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View Full Version : Have you ever skipped a prologue when starting to read a book?



Michael Parks
10-04-2008, 06:31 AM
I'm the type who opens a book and flips through the first pages, looking for the start of the book. If I see the word "prologue", I begin the book there.

How about you?

wrinkles
10-04-2008, 06:35 AM
I don't do prologues. I start reading when the book begins.

jennifer75
10-04-2008, 06:36 AM
You really don't know what you've started, do you? ;)

wrinkles
10-04-2008, 06:41 AM
You really don't know what you've started, do you? ;)

I do. I just decided to throw a little gasoline on the fire.

Michael Parks
10-04-2008, 06:42 AM
You really don't know what you've started, do you? ;)

:o

I ask because I've read differing opinions on the use of a Prologue, but I thought, well, people may not LIKE prologues... but the truth would be in the telling if the majority of people did not skip them.

I mean, honestly, if I have any regard for the author and for the story, any hope of getting into the world the author has created.... I would HAVE TO read the prologue.

Wouldn't that be true of everyone? That's the thought behind the question.

** edit: That and because I have a prologue that works very well as a prologue, and would hate to have to roll it up as chapter one. AND a related question: if (when) asked for the "first three chapter", would it be bad to include the prologue and the first three?

wrinkles
10-04-2008, 06:51 AM
:o

I ask because I've read differing opinions on the use of a Prologue, but I thought, well, people may not LIKE prologues... but the truth would be in the telling if the majority of people did not skip them.

I mean, honestly, if I have any regard for the author and for the story, any hope of getting into the world the author has created.... I would HAVE TO read the prologue.

Wouldn't that be true of everyone? That's the thought behind the question.

** edit: That and because I have a prologue that works very well as a prologue, and would hate to have to roll it up as chapter one. AND a related question: if (when) asked for the "first three chapter", would it be bad to include the prologue and the first three?

No matter how good your prologue may be, I'm not going to read it. I begin reading at Chapter 1. I see no reason to begin reading before that. Why would I care what happened before the book began.

jennifer75
10-04-2008, 06:51 AM
:o

I ask because I've read differing opinions on the use of a Prologue, but I thought, well, people may not LIKE prologues... but the truth would be in the telling if the majority of people did not skip them.

I mean, honestly, if I have any regard for the author and for the story, any hope of getting into the world the author has created.... I would HAVE TO read the prologue.

Wouldn't that be true of everyone? That's the thought behind the question.

** edit: That and because I have a prologue that works very well as a prologue, and would hate to have to roll it up as chapter one. AND a related question: if (when) asked for the "first three chapter", would it be bad to include the prologue and the first three?

Personally, I'll skim the prologue if I'm in the mood. If I can tell in the first chapter that I should have read the prologue, I will. Life of Pi for example...I skipped the author notes then later found myself skimming through them, then reading them completely. I had to - something was missing.

If it's so good, why wouldn't you want to use it as ch 1? And if its not of the same "time" why can't you address it as a reflection or something? I have no problem with Prologues, but I probably wont read it.

Michael Parks
10-04-2008, 07:00 AM
Hrm... well, it's short, 2.5 pages. And it just feels right there in the prologue, the precursor scene. But there is no other "reason", per se.

LaurieD
10-04-2008, 07:04 AM
I always read the prologue

Michael Parks
10-04-2008, 07:05 AM
Why would I care what happened before the book began.

pro·logue /ˈproʊlɔg, -lɒg/ Pronunciation Key - [proh-lawg, -log]
–noun
1. a preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel.
2. an introductory speech, often in verse, calling attention to the theme of a play.
3. the actor or actress who delivers this.
4. an introductory scene, preceding the first act of a play, opera, etc.

But as you already stated, 'gas on the fire', etc... :p

ABekah
10-04-2008, 07:12 AM
I always read the prologue. I feel like I'm missing something if I don't.

jennifer75
10-04-2008, 07:17 AM
Hrm... well, it's short, 2.5 pages. And it just feels right there in the prologue, the precursor scene. But there is no other "reason", per se.

is your stuff show-able? Say, the pro and the 1st? or no way?

Barb D
10-04-2008, 07:20 AM
I read them. I don't necessarily read introductions, though.

Woodsie
10-04-2008, 07:22 AM
It stinks, but I usually don't read them.

There are a few exceptions, so I do give them a chance, but if they don't 'hook' me pretty fast, then I won't finish them.

I wrote one in my own book but it's just one paragraph that sets the tone for the rest of the book.

RG570
10-04-2008, 07:26 AM
I don't really like them, but I think it's just good manners to read an author's entire book. It's really not that much to ask, and if a person is that set against reading a prologue, I wonder why they would read the book at all if it's that big of a deal and they're just going to hold the prologue against the author.

Michael Parks
10-04-2008, 07:26 AM
is your stuff show-able? Say, the pro and the 1st? or no way?

I think so. :)

Here's the prologue and I'll paste the 1st in another post:





........Prologue

........

........The night's stillness revealed nothing of the approaching danger. Across the road, a streetlamp over the Kingston cemetery's gate sputtered out, an unwelcome omen. The hacker let the blinds snap closed and returned to the screen: the encryption program continued processing the files.

........A sound. Back of the house? He thumbed the safety off the 9mm at his side and stepped to the doorway. Intense, he stared down the hall of his flat, listening, nerves raw from the last forty-eight hours.

........Nothing.

........On the screen, the encryption continued. Once it finished, uploading the file to Alcazar would get it beyond his system, at least.

........Back at the desk, he set the pistol down and prepared an encrypted email with his personal key. Trying to compose a quick note became an obstacle. How to convey the unbelievable without sounding insane? Short and to the point, with a link to the file. The content would speak for itself.

........He strode back to the door, pistol in hand.

........"Whoever the hell you people are," he muttered, "word will go out…. people will know." The empty hallway swallowed his words. But would they believe? Turning, he saw his reflection in a wall mirror. Sweat glistened on his brow and upper lip, his hair oily and matted from days without a shower. The glint of fear and fanaticism was expected, as the last of disbelief was gone.

........He jerked to face the hallway. Another noise. A window sliding? The cooling fans from the computer filled the room, masking sounds from elsewhere in the house.

........Seconds coalesced into minutes, fear like fog in the bay of his mind. At the doorway to his den, his pulse measured time. To check out the other rooms might rob him of the chance to send the file, so he stood watch instead. The only comfort imaginable came from the thought of getting the file out. It could be the last thing he ever did, but it would go out. It had to.

........Finally, the progress bar crawled to completion, the encryption done. He immediately began the upload to an obscure web server; he didn't have time to send it to Alcazar, the most secure destination, as it was too slow. Every second counted, now. For the email, the Magistrate system would make tracing his message nearly impossible. All those conscripted servers would randomly relay the mail to its eventual destination.

........Who to? There was only one hacker he trusted, one he knew with the resources and wits to do the right thing with it. GeneralHell. After clicking the send button, he realized he could be mailing out a death sentence. For a brief moment regret lingered - until something much stronger took hold.

........He turned to face the doorway, bringing the pistol up. As if the air pressure had changed, somehow he sensed another presence, maybe more than one. Pain bloomed in his skull, like a headache but modulated, unnatural. Anticipation crumbled into raw fear as every sense began to ache; it hurt to see, to breath, even to stand. Everything flared in pain. Confusion set in, rapidly eroding focus. The truth was dawning, rising to life from the pages of the stolen documents. "Ah shit."

........They could do this.

........He almost missed the tone signaling the upload was complete. Reaching down, he stabbed the power switch, plunging the room into silence. Blood pulsed loudly against his eardrums, accompanied by the pain. The weight of the pistol was a comfort, but now only as a sure means of escape from the hellish crescendo overtaking his body.

........Had he only known, he wouldn't have taken the information, would never have spent those months digging. Looking back, his motives had been naďve. Uncover the truth. Everyone deserves to know the truth.
........Straining from the pain, he spoke quietly to the room. "No one deserves this."

........

Mad Queen
10-04-2008, 07:28 AM
I never skip anything, including the prologue. I've already read a few brilliant prologues, some even better than the rest of the book. To me, a prologue is just another word for chapter.

PS: I love reading forewords in non-fiction books too.

Woodsie
10-04-2008, 07:31 AM
Michael, I would read yours if it was like this. This feels like part of the book, the short opening scene.

The thing that doesn't interest me in a prologue is when they go on too long explaining what I'm about to read, I really just want to get to it. A prologue that I've read recently was from The Shack and I enjoyed reading the entire thing.

Michael Parks
10-04-2008, 07:33 AM
1st chapter (disclaimer: this WIP is in first draft mode):






........CHAPTER ONE

........

........You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself.
........-Alan Alda, 1936 -, American Actor
........

........

........Intergen Data Center · Folsom, California

........Friday, August 14th - 5:26pm (-8 GMT)

........

........The sun edged across the sky, its light hazed to orange from the Sierra wildfires burning since Tuesday. Viewed through tinted windows, the orb looked like an alien star. Five stories up, the view from the foothills was spectacular; the Sacramento Valley blanketed by trees, shaded for the summer's heat. In the distance, the city skyline sprouted from the valley floor like fence posts. It was another world, so different from Austin's synthetic office. Nature was a peepshow glimpsed between tasks at the computer screen. While grateful for the window, sometimes it felt more of a tease than a perk.

........Friday.

........The project scope document on screen was due before he could leave, but already his mind was out of the office halfway to his car. Murray had set the deadline, which meant due, regardless. It was nearly complete, but a few factors unavailable before this morning had to be considered. The project involved nine companies in seven states served by the Tangerine Farm cluster. The hardware upgrades to the servers would enable the launch of IQ Access, Intergen's highly marketed next-gen data management system. Not a glamorous project by itself, but as a bridge task, it was vital.

........An hour later, the first draft was complete. Murray would approve, but the teams wouldn't: tons of overtime and two lost weekends. He posted it to the project's sitepage for Monday's meeting. Already peeling the office from his psyche, Austin accessed his personal web server and checked a status page. It indicated Kaiya at his house, in the kitchen listening to music.

........He clicked to view the streaming video from the kitchen's webcam. A moment later she appeared, stirring a pot on the stove, swaying to the music. It'd been weeks since she'd cooked dinner for him on a Friday, something she used to do regularly. Once she switched to full-time at her job for the summer, her schedule jammed up, especially with the summer classes at the college. He typed a short message and clicked 'send'. In the kitchen, a bell sounded followed by a synthesized voice that announced, "Hey babe, I'm outta here. Be there in about thirty minutes." Kaiya looked up at the cam and waved with a smile, then formed two rings with her fingers and put them over her eyes like glasses, her sign for "geek".

........Laughing, he logged off, glad the week was over. Only one hurdle remained before real freedom began. The drive home.

........

........
o o o o

........

........

........

........Austin shook his head, resigning to the madness around him. The only route home, packed with hundreds of commuters using the same two-lane route: failed urban planning. There was nothing to do but idle through the mess, pushing forward a bit at a time.

........Bored with music, he tuned in to a news/talk station. The same story he'd read about online earlier: a CSUS professor gone berserk, killing his estranged wife and two professors at the university before offing himself. Stress from a recent divorce combined with the loss of his job must've sent him skidding over the edge. There was more to it than that but you never heard it in the news. The story behind the story was always too long to gather and tell between commercials.

........Imagining being dumped by Kaiya and then losing his job wasn't pleasant. Without her love, her passion for life, and her sage advice, part of his world would go dark. Even so, breaking up could never be a reason to kill her. His job was a good fit, made so by years of effort and planning. As a middle manager, he was the best candidate for promotion when Murray retired. Being fired now would suck, but at thirty-four years old, he could start over elsewhere.

........Neither of those losses would drive him to blast bullets into anyone. There must have been environmental factors involved: pressures and conditions that could twist an educated, intelligent person to perform such barbaric actions. Perhaps genetic, psychiatric, or emotional problems - or some combination of the three.

........He switched back to music; human frailty and unpredictability not exactly upbeat Friday material. Half an hour later, he turned into his neighborhood. A block from his house, a green LED lit up on the dash. A synthesized voice announced, "Approaching mothership. Secure connection established. Status is alpha-bravo-kilo. Preparing docking systems."

........Translation: the house was secure, with Kaiya present.

........"Time to dock... with my Friday…."

........

........A radio transceiver embedded in the masonry walls surrounding the property detected the radio frequency emitted from the incoming vehicle. A program running on the house computer, 'RanchHand', compared the signal to a list and found it matched the very first one. The gate rolled back, allowing Austin's BMW to pass through. SeeCil, another computer under RanchHand's command, recorded his arrival via one of its cameras.

........As the sedan covered the hundred feet to the garage, a sensor there detected the same frequency. RanchHand raised and lowered the first garage door, with SeeCil logging the video.

........Docking was complete: Austin was home.

........

........ A male voice sounded from a speaker overhead, "Greetings Austin. All systems are satisfactory, and Kaiya is here. There are two voice messages and sixteen personal emails waiting for you. No substantial changes to your stock portfolio today."

........"Thank you, Sam." The artificial intelligence program was another of his creations that wove technology into ordinary life in a dramatic way. As a result, the house seemed intelligent. With his arrival, RanchHand signaled Beethoven, the audio server, to merge the couple's music playlists. A favorite song of his began as he made for the kitchen.

........"Hello gorgeous." He kissed his girlfriend in greeting. "I get you on a Friday?"

........"Yeah, I finally caught up with my schoolwork yesterday and today Ogden let us all off early."

........"Cool."

........"Sooo… I talked with my mom earlier. She really wants us to visit for Christmas."

........Austin rolled his eyes and dropped his keys on the island. "Us? Yeah right. Hmmm…. in a country that doesn't celebrate real Christmas? Where you can't buy a real tree? Uh-huh. Gee, I wonder if she realizes that would mean a flight across the Pacific?" He pulled open a brew from the fridge.

........She smiled. "Oh I'm sure she does."

........"Well screw that. She knows I don't like flying. Just her way of separating us for the holidays, or at the very least making me suffer a sixteen hour flight, twice. Either way, no thanks. She just doesn't like computer geeks."

........"You don't look like a computer geek. If only it was that. She's just not ready to forgive you."

........"Well it's not my fault you wanted to be educated and live in Cali, and live a life of freedom rather than old school Japanese propriety in Hawaii. Nor is it my fault she sold the house and moved back to Japan. She couldn't have made it harder for you to visit."

........"Um, she didn't sell the house."

........"What?!"

........"She told me today." Kaiya went to drain the pot. "Well, she let it slip anyway, she really didn't mean to."

........ "That lying old…." Kaiya's frown stopped him short. "So we could have stayed in Hawaii last visit? In that big beautiful house?"

........A widow of a successful real estate developer, Kaiya's mother disapproved of their relationship solely on the grounds that Kaiya wasn't being exposed to the higher class of male specimens she deserved. Her judgment exceeded every attempt by Austin to convince her of his own 'class', though not necessarily one of high breeding or wealth. He was genuine of heart, emotionally available, and flat out in love with Kaiya. Her mom didn't hate him, but she sure as hell resented him. "If you really loved her, you would release her to men more of her station. Her future is in question with you, no matter your intentions."

........He'd given up, and allowed his natural reactions to form instead. Which meant the old bitch could dream all day, there was no changing his feelings. She could just deal with it.

........"I told her what I thought of her lying like that. Of course she didn't exactly apologize," Kaiya laughed, "but I think we won't have any problem getting the keys for vacation next month."

........Shit! Still hadn't put in for the time off, yet. "Now that would be nice. As long she doesn't show up."

........Kaiya toweled off her hands and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Don't worry nushi, she won't. And Christmas? I'm not going. I just thought you'd enjoy her latest jab. She can wait until my visit in February. If she misses 'us' that much, she's more than able to fly out here."

........Around a kiss Austin quipped, "She could use her broom."

........"Ouch! Nice one, I'll have to remember that." She went to retrieve plates from the cabinet. "So how was your Friday?"

........He updated her on the TF project, emphasizing the deadline and its impact on his weekends.

........"That doesn't mean Boston, does it?

........"No. I can run it from here. Unless something screws up bad. Which it won't." He slipped off his shoes and kicked them into the family room.

........"So why not subcontract? Spread out the work, get it done faster? Why should you have to be a slave driver and waste all that personal time?"

........"C'mon, you know Murray. He'd expect me to unclog a toilet if it needed doing. Of course, he'd do it himself, so he's no hypocrite. No, we can manage it, but just. I know what Murray's call on this will be."

........"Which is why they'll hire you to replace the miser eventually."

........"With any luck, yeah."

........"Luck? I doubt that will come into play. You're a hottie over there."

........"So all the girls say," he replied with a wink.

........

........
o o o o

........

........After changing clothes, Austin joined Kaiya for dinner. Throughout the meal, he kept thinking about automated server patching, scripting, staffing and rollback strategies. He reminded himself to pay attention to Kaiya instead. They dined on sesame chicken, fried rice and chow mien and then enjoyed a movie from Max, the movie server. By bedtime, he'd mostly forgotten the day's issues but knocked on the wooden banister twice as they headed upstairs: work sometimes kept him up.

........With a verbal command to RanchHand, a sophisticated set of instructions ran, putting the sensors and cameras around the property into night security mode.

........

........
o o o o

........

........The digital clock read 1:30. Austin stared at the glowing red dot next to the AM label. Circuit board was faintly visible beside the glowing digits. He traced the circuit paths idly with his eyes. The week had squirmed its way into his brain: chalk one up for work. Stuck between worrying about a firmware failure and the thought of flying to Japan to try and make nice with his future mother in law… there was no fighting it. He slipped out of bed, pulled on some shorts and headed downstairs.

........Built over the garage, the shop was the result of collaboration with his father, the second of two major projects to expand the square footage of the small old house. The first project had provided for the large second-floor master suite and its adjoining deck. The location, a cul-de-sac at the base of a pine-studded hill with nearly an acre of land, had captured his imagination in just the first few glances. Where suburbia met the leading edge of the foothills, Austin had found the perfect starter property. The house was small but sturdy, built in the late fifties, with seven pines surrounding it. What Austin had done with the house since was hardly rustic - rather the opposite… he'd infused it with homespun high tech.

........The lights came up as Austin entered the garage. He punched in the digits at the door to the shop. Climbing the stairs beyond, he commanded RanchHand to enable mode two… a desk was spotlighted, the computer screen came alive and a Red Hot Chili Peppers song began to play. "I like pleasure spiked with pain, and music is my aeroplane - it's - my - aeroplane".

........Padding over to the mini-fridge, he retrieved a beer, cracked it open, and glanced down: the workouts had to resume before his belly ballooned like his dad's. The resemblance was already forming. Fear the genes.

........Standing at the window, he gazed at the stars hugging the hills. At the far end of the field behind his property, headlights flickered through bushes lining the freeway. Nature interposed by man's modern designs. The contrast was lost on him most days, but in the wee hours of a new day, such reflection wasn't unusual. Love of technology couldn't erase his connection with nature, with the mysteries of life. The well of curiosity was still full, though the years had largely capped it and hidden it beneath the layers of career, trodden on by the routine of life. Still, memories of the adventurous days of youth beckoned: the nights spent staring up at the stars, the gatherings of friends testing for psychic abilities, the dream journals, the Ouija board… interspersed amidst the crazy efforts were truly memorable revelations, unexplained results that still lingered as mysteries. Inevitably, the hardness of life had grown over them like coral.

........Reminiscing drew him to a cabinet, to his old incense collection. He lit a stick of sandalwood in tribute to the enigmas of the past. Enough to remember.

........He settled down in front of Grunge, the shop box, and resumed work on an artificial intelligence subroutine. If writing code didn't wear him down, nothing would. While homegrown and fairly limited, his AI felt more "real world" realistic than any out there. Creating a useful AI was more important than creating an all-encompassing intelligence…. many others were already working on that lofty goal. His was handy, realistic, and intelligent to the degree that he needed it to be.

........An hour of coding later, something caught his attention, movement -

........A groggy Kaiya appeared from the dimness, holding an open cell phone out. "You forgot this. It's work."

........His mind was far from the cell phone… Kaiya had come upstairs without dressing. Naked, standing amidst the sterile equipment, she exuded warmth and beauty. Her silky black hair hung down to her full breasts, hiding half her face. Her Amerasian beauty was intoxicating as his eyes embraced her; a thin waist flared to reveal feminine hips and healthy legs with feet tipped in red toenail polish.

........He turned in his chair and pulled her near to engage in a kiss, sliding his hands across and down her back. She responded sleepily but with interest, leaning into his kiss.

........"You are soo segsy," he muttered softly. She pulled back, presenting the phone. Reluctantly, he took it.

........"What's up?"

........ "Sorry for the late call Austin, but I just had some weirdness at router ENTOSR-3. It was a packet storm on the inside, but only lasted ten seconds or so. I'm concerned because it's an edge router and I can't see anything. I'm thinking I may have missed something. Do you mind taking a quick look?"

........Austin mouthed a curse, withdrawing from Kaiya to tap the VPN to the data center's network. Seconds later, he was examining the router in question. After scanning the configuration, the detail jumped out at him: a backup network card on an outside router had been hijacked and activated. Unbelievable: how the hell had Matt missed it?

........"Shit."

........Kaiya kneeled next to him, curious. She asked what was up.

........He muted the phone. "It's all up in the fan, I think. Maybe a hack, we'll see. Sorry, babe. I really want to ravage you, like real bad, but… I gotta do this."

........"S'ok. Go get 'em." She patted his cheek and strolled over to the window he'd looked out earlier. A natural beauty inside a box full of stale, insensate technology. Memory jogged; they were past due for a camping trip out beyond the urban jungle. Soon.

........The morning delivery of data to and from clients nationwide was flowing through the ENTOSR-3 router. Re-routing that flow could cause delays, complications. No data alarms had gone off - so there was still a chance it was an Intergen tech that set up something unauthorized. He intercepted a sampling of the mystery data stream, which revealed the files being transferred were mp3s.

........"Christ. Someone moving around music?"

........He tried to imagine who would be so stupid.

........

wrinkles
10-04-2008, 07:49 AM
pro·logue /ˈproʊlɔg, -lɒg/ Pronunciation Key - [proh-lawg, -log]
–noun
1. a preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel.
2. an introductory speech, often in verse, calling attention to the theme of a play.
3. the actor or actress who delivers this.
4. an introductory scene, preceding the first act of a play, opera, etc.

But as you already stated, 'gas on the fire', etc... :p

Gas on the fire can be honest gas on the fire. And Wikipedia, or whatever, defintitions don't win the debate. The introduction to the novel is not the novel. A speech that calls attention to the theme of the play, is not the play. See number 4 of your post. I'll start reading at the first act. I see no reason to start before that.

Michael Parks
10-04-2008, 07:51 AM
Gas on the fire can be honest gas on the fire. And Wikipedia, or whatever, defintitions don't win the debate. The introduction to the novel is not the novel. A speech that calls attention to the theme of the play, is not the play. See number 4 of your post. I'll start reading at the first act. I see no reason to start before that.

To each his own, of course. I didn't start the thread to defend the prologue, but alas, I appear to have soiled my own thread with such. My apologies.

Michael Parks
10-04-2008, 07:53 AM
Michael, I would read yours if it was like this. This feels like part of the book, the short opening scene.

The thing that doesn't interest me in a prologue is when they go on too long explaining what I'm about to read, I really just want to get to it. A prologue that I've read recently was from The Shack and I enjoyed reading the entire thing.

Thanks, Woodsie. So the question then seems to hover: would it be safer to make it chapter one? Insurance?

wrinkles
10-04-2008, 08:03 AM
To each his own, of course. I didn't start the thread to defend the prologue, but alas, I appear to have soiled my own thread with such. My apologies.

No apolgies necessary. To each his own. I wish you good luck with your novel. I am just a reader. Wait for an agent, or a publisher, to express an opinion about your prologue. That's when important decisions will have to be made. Everything else is just theoretical disagreement.

Lyra Jean
10-04-2008, 08:30 AM
I read prologues. If I don't like the prologue I won't read the rest of the book. Exceptions include: I'm reading a series and I have to wait a year for the next book to come out.

I read one YA and the premise was awesome. I read the prologue. It was good. I read the first chapter....WTF! WTH! It's the prologue written in a different tense. Exact same wording and everything just a different tense. I returned it to the library.

DamaNegra
10-04-2008, 08:48 AM
I never read prologues. I hate them. (considering the only books I've read lately were written on the XIV, XV and XVI centuries, I don't think anyone can really blame me).

escritora
10-04-2008, 09:41 AM
Unless the book is recommended, I don't read books with prologues. And even then I skip the prologue.

Exir
10-04-2008, 09:54 AM
Unless the book is recommended, I don't read books with prologues. And even then I skip the prologue.

Isn't that a bit too much? I mean, why would you reject a whole entire book just because a section has the title "prologue" slapped onto it instead of "Chapter One"?

Prologues can be interesting and action-packed, depending on how well the author writes it.

escritora
10-04-2008, 10:11 AM
Isn't that a bit too much?

No. It's my preference.

katiemac
10-04-2008, 10:12 AM
I've skipped prologues before, mostly because I didn't know they were there. I didn't miss anything.

SPMiller
10-04-2008, 10:38 AM
I often skip prologs. Occasionally I don't. Most of the the prologs I do read are awful.

Michael Parks
10-04-2008, 10:39 AM
Well, I'm nearly convinced. The prologue looks like it earns itself the new rank of "Chapter One".

Better safe than sorry. That hacker's demise is key to the plot - the scene foreshadows the threat.

Darzian
10-04-2008, 11:04 AM
I think it very much depends on what is in the prologue. Some authors have part of the story itself in the prologue. Why? Perhaps there are multiple POVs and it isn't sensible to write it as a chapter (Eg. Wheel of Time Book 6).

Sometimes, the prologue is a scene that happened long before the main story, or that scene may involve characters who are not there in the rest of the book. Such a scene may be needed to explain a certain event in the past (Eg. many Epic Fantasy books).

Some prologues are just infodumps. (THOSE I will not read). Even the LOTR books have a prologue, which I found boring initally and so skipped. I read the prologue after finishing the books. I doubt it would have made much difference if I'd read it beforehand.

I generally read prologues, unless they are over 20 pages and are nothing but info dumps. I just can't take info dumps.

Stlight
10-04-2008, 12:39 PM
I used to think of them about the same way I did acknowledgments, didn't read them. Then read a few and thought, this is all way back when stuff relative to the book. So if they are short okay, I'll read them. But if I get a choice I'd rather have a list of the important characters, actually all the characters in the book. It's the unimportant ones you forget then are going 'Who the hey is that guy?'

Stlight to be annoying

TsukiRyoko
10-04-2008, 01:57 PM
I generally skip prologues (don't hit me!) and am sure to go over it if it's not explained later in the story or is crucial to the plot, or I read it a second time. This way, it doesn't get old fast because there's still fresh material. I've only read prologues a few times in my life, and more often than not, I can get away with doing just that.

Exir
10-04-2008, 02:05 PM
Well, maybe I'm weird that way. I read the whole book from cover to cover, including table of contents, acknowledgment, preface (for non-fiction), copyright page (which contains the one line summary), plus the "to the dear reader" letter at the end.

Am I mental or what?

Deccydiva
10-04-2008, 02:15 PM
I skip them. There was a film once - in fact it's been doing the rounds again on TV recently - about a bunch of people who chase hurricanes. There is a prologue which is set in the MC's childhood and shows how her father was blown away in a hurricane. I didn't "get it" until I had seen the film three times. I kept thinking "who was that little girl supposed to be and why did they bother including that scene, other than to show that hurricanes can be life threatening?"
Maybe I'm just thick. :Shrug:

C A Winters
10-04-2008, 02:30 PM
I sometimes wonder if people are not confusing "forewards" which can be nothing but info dump---with an actual prologue that lends to the plot.

For instance, I’ve just finished a book that had a prologue in present tense, very well written, then chapter 1 started: Six years earlier, etc. ) the story line continued to the present tense epilogue that contined to the end of story. It was good, and I really can’t imagine it written any other way. Oh, and I read prologues. :)

Linda Adams
10-04-2008, 02:48 PM
Sometimes I read them, but often they confirm my reason to skip them next time. In one mystery, it showed the victim of the crime being found, and then in the first chapter, it gave us exactly the same information the prologue provided. In another book, it gave away an important plot element that would have made the book more suspenseful if the reader didn't know. In several other books, the prologue was backstory, which was also detailed in the main story.

Though it does depend on the author. I'll always read Clive Cussler's prologues because they are interesting and provide an additional element to the story.

Mumut
10-04-2008, 02:51 PM
I never read them.

Mr Flibble
10-04-2008, 04:21 PM
I look at them. If they are ten pages of 'How the Gods made the world' info dump with huge chunks of tell - I skip them. My favourite book has a prologue similar to this, which I read once, and have never read on the re-readings because, well I think it was unnecessary.

However if it's an actual scene, then I read it, provided it hooks me. Because whereas a huge chunk of backstory you can live without, a scene may well be very pertinent to the story. Like mine :) And why isn't it chapter one? Because it's from the viewpoint of someone who isn't the POV character, and she doesn't know anything about it so I can't show it any other way, it happened several thousand years before, plus it kinda sets the tone for the book. Anyone skips it, the climax will make less sense. *shrug* not a lot I can do about that.

So it depends. If it works, if it's action, pertinent action, do it. If it's backstory, dump it. If your reader wants to skip it, their priviledge. They might miss out, but that's their problem :)

Norton
10-04-2008, 04:28 PM
I always read the prologue. Always.

Disa
10-04-2008, 05:00 PM
I generally don't read them.

WendyNYC
10-04-2008, 05:07 PM
I dislike prologues. If it's short, I might skim it, but if it's a long one, I'll probably put the book back on the bookstore shelf.

donroc
10-04-2008, 05:12 PM
If I purchase a novel, I will read every page, foreword, prologue, acknowledgement, the works.

Dawnstorm
10-04-2008, 05:13 PM
Well, maybe I'm weird that way. I read the whole book from cover to cover, including table of contents, acknowledgment, preface (for non-fiction), copyright page (which contains the one line summary), plus the "to the dear reader" letter at the end.

Am I mental or what?

Mental or not, I'm like that, too. :D

***

I find that generally books I like have prologues I like, and prologues I don't like precede books I don't like. (As always, there are exceptions.) Not reading the prologue would feel especially strange to me. It would feel just as strange as always starting at chapter 2. To me prologues just feel part of the story (even if they have nothing to do with the plot proper.)

Ken
10-04-2008, 05:16 PM
I usually skip prologues and then go back to them when I'm midway through the books.

tehuti88
10-04-2008, 05:53 PM
I haven't read all the other replies, so this response is based on the original post's question and not on others' responses.

I never skip prologues, and I always find it mystifying (and infuriating) when people do. Just because some "writers" misuse the prologue doesn't mean everyone does. My prologues are actual CHAPTERS with actual PLOT which is IMPORTANT TO THE STORY, so when people skip them, it's like skipping one of the chapters. In fact that's exactly what it is. (And reading it out of order carries the same risks--the rest of the story might not make immediate sense, just like skipping Chapter 1.) So it makes no sense to me. Would you skip reading Chapter 10, too? Or the last chapter? Or--*gasp*--the epilogue? (Which, in my works, is ALSO a chapter of the story!)

One should at least LOOK at the prologue to make sure it's an actual chapter, like mine are, as opposed to one of those infodump prefaces/author's notes or something. It's the people who write those lame infodump prefaces who have made getting people to read prologues so hard for writers like me. Although it steams me when readers skip the prologue, it's the bad prologue writers who are really to blame. Learn to incorporate it all in the story, people!! Then maybe I wouldn't have to beg readers to read the actual beginning of my stories.

*had to recently edit Chapter 1 of her novels online to insist that readers READ THE PROLOGUES because they are part of the story!*

This emoticon sums it all up nicely. :rant:

Toothpaste
10-04-2008, 06:11 PM
Look this conversation has been done to death. You probably won't get half the answers you want because people are avoiding it now like the plague, they know what will come of it. It is already happening, the last post started insulting the reader, what the reader owes the writer, and then soon it will turn into "I'm a better reader than you" from both sides.

The simple answer is you can't write something that will please everybody. Here you have people who insist they will read every part of the book front to back, and you also have people who choose what they wish to read.

I personally find it really odd that some people skip to the end to find out what happens, instead of reading through to it, but I don't consider them lesser readers.

Fact is we have no control (and no right to control) over our readers. They will read our work however they darn well please and we just have to deal with it. If we went around trying to please everyone we would wind up pleasing no one.

And tehuti - I'm sorry you get so upset over your lack of control over your audience (I recall you saying something else about that a few days ago), but I would highly recommend taking a step back and accepting you simply will never have that kind of control. Use the energy you expend on being frustrated that way on your writing instead. As someone who craves absolute control herself, I can tell you the moment you do is very freeing. I agree with you 100%, though, about the bad prologue writers, indeed they are completely to blame for this current debate.

Anyway, just my two cents.

Ken
10-04-2008, 06:19 PM
...ps I always do glance at prologues to get an idea if they're essential to the novels. Usually they're not, so I postpone reading them till later on as they're usually rather dull in comparison to the actual stories.

Ardellis
10-04-2008, 06:23 PM
Classify me with the folks who read everything. Prologues. Dedications. Author's notes. Appendices. Even bibliographies. If it's between those covers, I'm going to read it, if only because the author and the editor both thought it belonged there, and I want the full experience that I've paid for.

Beach Bunny
10-04-2008, 06:44 PM
To be honest, I've always read the prologue of a book. Until a few years ago, I didn't know there were people in the world who didn't read them and would automatically skip the prologue and start with Chapter 1. I was totally mystified as to why anyone would do this. Then I read a few really poorly written ones ..... All of them were in the Fantasy genre ... sigh .... Okay, now I understand why people skip them. :(

It happens in other genres as well, it just seems that the masters at writing really bad info-dump prologues write fantasy. And yes, as a reader, you would be pretty safe in skipping the prologue and starting with Chapter 1 in those stories. :(

So, read the prologue or not? Include one or not? Up until a few years ago, I would have said definitely "yes." Now, it depends somewhat on the genre of the book. I read the first few paragraphs. If it is an info-dump, then I skip it. :Shrug:

fullbookjacket
10-04-2008, 06:44 PM
I figure the prologue is included for a reason, especially for a novel. Therefore, I read it.

Prologues in non-fiction books often seem to be merely the rambling of some academic's self-important thoughts. When I read Mark Twain's "The Innocents Abroad" recently, the prologue was a 15-page exposition by some English professor telling me what Twain was trying to tell me. I wouldn't have minded so much if it was a 3-page effort.

mscelina
10-04-2008, 06:46 PM
If I write a prologue, it's for a specific reason. My novel is my play and I am its director. The readers are my audience. I use the prologue to set the stage, to relay the one event that instigated the action of the story. I set the mood, establish the narrative voice and jump start the plot. My readers can begin reading on the first page of chapter one if they so choose--that is their option.

But one doesn't go to the play to see only the second act. I read every word of a book because that's how the writer intended it to be read. A prologue is not an accident. It's the threshold of the story. Why ignore it?

Darzian
10-04-2008, 06:46 PM
Toothpaste summed it up nicely.

fullbookjacket
10-04-2008, 06:47 PM
Or maybe a prologue for non-fiction is rightly called an "introduction." I don't know. Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

Toothpaste
10-04-2008, 07:26 PM
If I write a prologue, it's for a specific reason. My novel is my play and I am its director. The readers are my audience. I use the prologue to set the stage, to relay the one event that instigated the action of the story. I set the mood, establish the narrative voice and jump start the plot. My readers can begin reading on the first page of chapter one if they so choose--that is their option.

But one doesn't go to the play to see only the second act. I read every word of a book because that's how the writer intended it to be read. A prologue is not an accident. It's the threshold of the story. Why ignore it?

Ah but different art forms have their different constraints. So yes, as an audience member I am "forced" to watch your play from the beginning. But I am still free to choose what I wish to watch. You may want me watching the main acting centre stage, you may have spent weeks setting the scene, working with the actors on emotional memory, made the lighting just so, but if I so desire I will watch the girl in the background who isn't a part of the scene at all just being used as an extra to demonstrate the scene takes place on a busy street. You can't as a director come up to me and whisper "Um could you please watch the main action as opposed to the extras in the background please?"

I maintain that it is well and good for us as authors to create what we want and hope that our audiences see what we want them to. But it is not our right, nor is it entirely under our control. I suppose there is nothing wrong with feeling frustrated that readers don't do what we want them to, but it is out of our control and I'm not entirely sure what the point of debating it is except maybe to vent our frustrations.

I still think the energy is better spent elsewhere, but of course if it helps then who am I to judge.

mscelina
10-04-2008, 07:31 PM
LOL--trust me: I don't always write a prologue. The ones I do write are there for a reason--they're brief, action, and essential to the establishment of the main story line.

But as a reader I feel obligated *personally* to read what the author has written. That doesn't mean that the prologue is always necessary or essential to the forward progress of the plot. I'd like to think that the ones I have are but *shrug* I could be deluding myself.

Perks
10-04-2008, 07:42 PM
Have you ever skipped a prologue when starting to read a book? Never. Not once. I do not understand this possibility.

Carmy
10-04-2008, 08:16 PM
As Perka said: Never.

Sometimes Prologues are necessary to set the scene, if you're transported the reader to another time or another place.

Mad Queen
10-04-2008, 08:26 PM
Someone I know has a book by Jorge Luis Borges called Prologues with a Prologue of Prologues. I wonder what some people would do if forced to read it.

Michael Parks
10-04-2008, 08:27 PM
Someone I know has a book by Jorge Luis Borges called Prologues with a Prologue of Prologues. I wonder what some people would do if forced to read it.

From the sound of it here, some people's heads would likely explode. :)

jennifer75
10-04-2008, 11:10 PM
Thanks, Woodsie. So the question then seems to hover: would it be safer to make it chapter one? Insurance?

Maybe use it as the first scene in chapter one, then make an obvious scene break and continue on with the rest..... ?

CheshireCat
10-04-2008, 11:32 PM
I was going to stay out of it this time. *sighs*

Why on earth would I skip something the writer considered a part of his or her story? If it's boring I might skim, but skip?



I skip them. There was a film once - in fact it's been doing the rounds again on TV recently - about a bunch of people who chase hurricanes. There is a prologue which is set in the MC's childhood and shows how her father was blown away in a hurricane. I didn't "get it" until I had seen the film three times. I kept thinking "who was that little girl supposed to be and why did they bother including that scene, other than to show that hurricanes can be life threatening?"
Maybe I'm just thick. :Shrug:

It wasn't hurricanes, it was tornadoes. The movie is "Twister." And, honestly, that very brief "prologue" was pretty clear, especially since the little girl's name is used. And it told the viewer an awful lot about the demons driving her.

But who am I to criticize; I miss things all the time. :Shrug:


I never skip prologues, and I always find it mystifying (and infuriating) when people do. Just because some "writers" misuse the prologue doesn't mean everyone does. My prologues are actual CHAPTERS with actual PLOT which is IMPORTANT TO THE STORY, so when people skip them, it's like skipping one of the chapters. In fact that's exactly what it is. (And reading it out of order carries the same risks--the rest of the story might not make immediate sense, just like skipping Chapter 1.) So it makes no sense to me. Would you skip reading Chapter 10, too? Or the last chapter? Or--*gasp*--the epilogue? (Which, in my works, is ALSO a chapter of the story!)


This emoticon sums it all up nicely. :rant:

I've been at this too long to get that furious, but I am mystified by readers who don't consider a prologue part of the story.

Even more mystified by writers who claim to believe that.


Never. Not once. I do not understand this possibility.

Nor do I. I have, as I've said, skimmed prologues I discovered were badly done in whatever sense, but never arbitrarily decided that a prologue was not part of the story and was, therefore, not worthy of my time as a reader.

ETA: Just so everybody is clear, an agent or editor is NOT going to skip your prologue in material you send in. They may later suggest you drop it, or incorporate it into Chapter One if need be, but they'll consider it part of your story as submitted.

Chrisla
10-05-2008, 12:39 AM
ETA: Just so everybody is clear, an agent or editor is NOT going to skip your prologue in material you send in. They may later suggest you drop it, or incorporate it into Chapter One if need be, but they'll consider it part of your story as submitted.

But I notice that several agents request that prologues not be included in the first three chapters the writer sends. If the prologue is an integral part of the story, won't that diminish the chapters the agent is willing to read?

Note: I'm one of those people who read the prologue/introduction and epilogue. If I like the writer enough to buy the book, I assume everything he/she has written is there for a purpose.

maestrowork
10-05-2008, 12:45 AM
If it's a short prologue (1 page or so) I'll read it. If it's a longer prologue, I'll read the first page to see if it grabs me or if it's just backstory/set up. I treat prologue the same way I treat first chapters... if not, I will jump directly to chapter 1. I'm very impatient. :)

That said, I'm amazed by how many writers (well-published writers) who misuse prologues. Either the prologues should be Chapter 1, or they're completely unnecessary. Sometimes I wonder if they believed a prologue would make their stories sound "grander" than they really were. Or something.

CheshireCat
10-05-2008, 12:54 AM
But I notice that several agents request that prologues not be included in the first three chapters the writer sends. If the prologue is an integral part of the story, won't that diminish the chapters the agent is willing to read?

I'm assuming these agents have seen a few too many badly-written prologues.

Follow their rules if you're submitting to them.

For myself, I'd question any agent unwilling to read my work as I produced it, no matter what arbitrary conclusions they'd come to regarding prologues.

But I'm lucky enough to not be agent-hunting, so I can afford to be hyper-critical.

:Shrug:

maestrowork
10-05-2008, 01:16 AM
Agents are super-readers. The fact is, you can't dictate how your readers read your book, no matter how much you hate the fact that they skip things. So, if an agent doesn't want prologues, they have their reasons, and it's wise to follow their guidelines.

It doesn't mean you shouldn't write a prologue, but just with everything else that goes into a novel, you really must ask why. Why is the prologue there? Why is it relevant? Why is it interesting and riveting to read? Why would your readers not skip it?

rhymegirl
10-05-2008, 02:51 AM
Yes. Frequently.

fullbookjacket
10-05-2008, 03:53 AM
Ah, "Twister." What a crappy movie. It would have been much better if it had ended right after the prologue.

SPMiller
10-05-2008, 03:54 AM
It may just be that people think differently about the purpose of a prolog. I'm primarily a fantasy reader, so that colors my opinions in ways that people who read other genres don't understand.

When I think of the word prolog, I think of material that happens outside the normal flow of the narrative. For example, a prolog might depict a scene far removed in time and/or place from where the story actually begins in chapter one. Often, these prologs show characters who may not show up until much later in the narrative, if at all.

No one needs to know that information up front. The writer can add it at the point at which it becomes relevant within the natural progression of the narrative.

That's why I tend to skip prologs.

CheshireCat
10-05-2008, 04:50 AM
Ah, "Twister." What a crappy movie. It would have been much better if it had ended right after the prologue.

Generally speaking, I love summer blockbusters and disaster movies. I don't expect much of them except that they entertain me, and most do that.

But then, I have lowbrow tastes and write commercial fiction. ;)

narnia
10-05-2008, 05:56 AM
I'm the type who opens a book and flips through the first pages, looking for the start of the book. If I see the word "prologue", I begin the book there.

How about you?

I love to read. I discovered that I was cursed with this dreaded disorder at a very early age. By the middle of fourth grade I was reading beyond a sixth grade level.

Sigh. It's a challenge, I know, to go through life with this dreaded affliction. It invades and infects every facet of my life. When my eyes land on any sort of text, whether it be a cereal box, a newpaper, a road sign, a menu, or *gasp*, a prologue, I am forced to read those printed letters strung together to form words.

So yes, I do read prologues.

And in my soon to be finished novel, I have a prologue! Granted, it is intended to be commercial fiction, paranormal suspense to be exact, hopefully designed to scare and entertain, so perhaps it is not worthy of respect and admiration (did I mention I was a hack and proud? :)).

On a more serious note, I too never knew that there was such an issue with this thing called a prologue. I have never considered skipping one, and like any text in any part of a novel if I find it a bit boring I may skim. But skip on principle because it is denoted a 'prologue'? Never.

To me that would be like saying, I read a mystery or two once upon a time but I figured out who dunnit before the end so I will never again read another mystery.

Granted, once your little duckling goes out into the world you have no control over how it is read, so there's that. But to never consider including one because you've read some bad ones is a little bit of a cop-out (no disrespect intended to anyone here, I loves you all!!! :e2arms:) Try this approach - consider it a challenge to include a prologue in one of your works that will be lauded as brilliant and inspire hundreds of authors to emulate your genius! :D

The prologue of my current wip has a title - 'Six Months Earlier'. Now, I know it probably won't fool all those eagle-eyed prologue avoiders out there, but it's there for a reason, no it won't be more acceptable to call it 'Chapter 1", and no, I can't fold the contents into other chapters. So when my novel gets published, I hope you anti-prologue-ers will give it a chance, but if you don't, you've paid your money and it's yours to do with as you will.

Sign me, not so much a prologue advocate but a cover-to-cover reader.

Dawnstorm
10-05-2008, 09:55 AM
I'm assuming these agents have seen a few too many badly-written prologues.

Follow their rules if you're submitting to them.

Actually, I think there's a different reason for agents to ask for the first three chapters excluding the prologue. The purpose of the sample chapters is to get a feeling for the book, right? And a prologue is often written in a different style, and may not be representative of the book. While I know nothing about agents, I'd think that's a more likely reason than that they dislike prologues. (The info in the prologue will be in the synopsis, I suppose.)

Bartholomew
10-05-2008, 10:00 AM
I've skipped entire chapters, and only gone back to read them in the end. Especially when it switches POVs between two characters. I like surprises, and the way most novels are written, I have to introduce them into the story myself.

MagicMan
10-05-2008, 10:43 AM
I do not read them. I even put back books with a prologue to search for another that does not have a prologue. Sad but true.

Smiles
Bob

PS: I operate bookstores and have 40,000 titles available. So I tend to pick books that catch me with the first couple of sentences. I don't read jackets either.

Mumut
10-05-2008, 10:53 AM
My prologues are actual CHAPTERS with actual PLOT which is IMPORTANT TO THE STORY, :rant:

Then call it chapter one and be done with it. Then you'll have an interesting first chapter.

Bartholomew
10-05-2008, 11:20 AM
I do not read them. I even put back books with a prologue to search for another that does not have a prologue. Sad but true.

Smiles
Bob

PS: I operate bookstores and have 40,000 titles available. So I tend to pick books that catch me with the first couple of sentences. I don't read jackets either.



Then call it chapter one and be done with it. Then you'll have an interesting first chapter.


What do you think of books that don't call their scene breaks "chapters?" Because I've read a number that list times, dates, and even titles---but that never mention the word chapter.

A prologue is just another name for a collection of scenes. Why skip those particular scenes JUST because they're labeled "prologue?" This is the equivalent of skipping every chapter 13 in every book, or skipping all the prime numeric pages.

Do you skip EVERYTHING that comes before the first chapter header? Many stories begin with newspaper clippings and relevant, world building information that comes before chapter one. Skipping it seems foolish, and refusing to read writers because they labeled their material in a manner displeasing to you seems a bit draconian--and frankly, self limiting.

-B, who only skips BORING prologues, but still gives chapter 1 a chance.

SPMiller
10-05-2008, 11:23 AM
Woohoo, I'm foolish, draconian, and self-limiting.

Ken
10-05-2008, 12:06 PM
might I suggest a joust between those in favor of reading prologues and those who aren't, with a fair-haired maiden offered as prize, so as to avoid an all out war from erupting over the issue.

Now then, mount yer steeds, retreat 50 paces; lower yer round-tipped spears; and advance!

Varthikes
10-05-2008, 12:39 PM
I have never skipped a prologue ever since I started reading novels.

I will also read the author's acknowledgments and dedications.

Phoebe H
10-05-2008, 01:20 PM
The only prologues that I have ever skipped have been those that are "recaps of earlier books in the series" when I have actually read said books. Sometimes I skim those, too, and learn something that I missed.

Until I joined this forum, I had no idea that anyone ever skipped prologues. It never occurred to me that anyone would do such a thing. It doesn't *bother* me, but I do find it rather mystifying.

My current WIP has a Prologue which is, really, just another chapter. It *could* be called Chapter 1, but that would be wrong.

The only way that I know how to explain it is that there are certain signals that you send in Chapter 1, that suggest to the reader what direction you are going to go with the book. As others have said, some of that is POV, but also theme, and the shape of the plot arc. When you call something a Prologue, you are telling the reader to suspend their expectations that that shaping has begun. It's a powerful tool, which shouldn't be misused.

So I feel like if my Prologue were called Chapter 1, then my ending doesn't make as much sense. But maybe I'm strange. (Actually, there's no 'maybe' about it.)

TheAntar
10-05-2008, 01:20 PM
I read the first page of a prologue and then decide if I'm enjoying it enough to continue. Too many bad prologues to have a "must read the prologue" rule set, IMO. But this is basically what all the pro-skippers are saying... they won't skip 100% of the prologues but they are certainly willing, and perhaps even accustomed, to skipping them.

Mr Flibble
10-05-2008, 01:22 PM
I do not read them. I even put back books with a prologue to search for another that does not have a prologue. Sad but true.

Smiles
Bob

PS: I operate bookstores and have 40,000 titles available. So I tend to pick books that catch me with the first couple of sentences. I don't read jackets either.

But if you don't read the prologue, how do you know the first few sentences won't grab you?

Ken
10-05-2008, 01:50 PM
^^ I'm sure yours would grab me right away, IRUs, cause yer an awesome writer :-) ^^

What it really amounts to in general for me is this:
Books are rarely easy to start reading, no matter how well composed they are.
So if the prologue isn't essential, as gleaned from a glance, I postpone reading it for later and hop right into the first chapter. Then when I am suffieciently engrossed in the book I go back and read it and usually enjoy it, even if it isn't as engaging as the story itself, for by then I am interested in everything about the characters and their backgrounds, up to and including what color socks they wear.

cooeedownunder
10-05-2008, 03:30 PM
If I am in a bookstore I read the first few lines. If it is a prologue, so be it, but if I can't get into the story by half way through the first page, I put the book back on the shelf. Now if I own the book I will skip half of every page, that i find boring. Gone with the Wind, was a book I think was brilliantly written, but that might be because I skipped half the book, especially the detail about the war. The best books i read, i never skipped a page.

Linda Adams
10-05-2008, 03:39 PM
But if you don't read the prologue, how do you know the first few sentences won't grab you?

At ThrillerFest a few years ago, James Rollins said that when submitting a manuscript to an agent having a prologue was essentially like having two first chapters--two places where the agent could stop reading if the story didn't grab him.

wrinkles
10-05-2008, 09:23 PM
I read for pleasure, and I read as a reader, not as a writer. Long ago when I used to read prologues, I got frustrated when I entered into the story and began to care about the characters and their plight, only to have the story end and new one begin with the first chapter. So I stopped reading them. I like a story that has one beginning and one end, and lots of interesting stuff in between.

I also realized that not once did any prologue actually contribute anythng to the story. There was never a moment when I said, "Ah yes, now I see why that prologue was included." Not once. And I used to be a voracious reader.

So that's why I haven't read them in years. And as for the opinion that I somehow owe it to the writer to read them, I don't understand that attitude at all. Why would a reader owe the writer anything? The way I see it, any reader who devotes a percentage of a limited lifespan to reading a writer's work has done their part. After that, the obligation to entertain and inform is all on the writer.

Peachnuts
10-05-2008, 09:25 PM
I ALWAYS skip the prologue.
But if I LOVED the book A LOT, then at the end I will go back and read it just to savour a few more moments with the characters.

CheshireCat
10-05-2008, 09:29 PM
Actually, I think there's a different reason for agents to ask for the first three chapters excluding the prologue. The purpose of the sample chapters is to get a feeling for the book, right? And a prologue is often written in a different style, and may not be representative of the book. While I know nothing about agents, I'd think that's a more likely reason than that they dislike prologues. (The info in the prologue will be in the synopsis, I suppose.)

Again, I find myself mystified.

Why would a prologue, written by the author of the rest of the book, be written in a different style?

I write prologues all the time, and they are, most definitely, written in the style of the rest of the book and are representative of my style and my voice.

I honestly don't get this thinking.

Dawnstorm
10-05-2008, 11:31 PM
Again, I find myself mystified.

Why would a prologue, written by the author of the rest of the book, be written in a different style?

I write prologues all the time, and they are, most definitely, written in the style of the rest of the book and are representative of my style and my voice.

I honestly don't get this thinking.


The frame-story: Prologue + Epilogue = traveller trading story for food; third person omni - rest first person in character's voice.

History break down: Panoramic view; excerpt from a history book etc. - rest of the story 3rd limited

etc. etc. etc.

It happens all the time. Of course, the prologue doesn't have to be written in another style. (And, of course, the first three chapters could differ in similar ways from the rest of the novel.) But, perhaps, it happens often enough so that agents/editors would rather read the first three chapters as a default - to be on the safe side.

I'm really only guessing here. We could always put the question to an agent. ;)

I just doubt that not wanting the prologue with sample chapters is a negative comment prologues.

Toothpaste
10-06-2008, 12:05 AM
CC - it really isn't an issue of it not existing and you being mystified that others think that there is a different style to the prologue as opposed to the rest of the book, it is, Dawnstorm explained, very very common.

I don't know what you write (and trust me that so frustrates me, I wish I know who you were you mysterious Cat you . . . :) ), but I think the most common genre for prologues is often fantasy, and it is this genre where you will also find some of the most infuriating prologues. Like how many first time fantasy writers think they MUST write a series, when they have yet to even complete one novel, many also think they MUST write a prologue. One which is full of info dumping and world building. One where the author wants the reader to know every small detail about their world that really doesn't matter much to the story itself. Often it will be from the POV of a character who is never seen in the book again. Possibly written in third person as opposed to the rest of the book written in first. More grandiose in style, than the more casual storytelling of the rest of the story.

This happens a lot. And this is why yes, many people will skip prologues especially in that genre, because they know the convention, and quite frankly, hate it.

Now I am one of those people who will skip a prologue in a fantasy novel. Obviously I give it a quick once over first, but if I see the usual trappings I will skip over it to give the rest of the story the benefit of the doubt, hoping the author just fell for the fantasy prologue mentality and it isn't a true reflection of their writing. Otherwise I would actually put down the book and not read any of it. Me skipping the prologue is actually a good thing.

But in other forms of literature, I don't skip prologues because that tradition is not there. And heck, I've written in prologues so far for both of my books.

Anyway, you might still not agree, but hopefully this helps at least for you to understand the rational, even if it is not something you would do.

Linda Adams
10-06-2008, 12:08 AM
The frame-story: Prologue + Epilogue = traveller trading story for food; third person omni - rest first person in character's voice.



The mystery I read where it repeated itself in the prologue and the first chapter was like this. It started with a camera view omni where we watched from a distance as an unknown person found the body. Then, in the next chapter, it switched to first person. It was quite jarring because I was expecting to continue in the same style, and it changed with the flip of a page.

CheshireCat
10-06-2008, 12:36 AM
CC - it really isn't an issue of it not existing and you being mystified that others think that there is a different style to the prologue as opposed to the rest of the book, it is, Dawnstorm explained, very very common.



I wasn't denying that it existed, Toothpaste, just mystified that it would. I can see how a Foreward, or Preface might, but -- as I've stated again and again -- to me, the Prologue is simply part of the story, and I would expect it to be as solid an example of a writer's voice and style as Chapter 1 or Chapter 25 would be.

I used to read a lot of fantasy, but haven't read much in recent years, and completely accept the word of those of you who read it that this sort of prologue exists. I also accept that in fantasy writers too-often dump backstory into a prologue; I remember that from quite a few of the "classics" I read back in the day.

Out of curiosity, I just went to my bookshelves and pulled a few titles at random, from different genres. Of four suspense novels I pulled, two had prologues (including one of Elizabeth George's titles); of five paranormal (or, arguably, horror) novels I pulled, three had prologues; out of six mysteries, two had prologues; out of five romances (romantic suspense), two had prologues; and out of five titles simply labeled "novel," four had prologues.

Different writers, different genres, titles published within the last ten or twelve years (and several very recent).

Most of the prologues contained a backstory event that definitely ties into the storyline, and all were brief -- on the order of two to five pages.

Look, people read the way they read, and that's their own business. As someone else said, they don't owe us anything after plunking down the $$ for our work.

But writers, IMO, and most especially aspiring writers, are missing a potential great tool by not reading prologues with the same hunger they should be reading everything else they can get their hands on.

You can learn from a bad prologue. You can learn from a good prologue. You can learn from a great prologue.

You can't learn a thing from a prologue you don't read.

Just another tool in the storyteller's toolbox.

That's all I'm saying.

ChaosTitan
10-06-2008, 12:43 AM
But writers, IMO, and most especially aspiring writers, are missing a potential great tool by not reading prologues with the same hunger they should be reading everything else they can get their hands on.

You can learn from a bad prologue. You can learn from a good prologue. You can learn from a great prologue.

You can't learn a thing from a prologue you don't read.

Just another tool in the storyteller's toolbox.


Well put, and terrific advice, CeCe.

OctoberRain
10-06-2008, 03:28 AM
I now know for a fact that I don't read AW often enough, because this is the first thread I've seen discussing prologues.

I must be on another planet, because honestly, it's never occurred to me - not once - to skip a prologue. To me, if it's there, it's because it's part of the story. When flipping to find the start of a book, if it says Prologue, I'll start reading there. If it's not there, I'll start at Chapter 1. I've never once considered skipping over a prologue and starting at the first chapter. To me, that would feel like deciding the first chapter must not be useful so I'll just start reading at Chapter 2.

Whether a book has a prologue or not would never sway me one way or another as to the "purchase-worthiness" of the book. I assume it's part of the story, and there for a reason. And if, when I start reading the prologue, it seems a little slow, then I may skim through it... but I tend to do that with any part of the book (beginning, middle, or end) that I feel drags.

But gee, where have I been??? Clearly lots of people dislike prologues but I can't say I've ever thought about it one way or the other. To find out that some feel so strongly against them is really surprising.

CommaSplice
10-06-2008, 03:49 AM
I generally read prologues. That's where the story starts, that's where I'm getting the info I need. I'm usually blindly assuming here that the author has written a "good" prologue, and not just an infodump.

That said, the question was, Have I ever skipped a prologue? Answer: Yes. I skipped the prologue to Eragon when I first read it after about three sentences. Dunno why; they aren't very menacing sentences. I also skipped the prologue to Frankenstein, because I absolutely hate epistolary prose.

maestrowork
10-06-2008, 03:53 AM
Why would a prologue, written by the author of the rest of the book, be written in a different style?


Because. You're a writer, and you know writers can do -- and will do -- anything they want. What's so astounding to find the writer writes the prologue in a different style? It happens.


Also, I read for pleasure, as do most readers. I don't read to learn about bad or good prologues. If I want to learn, there are many ways. But it's not a reason why a book should have a prologue, and certainly not a reason why a readers must read a prologue.

Honestly, readers skip anything that bores them or just isn't done well. If there is enough of that kind of crud, they will stop reading the book completely. Prologues are just part of it all -- do it well, and you can have 10 prologues and no one will complain. Do it poorly, one is enough and you can't really fault the readers for not reading it -- and you certainly can't dictate what your readers do or do not read. To do so is a sign of a HUGE writer's ego: If I write it, you should read it.

CheshireCat
10-06-2008, 04:54 AM
You know, I think I'm going to give up on this topic.

:Shrug:

I've said what I wanted to say.

Bartholomew
10-06-2008, 05:58 AM
Woohoo, I'm foolish, draconian, and self-limiting.

The word "prologue" ought to be as invisible as the word "chapter" as a heading. There isn't a good reason for it to evoke the sort of hatred it does. Saying that all books with prologues are bad is akin to saying that any book ever printed with a map inside is unreadable garbage.

If there word Prologue wasn't there, but there was content before chapter one, would you still never read the book?

MagicMan
10-06-2008, 07:36 AM
What do you think of books that don't call their scene breaks "chapters?" Because I've read a number that list times, dates, and even titles---but that never mention the word chapter.

A prologue is just another name for a collection of scenes. Why skip those particular scenes JUST because they're labeled "prologue?" This is the equivalent of skipping every chapter 13 in every book, or skipping all the prime numeric pages.

Do you skip EVERYTHING that comes before the first chapter header? Many stories begin with newspaper clippings and relevant, world building information that comes before chapter one. Skipping it seems foolish, and refusing to read writers because they labeled their material in a manner displeasing to you seems a bit draconian--and frankly, self limiting.

-B, who only skips BORING prologues, but still gives chapter 1 a chance.

This is simply from my book reader POV.

I generally skip everything prior to chapter one. After several thousand books, I have found too many times, prose written prior to chapter one have caused me to shelve the book. On encouragement later, I would return, start reading at chapter one and find the book to be amazing. This is sometimes true for some books chapter one. Now if chapter one has me tending to putting the book back, I will skip to chapter three and read a few pages. Frequently I find the book is worth reading at chapter three.

It seems that some authors try too hard in the first couple of chapters. Once they return to their normal style, they are great to read.

Prologues to me either tell too much, tell something unrelated to the first few chapters, info dump, etc. etc.

A well written novel will capture me at chapter one and carry me to the next book quickly.

Darzian
10-06-2008, 07:37 AM
Just out of curiosity, what do you think of the LOTR prologue? I found it unbearable at first, but once I finished the story I was desperate for more and had loved reading it.

Ooooh 100th post

SPMiller
10-06-2008, 08:52 AM
The word "prologue" ought to be as invisible as the word "chapter" as a heading. There isn't a good reason for it to evoke the sort of hatred it does. Saying that all books with prologues are bad is akin to saying that any book ever printed with a map inside is unreadable garbage.When did I say that?


If there word Prologue wasn't there, but there was content before chapter one, would you still never read the book?When did I say that?

I only said I skipped most prologs.

SPMiller, your friendly neighborhood foolish/draconian/self-limiting fantasy writer

Michael Parks
10-06-2008, 11:10 AM
Many varying opinions!! Lots of good food for thought, which led me to a deeper reflection than I thought possible on the subject.

From the standpoint of "reader", I feel a prologue is a taste, a scent, a harbinger of things to come. It is the single lamp along a darkened path not yet traveled, hinting whether or not I want to tread that way. I read it because I want to feel something about the story. I'll admit to many an unread book because of the initial light upon that path.

From the standpoint of "writer", by all counts I can make, the prologue is the use of my imagination for the reader's benefit, an aid to their experience of the story they are about to embark upon. I would no more use boring, info-laden prose there than I would any other part of a story. I consider it a query letter to the adventuresome heart of my would-be reader, a reason to commit their intellect to my weavings.

Chapter one? There starts the mundane's journey to the extraordinary. From the common stance of the reader's world to the turn of events signaling bold departure, fervent need and greatest peril... where the reader rides along, indentured by the alluring contrast to their own pallid world! (you can stop to gag any moment now, if you feel the need!)

So I'm a bit alarmed at all the nay-saying to the prologue. I'd hate to have my hacker missed, yet feel he doesn't belong in the first chapter. What happens to him is the shot across the bow, the unexpected and mysterious fate we most assuredly would like to avoid ourselves. Hardly mundane...

For now I'll take the advice I've seen offered, and wait for an agent's eye and guidance. (oh that one day I have one!) :D

Mumut
10-06-2008, 01:00 PM
Do you skip EVERYTHING that comes before the first chapter header? .

Yes.

Bartholomew
10-06-2008, 05:09 PM
Yes.

Weird.

You should tell the bookstore clerks that and see if they'll cut a dollar or so off the price.

Bartholomew
10-06-2008, 05:20 PM
When did I say that?

When did I say that?

I only said I skipped most prologs.

SPMiller, your friendly neighborhood foolish/draconian/self-limiting fantasy writer

My post was directed at the person in this thread who said he wouldn't read or stock books that had prologues. If my post clearly didn't apply to you, why bother replying as if it did?

SPMiller
10-07-2008, 01:01 AM
My post was directed at the person in this thread who said he wouldn't read or stock books that had prologues. If my post clearly didn't apply to you, why bother replying as if it did?Then why did you quote me, thereby responding to my post?

I really, really don't like your posting style at all.

DreamWeaver
10-07-2008, 01:56 AM
Warning: possible spoiler for The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which does have a prologue.



***SPOILER SPACE***







When Oprah chose it as her book club selection, I decided to read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle so I could discuss it with our customers. Her website offered to get you started with Chapter 1, so I read Chapter 1 online. The next day I picked up the book at the bookstore and to my surprise, found it had a prologue. The prologue was fascinating, but so totally unrelated to Chapter 1 or any other of the beginning chapters that I wondered more than once why it existed. However, many chapters in, once the reader has picked up on what play informs the action of the book, the prologue becomes increasingly important in creating a sense of impending doom and disaster.

So, I ended up glad that I went back and read the prologue rather than continuing from the point I had read to online.

Bartholomew
10-07-2008, 02:36 AM
Then why did you quote me, thereby responding to my post?

I really, really don't like your posting style at all.

I originally quoted MagicMan and Mumet. You responded to that post, and I responded to your response (which, I admit, I found somewhat odd.)

I'll make sure to file your opinion about my posting style.

jennifer75
12-02-2008, 08:54 PM
I'm the type who opens a book and flips through the first pages, looking for the start of the book. If I see the word "prologue", I begin the book there.

How about you?

Bringing this one back to life...

Yesterday I picked up for the VERY FIRST TIME yes, SPANK ME IF YOU MUST.... The Scarlet Letter. It was the MMP version. A Penguin Classic.

Not only was there a prologue, there was an authors note, a preface, and an introduction! The story started on page 55!!!!!

What do you do in THIS case? Skip it all? Read the intro? Help?!?!?

Michael Parks
12-03-2008, 06:00 AM
Wow..! Well, my interest would lie primarily in the story, so I'd look for wherever it begins. Up front, I'm not interested in the history of the story, or the history of the region of the world it's based in, or what the author thinks of his work or wants me to think of it. If it was a really good book, I might go back and read all that. Likely not.

Show. Me. The story!

Varthikes
12-03-2008, 06:27 AM
Bringing this one back to life...

Yesterday I picked up for the VERY FIRST TIME yes, SPANK ME IF YOU MUST.... The Scarlet Letter. It was the MMP version. A Penguin Classic.

Not only was there a prologue, there was an authors note, a preface, and an introduction! The story started on page 55!!!!!

What do you do in THIS case? Skip it all? Read the intro? Help?!?!?

Sounds kind of like The Silmarillion, which was an aborted read for me because is was too frelling boring.

If the writing is good, I'll read it. Another book I read (a Star Trek book) had a prologue that was 23 pages long. But, it was an actual prologue. It was a part of the story, but was set apart from the story in time. (Not sure if that makes sense. The book was the 2nd Volume of The Eugenics Wars)

Jackfishwoman
12-03-2008, 06:44 AM
I actually love to read the prologue, preface, author's note, etc.
In fact, if a book doesn't have one or any of these things, it seems a little scant to me. Like just having dinner without appetizers, drinks, or dessert.

When browsing the bookstores, I always scan over prologues and/or author's notes first before making a decision on purchasing. I find it gives me a small, palatable dose of where the writer is going to take me. I like that (I'm not one who likes surprises!) If there is just a title page and then Chapter One - it just doesn't grab me in the same way. That's the best I can explain it:Shrug:

jennifer75
12-03-2008, 09:56 AM
I actually love to read the prologue, preface, author's note, etc.
In fact, if a book doesn't have one or any of these things, it seems a little scant to me. Like just having dinner without appetizers, drinks, or dessert.




Yes, but you're not discussing the recipes or cooking techniques with the chef. Do I need to know that the author died at an early age, or that he was miserable, or what his wife thought of his work, etc. in order to enjoy the story?

Should I know the discrepencies of the story going in, so I can dissect them when I come to them?

narnia
12-03-2008, 06:09 PM
Yes, but you're not discussing the recipes or cooking techniques with the chef. Do I need to know that the author died at an early age, or that he was miserable, or what his wife thought of his work, etc. in order to enjoy the story?

Should I know the discrepencies of the story going in, so I can dissect them when I come to them?

Actually, I would love to discuss the recipes or cooking techniques with the chef if the dish captured my attention, having been one in a former life.

Likewise I often find myself looking up additional info on the authors and/or subject matter (in the case of books based loosely on real life events such as Laura Lippman's 'What the Dead Know') if the book captures my attention and curiousity. Perhaps I am different in that I enjoy going beyond the book to explore its origins whether they be in the mind of the author or from something/where else. If I find that information in the book or via Google, matters not to me.

So to answer the question of whether or not the lack of additional information prevents me from enjoying the book, I would have to say no, but neither would its inclusion.

I am also not sure why the inclusion of a prologue, author's note, etc. would indicate that there will be discrepencies in[of] the story.

I am completely mystified by folks who dismiss prologues out of hand, simply because I would never consider that and in fact never heard of this practice until I landed at AW. However I think that like all things in life, everyone is different. I cannot eat French fries without ketchup, yet my sister thinks that is barbaric and uses salt and oregano. Sacrilege!!! Bottom line, once you buy a book it is yours to do with as you wish and read however you like.

Having read numerous threads on this very subject during my tenure at AW, I have come to the conclusion there there will never be a meeting of the minds re this topic, but does it really matter? Speaking for myself, I will continue to read them, I will continue to use them as necessary, I will continue to respect the opinions of others who feel the opposite, and I will continue to be mystified by the anti-prologue sentiments. :D

JMVHO

:Sun:

dgiharris
12-03-2008, 06:21 PM
I read prologues, but some writers are guilty of prologues that really aren't prologues.

However, I skip or skim through prologues that are more than a couple of pages or heavy in setting and exposition.

IMO, a prologue should be so interesting, so intriguing, so WHAM-BAM-THANK-YOU-MAAM that you can't wait to get to the story. Anything else is not a prologue IMO.

Mel...

Adam
12-03-2008, 06:25 PM
I always read the prologue, don't think I've ever skipped one :)

jennifer75
12-03-2008, 08:29 PM
I am also not sure why the inclusion of a prologue, author's note, etc. would indicate that there will be discrepencies in[of] the story.



It's kinda like viewing movie facts on IMDB.com

It has a section where it mentions the "oopsies", say for example (and not examples from the book itself, just my examples) in one chapter the forest is deep and dark, and in another chapter the same forest is small, easy to get through and the sky shines brightly through the trees... get my point?

I may read the intro, preface and the a.t.a ... after I read the story.