire first chapter as a sort of flashback so you can introduce what you need to build the rest of the story. It's been done often before, and it usually works well.
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Loretta Green
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Re: I know I've asked this before but....

Postby Loretta Green » Tue Aug 25, 2015 8:30 pm

Yes, thank you Pls. I think that is the way I'm going to go. It's the easiest, and it doesn't separate things so much. The reason I didn't want to do a prologue is because it always feels tacked on. But for some reason, my mind is still trained to think I need a prologue.

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shadowwalker
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Re: I know I've asked this before but....

Postby shadowwalker » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:48 pm

It could definitely work as a prologue, with that time difference. (If it feels 'tacked on', it just means it needs more work.) However, if it's going to be chapter-length, that might be problematic as a prologue. In that case, I would suggest gradually introducing the events as flashbacks - but not as a separate chapter. That, to me as a reader, would feel like it was tossed in (Oh, hey, I gotta tell you this part!). I have read a handful of books that had separate but very short flashback chapters, and they generally worked well, bringing in the 'history' bit by bit, at strategic points of the current time period.
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Loretta Green
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Re: I know I've asked this before but....

Postby Loretta Green » Tue Aug 25, 2015 11:18 pm

Thank you guys,
I think after reading your comments I will probably open the novel with my main character in his present predicament. Then introduce what happened in the past through sprinkled flashbacks. My character is going to have literal flashbacks, as he is suffering from PTSD. That way it will show the close correlation between the past and why he is the way he is now and how he reacts to the main crisis of the novel.
Thanks
Loretta

James A. Ritchie
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Re: I know I've asked this before but....

Postby James A. Ritchie » Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:05 pm

That's exactly what a prologue is for. It's the perfect example of a good prologue, which means it would be a bad first chapter.

Prologues are frowned on because most writers don't know what a prologue actually is, and because, like many another thing in writing, the criticism comes from other writers, not from general readers who have no desire to be writers.

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Loretta Green
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Re: I know I've asked this before but....

Postby Loretta Green » Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:29 pm

Thank you James, I have really been all over the place with this. I have been trying to avoid a prologue because they are so frowned upon. But the truth is, this novel needs to have a prologue. It is separate from the present story and should feel that way. Especially because the passage of time is going to play an important role as well. I guess I was just trying to tailor my writing to be "acceptable" instead of just thinking of the best way to tell my story. I somehow needed someone else to validate my using a prologue.

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DrG2
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Re: I know I've asked this before but....

Postby DrG2 » Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:22 pm


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