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Thread: Irrational hatred of prologues?

  1. #26
    Trust: that most precious coin. little_e's Avatar
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    Honestly, it's probably because *most* prologues they've encountered are bad. I think there is something about prologues that attracts aspiring writers like moths to flames--they've read a bunch of books with prologues, and so they put one in their own--but almost every single aspiring novel I've read that opened with a prologue could have been immediately improved simply by cutting it.

    That doesn't mean you can't write a great prologue. It just means that it may take more skill than people necessarily realize--and it's entirely possible that the books in the store didn't have prologues when they first came across the editor's desk.

  2. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by little_e View Post
    Honestly, it's probably because *most* prologues they've encountered are bad. I think there is something about prologues that attracts aspiring writers like moths to flames--they've read a bunch of books with prologues, and so they put one in their own--but almost every single aspiring novel I've read that opened with a prologue could have been immediately improved simply by cutting it.

    That doesn't mean you can't write a great prologue. It just means that it may take more skill than people necessarily realize--and it's entirely possible that the books in the store didn't have prologues when they first came across the editor's desk.
    This. Gillian Mear's most recent book has a brilliant prologue. Only it's called a preamble.

    ETA: The rest of the book is brilliant, too...

  3. #28
    Hashtag Cacophony's Avatar
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    I've never been a fan of the prologue and I tend not to read them. I generally skip forewords, afterwords, acknowledgements and author's notes as well. I made a promise to myself that if I ever started a story with a prologue I would bin the lot of it and start something else. I shouldn't have to tell you a story to set up my story. Everything outside of the first and last chapter is superfluous.
    I do what I can to write what I hear in my head, but it's often hard to sort through the din.

  4. #29
    That hairy-handed gent
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    For aspiring writers, especially aspiring Fantasy writers, who are congenitally predisposed to crave prologues:

    The prologue should be the last thing you write, produced only after your narrative is finished, and you find an actual viable reader-friendly need for one. Starting your writing process with a prologue is a recipe for info-dump, pure and simple.

    caw

  5. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cacophony View Post
    I've never been a fan of the prologue and I tend not to read them. I generally skip forewords, afterwords, acknowledgements and author's notes as well. I made a promise to myself that if I ever started a story with a prologue I would bin the lot of it and start something else. I shouldn't have to tell you a story to set up my story. Everything outside of the first and last chapter is superfluous.
    I don't get this at all. Why wouldn't you read them? It's like a little insight into the creation of the book...

    As for not reading the prologue - the writer wrote it. I'll read it.

  6. #31
    Hashtag Cacophony's Avatar
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    I can appreciate the purpose they serve, but to be completely honest, it doesn't interest me and takes away from the feeling of urgency that I get when I pick up a book for the first time. I don't want to read about the author's journey in finding the voice of the protagonist or how his/her spouse was supportive and encouraging or how the character of Paul reflects your inner child. I'm just not that interested. I want the story and I'm not inclined to wait while you talk about it. I'm not against them. I just don't read them.
    I do what I can to write what I hear in my head, but it's often hard to sort through the din.

  7. #32
    Trust: that most precious coin. little_e's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    I don't get this at all. Why wouldn't you read them? It's like a little insight into the creation of the book...

    As for not reading the prologue - the writer wrote it. I'll read it.
    I see most acknowledgments as more of a conversation between the author and a few people to whom they're grateful, rather than intended for me (or the rest of the audience).

    I tend to read them anyway, but then, I tend to read the indexes, too.

    But I've only read one acknowledgment so far that I actually enjoyed.

  8. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    I don't get this at all. Why wouldn't you read them?
    I always do, and always with a shudder, and usually it's an appropriate response. Too damn many times it's made me not want to read further.

    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    It's like a little insight into the creation of the book...
    I only want "a little insight into the creation of the book" after I've read the book and really enjoyed the experience.

    caw

  9. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by little_e View Post
    I see most acknowledgments as more of a conversation between the author and a few people to whom they're grateful, rather than intended for me (or the rest of the audience). .
    Well, so do I. But I'm nosey like that, and hey, if they leave it lying around...


    Quote Originally Posted by little_e View Post
    I tend to read them anyway, but then, I tend to read the indexes, too. .
    Exactly.

    Quote Originally Posted by little_e View Post
    But I've only read one acknowledgment so far that I actually enjoyed .
    I've read so many that I've enjoyed... 'Swhy I keep reading them, I guess.

    I only want "a little insight into the creation of the book" after I've read the book and really enjoyed the experience.
    I guess I always start out expecting I'll like it. So sue me

  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cacophony View Post
    I don't want to read about the author's journey in finding the voice of the protagonist or how his/her spouse was supportive and encouraging or how the character of Paul reflects your inner child. I'm just not that interested. I want the story and I'm not inclined to wait while you talk about it. I'm not against them. I just don't read them.
    I don't mean that kind of acknowledgement. The ones I like (and remember) tend to say things like "To Jon and the spirit of little Joss, who was born there". That adds quite a lot for me - at the very least, if I don't know the author yet, it makes me want to learn more about them and about why they wrote this book for Jon and the spirit of little Joss and what it means to say "he was born there" - the book in question being my grandmother's first edition of Rumer Godden's Rungli Rungliot: first "grownup" book I ever read.

    And perhaps that's part of it for me - that sense that the writer was treating the reader (little eight-year-old I) to a grown-up conversation - back in the days when grown-ups and children didn't talk all that much as equals...?

    Maybe that's it.

    Anyway, I'm grateful.

  11. #36
    DenturePunk writer bearilou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    The prologue should be the last thing you write, produced only after your narrative is finished, and you find an actual viable reader-friendly need for one. Starting your writing process with a prologue is a recipe for info-dump, pure and simple.
    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    The first draft is a huge pile of clay that you've laboriously heaped on your table, patting it into a rough shape as you go along. From the second draft onward, you'll cut away chunks, add bits, pat and punch and pinch, until you finally have a gorgeous figure of, oh, Marcus Aurelius. Or a duck. But a damn fine duck.
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  12. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    I don't get this at all. Why wouldn't you read them? It's like a little insight into the creation of the book...

    As for not reading the prologue - the writer wrote it. I'll read it.
    I know how you feel, m. I read a book cover-to-cover.

  13. #38
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    Lol, I'm more often to be found paging through the book looking for the place where the story starts.

  14. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    For aspiring writers, especially aspiring Fantasy writers, who are congenitally predisposed to crave prologues:

    The prologue should be the last thing you write, produced only after your narrative is finished, and you find an actual viable reader-friendly need for one. Starting your writing process with a prologue is a recipe for info-dump, pure and simple.

    caw
    It's taken, I believe, thousands of threads about prologues for someone to write an explanation this clear and simple, but this. A million times this.

  15. #40
    Gentleman. Scholar. Bastard. willietheshakes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toothpaste View Post
    It's taken, I believe, thousands of threads about prologues for someone to write an explanation this clear and simple, but this. A million times this.
    From John Steinbeck, in 1952:

    As you know, a prologue is written last but placed first to explain the book's shortcomings and to ask the reader to be kind. But a prologue is also a note of farewell from the writer to his book. For years the writer and his book have been together—friends or bitter enemies but very close as only love and fighting can accomplish.

    Then suddenly the book is done. It is a kind of death. This is the requiem.


    (from his letter to his editor, at Letters of Note.)

  16. #41
    Knight Templar richcapo's Avatar
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    I love prologues. I even have a cutesie little pettie pet pet name for them: Chapter One.
    Richard

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    Poetry and Jest

  17. #42
    Me want a cookie! Shika Senbei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrixieLox View Post
    in almost every agent's blog I read, prologues are slammed
    Who cares? If you feel you story needs a prologue, write one. Just don't make it boring.

  18. #43
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    Newbie talking here

    I had a friend reading my first lines and she quit before she met the main character.

    The way I saw it:

    "Hey, I finished my book. Here, have a look. Don't mind me," I just stared back at her. She read about the terrifying assault of vicious creatures to a helpless lovely woman living in a tree house. The lovely character is scared for her son. He is not in the house, but she finds out she is not alone when evil comes inside.... Muahahaha. Now she can never let it go....I keep staring at her, thinking I have achieved glory.

    The way she saw it:

    "What? Is this boy ( mentioned and absent from his room) the main character and he isn’t even here for the action?”
    “Well, he will get there next, you'll see…”
    There is nothing to see… she left.


    Now I write in another language.



    Write the prologue, rename it, and if it isn’t good erase it. Just don’t quit.


    Regarding the million times a topic is discussed, I speak for the little ones such as me, who are so overwhelmed by this forum that have to keep up with you.

  19. #44
    A Gentleman of a refined age... thothguard51's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    The number of unpublished novels that have prologues that don't work and are totally unnecessary is high. By the time novels get to the publication stage, the unnecessary prologues have generally been jettisoned by editors, and the prologues that remain are the ones that work.
    This, a thousand times...

    Well said Ice Cream girl...
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  20. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    I don't get this at all. Why wouldn't you read them? It's like a little insight into the creation of the book...

    As for not reading the prologue - the writer wrote it. I'll read it.
    I read acknowledgments too. And then imagine myself writing one for when I get published
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  21. #46
    That hairy-handed gent
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    Further comment on the craving for prologues:

    If you find yourself, at the beginning of the novel-writing process, desperate to produce a prologue, go down to the liquor store, get a bottle of Talisker, bring it home, sip a wee dram, neat, then sit down at your computer and have Character X kill Character Y in some delightfully gruesome way. You don't need a reason. Neither does the reader. That can all be worked out later. The working-out-later part is called THE STORY.

    Which is exactly why you don't need to write a prologue at the beginning, and quite possibly won't need one at all.

    caw

  22. #47
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    That's fine, blacbird - you don't like prologues. No-one's going to make you write one. You don't even have to read one if you don't like. You can settle down now.

  23. #48
    practical experience, FTW Sirion's Avatar
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    If a prologue is well written and enhances the work, I think most agents (and readers) won't mind them.

    Of course, you could say the same thing about anything in a novel.

  24. #49
    That hairy-handed gent
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    Quote Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
    That's fine, blacbird - you don't like prologues. No-one's going to make you write one. You don't even have to read one if you don't like. You can settle down now.
    You miss my point. I don't categorically dislike prologues. I've read prologues that work, very well. But I've read far more prologues, in manuscripts, that just plain suck, for a variety of reasons. And I'm convinced they suck largely because the writers wrote them before they wrote the actual story. It shows, every damn time. The worst of them, and the most common, are pure and simple info-dumps. Which are the first symptom of a writer not trusting the readers: I just gotta explain stuff, or nobody will get it.

    Which generates my primary caution: No, you don't. Readers are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay smarter than you think they are, IF you've written a damgood story.

    So, go write a damgood story. Worry about the prologue after you've done that. If it's necessary, write one. If not . . . for Godsake, don't. Try not to be a pretentious imbecile. Leave that to people like me, who aspire to write "literary" fiction, and aren't good enough writers to write good genre fiction.

    caw

  25. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    You miss my point. I don't categorically dislike prologues. I've read prologues that work, very well. But I've read far more prologues, in manuscripts, that just plain suck, for a variety of reasons. And I'm convinced they suck largely because the writers wrote them before they wrote the actual story. It shows, every damn time. The worst of them, and the most common, are pure and simple info-dumps. Which are the first symptom of a writer not trusting the readers: I just gotta explain stuff, or nobody will get it.

    Which generates my primary caution: No, you don't. Readers are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay smarter than you think they are, IF you've written a damgood story.

    So, go write a damgood story. Worry about the prologue after you've done that. If it's necessary, write one. If not . . . for Godsake, don't. Try not to be a pretentious imbecile. Leave that to people like me, who aspire to write "literary" fiction, and aren't good enough writers to write good genre fiction.

    caw
    Thank you.

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