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Chrisla
09-01-2008, 08:02 PM
In every list of "things agents don't want to see," introductions and prologues are mentioned. Some agents go so far as to instruct the writer to send the first three chapters, but not the introduction or prologue.

Yet, I keep seeing them in published books, including those on best seller lists. Examples: All Over But the Shoutin', Water for Elephants, Sky Burial, Beneath a Marble Sky. Sometimes the text is not actually labeled as an introduction or prologue, but it is still written text that appears before Chapter 1. Some books even include a table of contents.

Can somebody enlighten me? Are the introductions permissible only in memoirs or more literary books? Or, have they been used so badly that agents are skittish about them?

I've written a book that has a prologue. That prologue is set in the present, while the rest of the book is set in the past. It draws the reader into the story and sets up the title. I don't see any way to make it a first chapter. Do I toss it and try to find other ways to do all that?

Ideas? Suggestions?

Carmy
09-01-2008, 08:24 PM
I've read loads of books with prologues, and I always read the prologues. I know some don't.

Stick with what agents ask for and include the prologue with the full request. The agent can always ask you to make it into Chapter One.

About a year ago, I read a novel like yours -- prologue in the present and story in the past. I'm sorry but I can't remember the name or the author. It was a paper-back mystery and had the name of a house in the title. It felt a bit confusing at first, but it was an excellent read. The past explained what had happened to bring about the challenges the modern-day MC was dealing with.

If I ever remember the name, or see it in the library again, I'll let you know.

maestrowork
09-01-2008, 08:27 PM
Agents have their reasons. And remember, they're trying to find a ms. and story they'd be interesting in. Published books are irrelevant to them at that point -- they're already published. I can only guess that many agents have seen enough badly written prologues (backstories, settings, character sketches, etc.) that they just want to see how the MAIN story begins.

Follow the agent's guidelines. Your prologue may be really well written, but so should your first chapter, second chapter, and third. You should be able to send them any chapter they ask and still wow them. No? If your prologue is great and your first chapter is meh, then you have a problem anyway.

(And why do you need to set up for the agent with a prologue anyway? They already have your query, and your synopsis. What they want to see in your first three chapters is whether you know how to start the story proper, and if you can actually write. If they want to read the whole thing they would ask for the full ms.)

Beach Bunny
09-01-2008, 08:34 PM
There have been several other discussion about this in the past month. Take a look at these three threads:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=113417 (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=113417)

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=114071 (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=114071)

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=108526 (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=108526)

Mr Flibble
09-01-2008, 08:47 PM
Eeeep! Not this again!

*runs screaming from thread, only pausing to shout 'if it works do it'*

Chrisla
09-01-2008, 11:09 PM
Sorry, I didn't realize this had been so recently addressed. I should have checked the threads back further.

Thanks for the links, Beach Bunny. They really did help.

My prologue apparently has an engaging hook--people tell my they are crying before they finish it. They read on to find out more. The scene is important to the entire novel, expesses the theme of the book, introduces the main characters, and sets up the story. It's a scene that would be difficult to include anywhere else in the book, because of the time frame. It is not, in any form, an information dump.

But, Maestro, you are right. Because the prologue does all that, I haven't worked as hard to make the first chapter carry some of that initial weight. I need to go back and work on them.

I'm still not sure what I'll do about the prologue; the story is much stronger with it than without it. But, perhaps, if I make those first three chapters strong enough, I'll get a chance to send the prologue with the entire manuscript.

Thanks for the help; it's appreciated and gives me some direction. (I've been stuck for days.)

qwerty
09-01-2008, 11:25 PM
The most important thing with any submission is to get attention with the first paragraph - or even the first sentence. If your immediate hook is in the prologue, and you then move into Chapter One with a less engaging opening, dropping the prologue and starting with Ch 1 is less likely to grab the initial reader.

Solution a) Make the opening para of the first chapter something that makes a reader want to read on.

Solution b) Call your prologue chapter one if you think calling it a prologue will be an instant turn-off.

Beach Bunny
09-02-2008, 12:39 AM
Sorry, I didn't realize this had been so recently addressed. I should have checked the threads back further.

pfffttt ... We all do it at some point in time. I did it TWICE my first few days here. :D

Chrisla
09-02-2008, 01:40 AM
pfffttt ... We all do it at some point in time. I did it TWICE my first few days here. :D

So I'm off the hook? * shifts feet and looks at floor*
Thanks! I'll try to be more careful.

Chrisla
09-02-2008, 01:43 AM
The most important thing with any submission is to get attention with the first paragraph - or even the first sentence. If your immediate hook is in the prologue, and you then move into Chapter One with a less engaging opening, dropping the prologue and starting with Ch 1 is less likely to grab the initial reader.

Exactly!

Solution a) Make the opening para of the first chapter something that makes a reader want to read on.

Solution b) Call your prologue chapter one if you think calling it a prologue will be an instant turn-off.

I don't think I can make Solution B work, so Solution A is the answer, as Maestro suggested. Thanks, everybody.