Prologues

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deddmann_writing
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Re: Prologues

Postby deddmann_writing » Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:06 am

T.A.Rodgers wrote:
> I like prologues from a stand point that they are not part of any future
> chapter. For instance James Rollins uses them where he give a history type
> prologue set several hundred years prior to the story. They are always
> enjoyable to read and gets you ready for the adventure he's about to tell.
>
> I've never skipped a prologue in my life. I think that short changes the
> author. Instead of being critical about whether it needs to be there, I
> read it for the sake of enjoying the novel. I've never read a prologue and
> thought it shouldn't be there, but then I've never read a self published
> novel, so maybe that's why.
=========

Agree that would be a good use for a prologue. As to fiction, I have never read a book that had a prologue that I can recall. They all just got on with the story.

And for non fiction I always skip all that extraneous stuff they put before the real book unless it is a textbook and I have to study it to pass an exam as some profs asked questions about all the filler in the front. For a technical book I often skip to specific chapters that are of interest.

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Alice Holt
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Re: Prologues

Postby Alice Holt » Tue Oct 24, 2017 10:49 am

Oh my. We are so passionate about prologues. What is it about them that generates such strong opinions? It must be because we have about one page to engage an agent and it had better be really good. I never read a prologue that got in the way of a good story.

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Brien Sz
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Re: Prologues

Postby Brien Sz » Tue Oct 24, 2017 11:04 am

I've attended two WD Writer's Conference and sat in on a couple of agent sessions. The general consensus was for first time writer's trying to publish, to leave prologues out. Mostly, because they found that new writer's didn't know how to properly handle them. A few of them said, 'you can't go wrong starting with Chapter 1.'

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ostarella
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Re: Prologues

Postby ostarella » Tue Oct 24, 2017 11:18 am

I think prologues are just like many aspects of writing - people have certain preferences, people have different experiences, others take what's general advice for beginners and mistake it for a Rule, and unfortunately, some people treat their preferences and experiences as the Law of God. The first three can generally manage to have good discussions, even if they continue to disagree, but then the third one gets involved and it ends up with everybody drawing lines in the sand.

I like having the discussions, even if some are age-old and never-ending, because at least that way writers, particularly new writers, get to see other opinions and ideas, and that's never a bad thing. It brings home the point that there's never any Right Way to do something unless it's the right way for that writer and that story.

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wdarcy
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Re: Prologues

Postby wdarcy » Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:30 pm

Brien Sz wrote:
> I've attended two WD Writer's Conference and sat in on a couple of agent
> sessions. The general consensus was for first time writer's trying to
> publish, to leave prologues out. Mostly, because they found that new
> writer's didn't know how to properly handle them. A few of them said, 'you
> can't go wrong starting with Chapter 1.'

Sorry, but I don't buy this. We may as well say that some new writers don't know how to handle multiple points of view, so they should write the entire novel from only one POV (which would actually be much harder). Or some new writers don't handle dialogue very well, so they should omit all dialogue from their novels. Or some have trouble with description, so they should never describe anything. Etc.

To some degree it depends upon the genre. I read and write thrillers (including horror), and prologues are rampant in thrillers. In fact, I'm always surprised when I open a thriller and it *doesn't* begin with a prologue. And I don't mind reading prologues at all.

I began my first novel with a two-page historical prologue, about something that happened 250 years before Chapter 1. My other novels I began with Chapter 1. So I don't have an axe to grind about prologues. Some novels need them and some do not. But if one does, there is no need to avoid it out of fear that an agent or a reader will dislike it.

--Warren
"Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'" (Oxford 1993). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 1995.

"Elements of Sonata Theory" co-authored with James Hepokoski(Oxford 2006). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 2008.

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Brien Sz
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Re: Prologues

Postby Brien Sz » Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:55 pm

I'm not saying anything about preference to a style or presentation. I am simply repeating what I heard by 'some' agents. Is it universal? No. However, if an agent and their assistants have to digest hundreds of 'first ten or twenty pages' and bunches are possibly a prologue to start that find their way into the trash, then why add to the chance they dump it because it was a badly done attempt? I have nothing against prologues. I've written one as well. And, I am not saying that a new writer can't handle a prologue. What I am saying, is that like in any other business, if you want to get your foot in the door, keep it simple - chapter one, appropriate word count to the genre, concise query, no - I'm the next Stephen King or 100 beta readers told me this is a best seller, And, if you can present your story with Chapter 1, then do so. If the story can't go forward starting at Chapter 1, you wrote it wrong.
Last edited by Brien Sz on Tue Oct 24, 2017 3:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Brien Sz
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Re: Prologues

Postby Brien Sz » Tue Oct 24, 2017 2:58 pm

And, as our new administrator noted, Mr. Rollins writes historical prologues. I've read a couple of his works. However, if you skipped his prologue you would be no less the wiser for having done so.

RobTheThird
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Re: Prologues

Postby RobTheThird » Tue Oct 24, 2017 3:22 pm

wdarcy wrote:
>
> Sorry, but I don't buy this. We may as well say that some new writers don't know how
> to handle multiple points of view, so they should write the entire novel from only
> one POV (which would actually be much harder). Or some new writers don't handle
> dialogue very well, so they should omit all dialogue from their novels. Or some have
> trouble with description, so they should never describe anything. Etc.
>
> To some degree it depends upon the genre. I read and write thrillers (including
> horror), and prologues are rampant in thrillers. In fact, I'm always surprised when
> I open a thriller and it *doesn't* begin with a prologue. And I don't mind reading
> prologues at all.
> --Warren
Not the same principle.

What is the most common factor in traffic accidents? Speed.

That doesn't mean that drivers don't drive drunk, or cross the center divider, or run red lights.

It means that it's the more common factor in traffic collisions.

Based on reading agent blogs, prologues have the same relationship with new writer publishing fails. There's just so much of this experience out there.

I won't say don't do it. I *will* say decide how important it is to use that particular piece of your work in that ever-critical submission.

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ostarella
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Re: Prologues

Postby ostarella » Tue Oct 24, 2017 3:55 pm

A lot of agents advise against including the prologue in a query. Fair enough, I think. How many send the epilogue, after all? Agents want to get to the gist of the story, and they have limited time to do so. Does that mean don't use one at all? Hardly. The main problem, from all I've read and seen, is that too many writers don't understand the purpose of a prologue or how to write one well.

One prologue that I always remember was all of 5 paragraphs long, and described the murder scene as it occurred some 25 years before the start of the main story, told from the POV of the murderer. Then the main story starts, and throughout one is looking at all the characters with "I wonder if that's the one...". The prologue was another tantalizing clue that the MCs (the investigators) were unaware of. But the reader was! Now, there were several parts in the main story that were totally off-base, unnecessary, even infodumps - all those things people hate in prologues - but that prologue stays in the back of the reader's mind and that need to find out who the original murderer was and if s/he was actually involved in the current murders - that could not be denied.

Sure, one could skip that prologue and still be enticed - but it added that extra delicious element that made the main story "more". And it could not have been done by a flashback or salting the info into the main story. It had to be the first thing read.

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wdarcy
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Re: Prologues

Postby wdarcy » Tue Oct 24, 2017 5:08 pm

What Shadowwalker said.

Sure, send your 10 or 20 or 50 pages to the agent starting with Chapter 1. Fine. But that doesn't mean not using a prologue. The best prologues are those like SW mentioned: those that sort of cast their shadow over the rest of the novel.

Of course, if you're lucky enough to get a request for a full submission, then send the prologue along with the rest.

There may be some agents who summarily dismiss a submission if it begins with a prologue. There are probably many more who dismiss it because of bad writing. And if the prologue is badly written, chances are the rest of the novel will be badly written as well.

Again, in the thriller genre, there are probably more novels that begin with prologues than ones that do not. And in the horror subgenre a prologue is almost de rigueur--something happened a long time ago, and now the repercussions of that event are manifesting themselves.

--Warren
"Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'" (Oxford 1993). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 1995.

"Elements of Sonata Theory" co-authored with James Hepokoski(Oxford 2006). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 2008.

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