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View Full Version : Do Prologues Generally Turn You Off?



Edwardian
06-13-2017, 12:08 AM
As an agent, when you see a prologue at the start of a manuscript, do your eyes tend to glaze over? Are you less likely to give a manuscript a chance? I'll put it another way: Do you have a pre-existing bias against prologues?

Perks
06-13-2017, 12:34 AM
This is largely a myth. Good prologues are good. There's no general prologue-hatred.

Poor prologues have a tendency to be massive info-dumps with not a lot of narrative sensibilities. If your story needs a prologue, just remember that the information in the prologue needs to be delivered in a compelling way. A mini-story, if you will.

CameronJohnston
06-13-2017, 12:42 AM
Prologues get a bad name from those that start off with massive world-building infodumping history lessons, ones that introduce an interesting character who gets killed off (the false start issue), and others than could charitably be called 'flavour'. Many can be removed entirely.

TStarnes
06-13-2017, 12:46 AM
I generally am against prologues. They tend to fall into the Telling not Showing category if they just have a narrator laying out the world, or are semi-related events that keep the reader from connecting with the main characters right away.

I've rarely seen a prologue done well.

Melody
06-13-2017, 01:16 AM
I think it depends on the book. If it's a story where there is a lot of set up needed and the story can't get going without letting the reader know that there will be a lot of action happening later, than it kind of needs it. However, I've seen stories that had a great prologue and then still had a lot of back story in the first few chapters, that really weren't needed. This is where critique partners may be helpful in letting us know if our own stories need them or not.

lizmonster
06-13-2017, 01:33 AM
This is largely a myth. Good prologues are good. There's no general prologue-hatred.

QFT. An agent will put down pages if the writing is not compelling. They're not going to put down pages the instant they see the word "Prologue."

That a lot of prologues are done poorly is not a reason to leave one out if your story requires it.

(Disclaimer: I nearly always write a prologue.)

lizmonster
06-13-2017, 01:34 AM
If it's a story where there is a lot of set up needed and the story can't get going without letting the reader know that there will be a lot of action happening later, than it kind of needs it.

I'd argue that this is the sort of prologue that is most commonly done very, very badly. Very few stories require a history lesson as a lead-in.

Perks
06-13-2017, 01:38 AM
(Disclaimer: I nearly always write a prologue.)I'm actually a huge prologue fan.

TStarnes
06-13-2017, 02:31 AM
I'd argue that this is the sort of prologue that is most commonly done very, very badly. Very few stories require a history lesson as a lead-in.

And yet, a bizarre number of them have that history lesson up front.

Laer Carroll
06-13-2017, 04:20 AM
And yet, a bizarre number of them have that history lesson up front.

You must be reading different books than I am. I see very few. And when I do they are usually done well, likely because some editor insured it was done well. Agents and editors will not support an author who refuses to fix problems.

Moving on. An author should feel free in the first draft to write whatever they please to get the book done and the story they want to tell. If that includes a massive info dump at the beginning and anywhere else, fine. Do it. Just be sure in the rewrite you trim the unnecessary and sharpen the necessary, and maybe move it elsewhere. I'm a big fan of starting the story early, just before or even after the inciting incident.

blacbird
06-13-2017, 06:24 AM
I think it depends on the book. If it's a story where there is a lot of set up needed and the story can't get going without letting the reader know that there will be a lot of action happening later, than it kind of needs it.

I'm not an agent, but this would be a story I won't read. Mesuspects this might be the biggest problem with prologues.

caw

Old Hack
06-15-2017, 10:24 PM
You must be reading different books than I am. I see very few. And when I do they are usually done well, likely because some editor insured it was done well. Agents and editors will not support an author who refuses to fix problems.

Moving on. An author should feel free in the first draft to write whatever they please to get the book done and the story they want to tell. If that includes a massive info dump at the beginning and anywhere else, fine. Do it. Just be sure in the rewrite you trim the unnecessary and sharpen the necessary, and maybe move it elsewhere. I'm a big fan of starting the story early, just before or even after the inciting incident.

Yep.


I'm not an agent, but this would be a story I won't read. Mesuspects this might be the biggest problem with prologues.

caw

And yep again.

There's a lot of stuff online about how agents hate prologues, and how they rejected otherwise brilliant books because they started with a prologue. But when I've spoken to agents and fiction editors about how they feel, the consensus is that if the prologue is well-written and makes people want to read on, they love prologues.

Just write your book. Write it to be the best book you can make. If when you're finished you have a prologue and it's not an info-dump and it adds something to the book, keep it.