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Thread: The Prologue Trap

  1. #1
    March 15th: Issue 1 release Skye Jules's Avatar
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    The Prologue Trap

    I find myself having no choice but to fall into the prologue trap. I can't think of any other way to organize it. You see, I have an antagonist I absolutely have to introduce before chapter six (chapter six picks up right where the antagonist's introductory chapter left off). I could get rid of the chapter six, but then none of the events in the rest of the novel would make sense.

    But this is how it sort of works out:

    The prologue is where I would introduce the antagonist and her problem/how her problem connects with the rest of the novel.

    Chapter One is then where I would introduce my MC. So, it goes through five chapters of my MC before chapter six where I bring the antagonist back in and the rest of her story is tied off. I have a story for the antagonist to show her purpose for going after my MC, because in chapter twelve, my MC and the antagonist meet for the first time, and everything from the prologue and chapter six connects with chapter twelve, and a light will hopefully click on for the reader.

    I could simply label the chapters with character names, but that wouldn't make sense because 90% of the chapters (just an estimate) are dominated by my MC.

    Thing is, I know most agents hate prologues, but I can't think of any other way to organize it! Any ideas?
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  2. #2
    I am Groot AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    Agents hate prologues because it sets them up to expect a certain type of beginning. Usually prologues are used for info dump or world building or to give away later things.

    I think a prologue is perfectly fine when it's from another POV you don't go into again or if you're making a huge time jump. But the trick is to make it just as interesting as the rest of the book.

    Another risk is that the agents might connect to the POV too well, and then are disappointed later when it switches. I know someone who has two paragraphs in first person from a journal entry at the beginning of each chapter, and then it goes into third. Only the agents love the journal entries and haven't like the third-person after it. Of course, you don't want them to not connect to the POV either because it's the beginning of the novel. So it's very risky, but if you do it well, it shouldn't matter.
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  3. #3
    Seeing newness all the time kaitlin008's Avatar
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    I've seen some super awesome prologues.

    Just make sure it's one of those, and not the dreaded other kind

  4. #4
    Why Isn't IGNORE Available in RL? Ctairo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skye Jules View Post
    I find myself having no choice but to fall into the prologue trap. I can't think of any other way to organize it. You see, I have an antagonist I absolutely have to introduce before chapter six (chapter six picks up right where the antagonist's introductory chapter left off). I could get rid of the chapter six, but then none of the events in the rest of the novel would make sense.

    But this is how it sort of works out:

    The prologue is where I would introduce the antagonist and her problem/how her problem connects with the rest of the novel.

    Chapter One is then where I would introduce my MC. So, it goes through five chapters of my MC before chapter six where I bring the antagonist back in and the rest of her story is tied off. I have a story for the antagonist to show her purpose for going after my MC, because in chapter twelve, my MC and the antagonist meet for the first time, and everything from the prologue and chapter six connects with chapter twelve, and a light will hopefully click on for the reader.

    I could simply label the chapters with character names, but that wouldn't make sense because 90% of the chapters (just an estimate) are dominated by my MC.

    Thing is, I know most agents hate prologues, but I can't think of any other way to organize it! Any ideas?
    Could you maybe allude to the antagonist's reason for going after the MC in the first six chapters through other characters and/or slipping the prologue information in bit-by-bit? The info may not make sense to the MC, but if it's there, readers will get it. That approach won't be as simple as writing a prologue, but it won't be as off-putting either.

    Good luck!

  5. #5
    alcohol will do that for ya herbchick's Avatar
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    This has been a big question for me. Because I am introducing a new race, I need some background info and the MC in the prologue ends up appearing throughout the book, she is the grndma of the MC. My prologue takes place thousands of years before CH 1 begins, has action and isn't an info dump but...still a prologue. Those who have read it say leave it in but they aren't writers.

    I don't mind prologues if they are well written so I decided to leave it in. I'm not an expert, but I think a prologue can be useful and if you are sending in a certain number of pages to an agent and your prologue isn't long then he will see the change from the prologue to CH 1. JMO.

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  6. #6
    Rubbish Poet Blackest_Nite's Avatar
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    I recently made the decision to cut my prologue completely. I figure that my story didn't really need one, but it took a lot of thought on how to rework those elements from the prologue into the story. I agree with what others have said, as long as you aren't info dumping you should be okay.
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  7. #7
    Book Worm & YA writer paranormalchick's Avatar
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    My WIP didn't have a Prologue at first but my Crit group wanted to know more about a certain Character...So I created one so they could get more background on him
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  8. #8
    I wouldn't worry about the prologue in terms of "hooking an agent." If your chapter 1 stands alone, use that for your sample pages and drop the prologue. Then if he/she asks for a full, send everything.
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  9. #9
    Mark Brockman Wark's Avatar
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    No prologue.

    http://writersdigest.com/article/what-agents-hate/

    PROLOGUES

    “Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.”
    —Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

    “Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!”
    —Laurie McLean, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents
    Disclaimer: I'm did not poof read this.
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  10. #10
    New kid, be gentle! Melissa_Marr's Avatar
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    I would not make a structural decision about a text because of what agents "hate" (or "love" for that matter). Every one of my books has a prologue--because they are what fits the tales I'm telling--and my agent & my editors are not objecting, nor has it impacted my sales in a negative way. What WOULD be a problem , imo, is thinking abt my texts in terms of what agents/editors/reviewers/etc like/hate/love. Tell your story. It's really that simple.

    If the book requires or is enhanced by a prologue, write one.

    If you tell a good story, write it well, & send it out, yes, there will still be those who aren't interested, but they aren't the ones for you.

    JMO, of course . . .
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  11. #11
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melissa_Marr View Post
    I would not make a structural decision about a text because of what agents "hate" (or "love" for that matter). Every one of my books has a prologue--because they are what fits the tales I'm telling--and my agent & my editors are not objecting, nor has it impacted my sales in a negative way. What WOULD be a problem , imo, is thinking abt my texts in terms of what agents/editors/reviewers/etc like/hate/love. Tell your story. It's really that simple.

    If the book requires or is enhanced by a prologue, write one.

    If you tell a good story, write it well, & send it out, yes, there will still be those who aren't interested, but they aren't the ones for you.

    JMO, of course . . .
    Such great advice, if only I could live by it.
    Every time I read an article about what agents like/don't like and what they're sick of, I change my story!

    Now, my novel is nothing like what it was when I first wrote and fell in love with it. *sigh*....

    I wonder... is it better to write what you love or be a little aware of what could possibly sell?

    P.S. I also had a prologue in my first draft. Gone! =(

  12. #12
    Why Isn't IGNORE Available in RL? Ctairo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayelle View Post
    Such great advice, if only I could live by it.
    Every time I read an article about what agents like/don't like and what they're sick of, I change my story!

    Now, my novel is nothing like what it was when I first wrote and fell in love with it. *sigh*....

    I wonder... is it better to write what you love or be a little aware of what could possibly sell?

    P.S. I also had a prologue in my first draft. Gone! =(
    Hmm. Then maybe you can work on being true to yourself as a writer while being knowledgeable about what could hinder you (although, as Melissa points out, not always) when it comes to selling your work? That is, try not to look at "what agents hate" as an automatic call to change what you've done. Changing for the sake of someone else is never a good thing; as a writer, it's your job to be as invested in your material as you can be given it's your work. Of course, it's also your job to make the work your best, and I'm beginning to get the sense that means different things to different writers--which is also as it should be.

  13. #13
    New kid, be gentle! Melissa_Marr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayelle View Post
    Such great advice, if only I could live by it.
    Every time I read an article about what agents like/don't like and what they're sick of, I change my story!

    Now, my novel is nothing like what it was when I first wrote and fell in love with it. *sigh*....

    I wonder... is it better to write what you love or be a little aware of what could possibly sell?

    P.S. I also had a prologue in my first draft. Gone! =(
    I think it's better to write what you love. I believe that wholeheartedly, and I have experienced it to be true. When I wrote Wicked Lovely, there were only a couple YA faery books (Holly Black's TITHE & de Lint's BLUE GIRL & arguably, Bull's WAR FOR THE OAKS, altho it wasn't in the YA section). This YA Paranormal boom? Hadn't happened yet. TWILIGHT wasn't out but a couple months when I sold my book. What I know, what I love, is folklore, so that's what I wrote. It wasn't where the market was, and I didn't expect it to do much. I wasn't even sure it would sell--or that anything I wrote would sell.

    I had joined an online crit group--and was resoundingly told that my multiple-pov fixation, 3rd person, & a variety of other traits were things I had to change. "You're not goingto get published with things like this." Agents rejected my first book. LOTS of them didn't even send a rejection slip. Network. Change this. Oh, this is hot. Agents love this, try this. Instead, I quit the group, & I didn't share the book in progress (Wicked Lovely).

    Wicked Lovely was rejected by a few agents. A few others were interested. It was rejected by agents. A few were interested. One editor said, after it sold, "Harper totally overpaid for that" (which my then agent told me). Since then, it rec'd "one of worst reviews [my editor] has ever read." It's also rec'd scads of positive reviews, noms for lists, awards, & sold into a plethora of countries. Some people think it sucks horribly, & others love it. Here's the thing: ALL BOOKS are like this. Mine isn't special. We all write books that will be loved & loathed. Agents, editors, reviewers, readers, other authors, they are all just people in possession of opinions.

    So, the authors--we, you & me & all the rest of us--have to write the story as we know it. When we are writing, we are writing for our characters & our stories. I could be horribly wrong, but I believe that trying to do elsewise is a sure path to madness. . . and not a fun path there.

    That said, yes, there are people writing books to the market or tweaking to appeal to this or that agent/editor. There are networkers & trend chasers & . . . it can work. I've seen it work. At the end, though, I'm not sure that this is how to build a career in this. And, more importantly, I'm not sure how it can be satisfying. To spend a year or more with your book, and it not be your story, your style, your passion, it seems like a whole lot less fun, & if it's not fun--if any job isn't fun--why do it?

    So I guess that's the long version of "sure, be aware of the market when you're deciding where to shop it, but when you're writing, don't let the market be a factor."

    And with that, I'll shush
    www.melissa-marr.com
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  14. #14
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Well said, Ctairo and Melissa. I suddenly feel very motivated!

    New goals for myself - Write what I love and write as well as Melissa (so the book can actually sell). That can happen...

    When hell freezes over One day, one day...

  15. #15
    someone let me off this crazy ride YAwriter72's Avatar
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    Melissa, thank you for that!! I panic and think maybe I'm not writing the "right thing" even though its the story that is demanding to be told!
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