PDA

View Full Version : First chapter or prologue?



Anadalya
07-31-2014, 08:48 PM
Okay, in the beginning of my story it has a king that is shown by a goddess how his kingdom can potentially fall. He is instructed how to find the failsafe of the gods, three people imbued with powers.

At the moment this is my prologue. Should I make it the first chapter instead? I noticed that people don't usually like prologues, but I think this may not quite be one.

That part of the story is just what happens to lead the three to find their way to the same place, it's not really set in the distant past or anything.

Osulagh
07-31-2014, 08:55 PM
If it's a vital part of the story, as if the reader skips it they would be lost somehow, first chapter. While we all think every word we write is vital, imagine if you cut the chapter; could the reader still make heads and tails of what's happening?
If it's not vital and the reader could skip it, prologue.

Though, see what beta readers think--they'd have far more insight than any of us will.

DeleyanLee
07-31-2014, 09:14 PM
Label it however you want. Every decision an author makes about their book is going to attract some readers and disincline others. That can't be helped, so do what you feel is right for your story and attract the readership that will truly appreciate it. Anyone else's opinions honestly doesn't matter. Be true to your story first and foremost.

Once!
07-31-2014, 09:41 PM
The fashion these days - for some people - is not to prologue but to dive straight in instead. Never mind the foreplay, let's get stuck in with chapter one.

Some highly successful authors still prologue away and their readers don't seem to mind.

It's a style thing, a bit like a man bag or loose-belted yoof trousers which show the world the colour of your underpants. Some say yay, some say nay. Who is to say which is right?

As you go through a writer's journey, you will find plenty of other things like this. Some people like prophecies and "the one", or in your case, "the three". Other people put them into a similar disliking category as prologues.

Luckily, the prologue/ no prologue thing is easily fixed in editing and beta. I suspect that many a prologue is written these days and later either morphs into chapter one or is sent to the big delete bin in the sky. Er ... on the hard drive.

Don't worry about it for now. Get writing. It will still be there when you look back on the foothills of chapter one from the mountain top of "The end".

LessonsToLiveBy
07-31-2014, 09:50 PM
I suggest you use the 'time passage' or 'character arc' as the way to choose. If a reasonable amount of time has gone by, and something significant has happened between what you are saying in the prologue and in the first few chapters, then make it a prologue. Or if something has changed in the experiences of the character, then make it a prologue. Otherwise, it is probably just a chapter.

I think the reason people may dislike prologues is when it takes too long to figure out how the prologue ties to the rest of the story.

JustSarah
07-31-2014, 10:06 PM
Just write the thing and see if it works. If your story needs a prologue it needs it, if it doesn't it doesn't. Sorry it just drives me crazy with all the anti-prologue skeptics.

Just write what's in your head, edit later. It really comes down to some not liking Romance, and so not liking Space Opera. Just write what's in your head.

cwschizzy
07-31-2014, 11:07 PM
Likely make it first chapter. Prologues are rarely needed, and even then don't always go over well.

Necessity, necessity, necessity.

Anadalya
07-31-2014, 11:26 PM
I'm not totally sure which it is still. Maybe as you said Osulagh, at some point I can find a beta reader to help figure it out.

I know DeleyanLee, I just worry sometimes that no one will like it, because of silly things like a prologue or being the "chosen ones."

Once! when I began my book I was fifteen, I had no idea what I was doing and it was a pile of childish gibberish. Over the years I developed my writing abilities a bit and fixed most of my mistakes, there are still plenty of course. However, back then I had no idea about prologues or cliches I just wrote what was in my head, as you said JustSarah. :)

My book has been completed for a while, I've just been trying to polish it up and make it the best I can. I hope others like it regardless.

Once!
07-31-2014, 11:40 PM
Anadalya - I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen. It was awful, so I shelved it.

I wrote my second novel when I was eighteen. It wasn't much better.

English literature degree, life, work, first marriage - that pretty much wrote off my twenties. Not much writing.

Third novel in my thirties. Truly dreadful.

Fourth novel one year ago. Although, to be honest, we might as well call it my first novel because no-one (not even me) knows where the first three are. That's the rather fetching stick figure to the left. Still confused by shoelaces....

Fifth novel coming out soon, when our complicated domestic situation allows my wife and proof reader to finish the editing.

Sixth novel on the hard drive.

9 days ago I celebrated my fiftieth birthday.

Dang, but I love this business.

Anadalya
08-01-2014, 12:42 AM
That is a nice long history in writing, Once! ^-^ It's too bad your first few didn't go so well, because your novel Love death and tea definitely looks like something I would enjoy reading. Your quirky twist to apocalypse just sounds awesome!

I know the business is hard to get into, and writing takes a lot of time. However there is no reason not to try. :) If anything I just want to someday hold my own books in my hands, that's all.

Happy belated birthday! ^-^

Roxxsmom
08-01-2014, 02:40 AM
Prologues are usually removed from the main narrative thread of a story. They can be something that happens some time before, or contain backstory, or involve a precipitating event that doesn't involve the main character.

They get a bad rap in science fiction and fantasy because there was a time when the genre was filled with prologues that showed the "birth of the chosen one," or "In the beginning, the gods created the land of Org, and for a thousand years, everything was groovy. Then the dark one came, and..." and so on.

Boooring, cliche ridden, and not usually needed (or maybe better in an appendix). But sometimes a prologue is still needed. They still show up in a fair number of fantasy and SF novels these days, so someone must still like them ;)

Imaginaut
08-01-2014, 04:13 AM
I tend to use prologues as described above, to relate a minor event before the story proper.

rwm4768
08-01-2014, 04:51 AM
I'd avoid calling it a prologue because some people automatically skip prologues (usually because they've seen so many bad prologues). If there's time passage, just make it clear that time has passed.

Beneath your chapter title, you could just include how many years ago it was, or how many years have passed between chapters 1 and 2.

shadowwalker
08-01-2014, 08:08 AM
I'd avoid calling it a prologue because some people automatically skip prologues (usually because they've seen so many bad prologues). If there's time passage, just make it clear that time has passed.

Beneath your chapter title, you could just include how many years ago it was, or how many years have passed between chapters 1 and 2.

If it's a prologue, call it a prologue. Don't worry about the people who might skip it just because of that.

thepicpic
08-01-2014, 10:38 AM
"In the beginning, the gods created the land of Org, and for a thousand years, everything was groovy. Then the dark one came, and..."

Possibly the greatest prologue of all time.

Anadalya
08-02-2014, 06:01 PM
Okay, I think it's a prologue then. It shows how the goddess uses one to gather many, around a week before the three find the way to the same destination.

If someone skips it, their loss I suppose. :)

BrianDHoward
08-02-2014, 10:24 PM
In my view, too many prologues I've seen have really just seemed like info dumps. You can probably show in the three different character arcs what brought them together. Or leave it as prologue and let people who skip it miss out. You might have (some of) your beta readers get it without the prologue, then get it to them afterwards to read and ask them if now having it changes their thinking on the story. That can give you some potential insight into how important/helpful it might be.

blacbird
08-03-2014, 10:16 AM
Given the vast number of threads that have been generated here regarding "prologues", I just have to ask:

Why in the name of the Ultimate Galactic Ruler do sooooooo many Fantasy/SF writers feel they absolutely must have something called a "Prologue" at the front of their novels?

caw

eyeblink
08-03-2014, 10:22 AM
Given the vast number of threads that have been generated here regarding "prologues", I just have to ask:

Why in the name of the Ultimate Galactic Ruler do sooooooo many Fantasy/SF writers feel they absolutely must have something called a "Prologue" at the front of their novels?

caw

It wasn't until I joined AW that I realised that there were people who wouldn't read prologues.

shadowwalker
08-03-2014, 05:21 PM
It wasn't until I joined AW that I realised that there were people who wouldn't read prologues.

Same here. Being there are more writers than readers here, I don't really worry about it.

Latina Bunny
08-03-2014, 08:09 PM
Same here. I also never realized that how much people could hate all first-person narrations, too.

If you need a prologue, then write the prologue. Simple. :)

Then, when you're done with the story, get some beta readers.

Anadalya
08-05-2014, 11:16 PM
I don't believe mine is an info dump Brian, it's just an intro into the plot of my story you know?

When I first began writing my story Blacbird, the prologue was the first introductory chapter. Not until later did I realize it might have been a prologue instead. It kind of just happened that way. I think it's used often in fantasy and SF though as an easy info dump or intro like Brian said. Those genres do need a lot of explanation for their world structure.

I realized the same thing about the dislike for prologues eyeblink, for me if I'm interested in a book I'd read the whole thing regardless. Who knows what you could miss?

Personally if it's a good story I don't mind whatever the narrative is. I've read a couple good ones bunny. :)

Thanks all

Once!
08-06-2014, 12:21 AM
Here's my twin theory of why there are so many prologues (especially in fantasy) and why some people don't like them.

A fantasy story is like the 100 metres sprint in athletics. This particular race is run by powerfully built athletes with muscles on their muscles on their muscles. The problem they have is that it's hard to get going. There is no time for dawdling in the 100 metres. They can't do that "hanging back in third place" thing that the long distance runners do. The 100 metre guys have to be at full speed all the time.

But how to get started? A typical sprinter needs help to get off the line as quickly as possible. That's why they all use running blocks to get them an extra burst of acceleration for that all important first couple of steps.

Writing a fantasy novel can feel a bit like that 100 metre sprinter. You've got to introduce the characters and plot like any other genre. But you've also got to explain how the world works, whether there is magic or not, who is fighting who, all that good colourful stuff. And, let's be honest here, you've probably got a prophecy to fit in too. And possibly a distinguished (or infamous) lineage. Your main character is descended from some ancient hero or villain, yup?

So a fantasy writer often feels that he needs a little assistance to get started. A little primer into how his world works. In other words, a prologue. The literary equivalent of a 100 metre runner's starting blocks.

Fair enough. There have been some good prologues. But, there have also been an awfully large number of bad ones. A prologue can be a lazy way of info-dumping or a prelude to some concepts that are beginning to get very clichéd, such as the whole prophecy, destiny, magical ring/sword thing.

Will every prologue be like this? Of course not. But the ratio of bad prologues to good ones seems so high that sometimes it seems safer to dislike them all. On principle.

shadowwalker
08-06-2014, 08:00 AM
Will every prologue be like this? Of course not. But the ratio of bad prologues to good ones seems so high that sometimes it seems safer to dislike them all. On principle.

But if the ratio is so high, why do publishers keep including them? Maybe because, outside of those on writing forums, people actually keep reading them.

Threak 17
09-03-2014, 08:29 PM
Personally, I'm all for prologues, -if they're done well, if they set up/serve the story, but if the information delivered in the prologue can also be ingrained in the first few chapters then maybe the prologue wasn't necessary.

Buffysquirrel
09-03-2014, 08:38 PM
No, I definitely don't read prologues anywhere and everywhere, not just on AW! lol

I have no idea why publishers keep including them. Maybe cos they haven't yet noticed a lot of people aren't reading them. But in the OP's situation I would definitely make it chapter one.

lilmerlin
09-06-2014, 02:33 PM
Thanks for bringing this up - we my MC and my AC are in the same position. I really want to start off with the AC as it creates a bit of a mystery in the beginning - and my MC has no clue at that point what's going on. So I started with a Prologue I rewrote a million time as everybody told me prologues are skipped by agents and readers alike. Thus I bent my voice and the scene to make it sound so stand-out that one HAD to read it - what garbage. Next step was trying it as chapter one - but that turned a critter off because chapter 2 of course was from the the POV of the MC. So back to prologue which is now labeled Overture (it's set in a music-magical world and I still feel after all that shuffling back and forth - it's needed) - but I'm still frustrated. Now I want to enter a 250 words critter contest to see which one makes a better start, but don't know which one to enter. I believe I need character-story-psychotherapy soon...

robjvargas
09-06-2014, 10:34 PM
Story, story, story.

I have my own radical opinions of prologues. But I'm not going to argue for or against them. You're the writer, you argue for and against it.

The question you have to ask yourself is: Does this serve the story? Not whether it's written well or not. Not whether it's an infodump. Not whether the reader "needs" to know what's in it. Not even if this counts as a prologue or not.

You need to look at every single section/chapter you put into your work and decide for yourself that section feeds the story. If not, axe it. Get rid of it. If it does, then make it the best "it" that it can be, and stop fretting about "rules" of writing.

They're really more like guidelines anyway.

ad_dupont
09-08-2014, 08:01 PM
I think it's fine as long as it's entertaining. I don't mind a prologue that actually tells a story. SFF prologues have gotten a bad rap, I think, by a tendency in the past to make kind of fancy Wikipedia-style prologues. Like when it's in italics like you're reading a long scroll of ancient knowledge that recounts the history of some family or a war or something. ("In the waning days of the third era, a treaty was struck….) I usually skim those. But if your prologue had the goddess actually talking to the king, I'd probably get into that.

Debbie V
09-09-2014, 09:25 PM
Story, story, story.

I have my own radical opinions of prologues. But I'm not going to argue for or against them. You're the writer, you argue for and against it.

The question you have to ask yourself is: Does this serve the story? Not whether it's written well or not. Not whether it's an infodump. Not whether the reader "needs" to know what's in it. Not even if this counts as a prologue or not.

You need to look at every single section/chapter you put into your work and decide for yourself that section feeds the story. If not, axe it. Get rid of it. If it does, then make it the best "it" that it can be, and stop fretting about "rules" of writing.

They're really more like guidelines anyway.

This. If you've made a really great "it" attached to more greatness, an editor or agent will tell you which label to give it.

Dennis E. Taylor
09-09-2014, 11:21 PM
I think it's fine as long as it's entertaining. I don't mind a prologue that actually tells a story. SFF prologues have gotten a bad rap, I think, by a tendency in the past to make kind of fancy Wikipedia-style prologues. Like when it's in italics like you're reading a long scroll of ancient knowledge that recounts the history of some family or a war or something. ("In the waning days of the third era, a treaty was struck….) I usually skim those. But if your prologue had the goddess actually talking to the king, I'd probably get into that.

I always think of that monolog in Galaxy Quest where the leader, Mathasar, starts recounting the history of his race. I keep meaning to look up the text of that. It's hilarious and absolutely iconic for this type of thing.

Rags99
09-09-2014, 11:42 PM
Just off the top of my head "A Game of Thrones" and "Assassins Apprentice" both have prologues I could of skipped with no impact to the story. I still dont know why they even bothered with them.

To your question and regardless of the above, I always read them. :)