Re: Should I write a prologue?

#1
Hey, it's me again. Did you miss me? I'm very annoying, I know.

Well, the thing is that some fellows told me the first chapter of my fiction is not interesting enough to catch the reader's attention. So, instead of rewriting the whole thing, I plan to write a prologue. But... Should I really do it? How should I do it? Maybe it's too late for that? Mmmmmmm, too many questions...

And yeah, I'm also writing the new blurb (Might be useful to receive some advice on this subject).

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#2
This one is complicated. I know many readers here don't even read a prologue. They'll skip it entirely and go to chapter 1. And what's the fundamental point of a prologue anyways? Most of the time, the removal or addition of it doesn't add or take away from the core book itself. It's basically a small preview of the way you write and what your story will be, but beyond that it's arguably useless.

So my recommendation is to simply rewrite your Chapter 1 in a way that you feel is good enough to catch a reader. Remember books are incredibly subjective so not everyone will like your writing style and story. Can't cater to everyone unfortunately.

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#3
Prologues are subjective, but probably seventy percent of the time I tell authors to delete them. If it's immediately relevant, it's probably better as a first chapter. If it's not, it's almost always better to give the information though the regular narrative.

There are always exceptions. Probably the most famous is the opening to the first Star Wars movie (by which I mean Episode Four, not One), which serves as a prologue just because Luke isn't introduced yet. Actually, the original shooting script did introduce Luke (and Biggs), and some of that footage survives, but it was better to cut it because it made the opening too slow.

Instead, we start directly in the battle, getting necessary exposition without having everything shoved at us. Threepio and Artoo are not the main characters (and Leia is made to seem like a typical damsel in distress at first), but their discomfort and suffering helps establish sympathy for characters that can't easily emote. Both elements hold us over until we get to Luke. 

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#4

AeroKaia Wrote: This one is complicated. I know many readers here don't even read a prologue. They'll skip it entirely and go to chapter 1. And what's the fundamental point of a prologue anyways? Most of the time, the removal or addition of it doesn't add or take away from the core book itself. It's basically a small preview of the way you write and what your story will be, but beyond that it's arguably useless.

So my recommendation is to simply rewrite your Chapter 1 in a way that you feel is good enough to catch a reader. Remember books are incredibly subjective so not everyone will like your writing style and story. Can't cater to everyone unfortunately.



Yeah, could be the best thing. But in the other hand, I don't want to change anything from that chapter. It may not be too interesting, but for me works. It introduces the main characters decently and builds a bit of the background story. Well, I'll give it some more thought.

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#5

Madin Wrote: Yeah, could be the best thing. But in the other hand, I don't want to change anything from that chapter. It may not be too interesting, but for me works. It introduces the main characters decently and builds a bit of the background story. Well, I'll give it some more thought.

My personal advice to you, writer to writer — don't be afraid to scrap an entire chapter and rewrite it in a different way. Sometimes as authors, when we write, our perspective changes throughout the story. It evolves and takes on a life of its own. Often times we can go back and revisit Chapter 1 with a completely different mindset and view. But I think the worst thing we can do is baby our story and be afraid to change something we think is perfect.


I have personally scrapped an entire chapter and rewrote it from scratch. In the end, I enjoyed the new version much more than the old version that was written at the beginning of my journey into that world.

Best of luck and I hope you end up happy with the final result. That's the most important part peoapproval

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#6

AeroKaia Wrote:
Madin Wrote: Yeah, could be the best thing. But in the other hand, I don't want to change anything from that chapter. It may not be too interesting, but for me works. It introduces the main characters decently and builds a bit of the background story. Well, I'll give it some more thought.

My personal advice to you, writer to writer — don't be afraid to scrap an entire chapter and rewrite it in a different way. Sometimes as authors, when we write, our perspective changes throughout the story. It evolves and takes on a life of its own. Often times we can go back and revisit Chapter 1 with a completely different mindset and view. But I think the worst thing we can do is baby our story and be afraid to change something we think is perfect.


I have personally scrapped an entire chapter and rewrote it from scratch. In the end, I enjoyed the new version much more than the old version that was written at the beginning of my journey into that world.

Best of luck and I hope you end up happy with the final result. That's the most important part peoapproval



I appreciate your words, my dear friend!

Yes, I'll definitely think about it.

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#7

NovelNinja Wrote: Prologues are subjective, but probably seventy percent of the time I tell authors to delete them. If it's immediately relevant, it's probably better as a first chapter. If it's not, it's almost always better to give the information though the regular narrative.

There are always exceptions. Probably the most famous is the opening to the first Star Wars movie (by which I mean Episode Four, not One), which serves as a prologue just because Luke isn't introduced yet. Actually, the original shooting script did introduce Luke (and Biggs), and some of that footage survives, but it was better to cut it because it made the opening too slow.

Instead, we start directly in the battle, getting necessary exposition without having everything shoved at us. Threepio and Artoo are not the main characters (and Leia is made to seem like a typical damsel in distress at first), but their discomfort and suffering helps establish sympathy for characters that can't easily emote. Both elements hold us over until we get to Luke.



Interesting... Never thought about it that way. Maybe I should take the risk and make something similar? Hehe

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#8
NovelNinja Wrote: There are always exceptions. Probably the most famous is the opening to the first Star Wars movie (by which I mean Episode Four, not One), which serves as a prologue just because Luke isn't introduced yet. Actually, the original shooting script did introduce Luke (and Biggs), and some of that footage survives, but it was better to cut it because it made the opening too slow.

Oh ma ga, Mr. Ninja. I have been told the very same thing by an editor about my story, called DOTS - that just like in the first Star Wars movie, I should skip over Hank's hundrum boring pre-Dot life, and use my first 500 words to set a tone of horrifying, deadly death and disaster.

What is it with readers these days, anyway? Why does every book now have to start with hate, despair and horror?

AeroKaia Wrote: I have personally scrapped an entire chapter and rewrote it from scratch. In the end, I enjoyed the new version much more than the old version that was written at the beginning of my journey into that world.

I have thrown out so many words that we could have a Dumpster fire. And I enjoyed the new version much more than the old one because the first one was a pooh-pooh stain. 
😻

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#10
Prologues imo should be used to introduce things around the protagonist rather than the protagonist himself.  Like the world his adventure takes place in.  Just a small teaser of what's going on in it and why the protagonist needs to have his adventure.  

When a reader starts a new story, they're usually completely lost and disoriented as to what's going on, so we need to orient them as fast as possible.  Because remember, the reader is coming in with ZERO context.  They've read your synopsis, title, cover art, and genre tags.  That's all they have to go on.  So you need to help the reader attach themselves to the story.  So a prologue might help orient them in certain situations.  

I almost never see them done well.  Usually just some random mini-story the author thought would be interesting but isn't.  Don't make one of those.  

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#11

AeroKaia Wrote: This one is complicated. I know many readers here don't even read a prologue. They'll skip it entirely and go to chapter 1. And what's the fundamental point of a prologue anyways? Most of the time, the removal or addition of it doesn't add or take away from the core book itself. It's basically a small preview of the way you write and what your story will be, but beyond that it's arguably useless.



A long time ago, on a writing forum hosted on the FanFiction.net website, someone asked a question about the proper role of a Prologue. As in, what functions was the Prologue meant to serve, which required presenting certain material in a certain way, and not just calling the results "Chapter One"?

It was an interesting question. I started my reply by saying: "I think the general idea is that the Prologue should contain something that will be useful for the reader to know, but that 'doesn't fit' as Chapter One of the main narrative, the way the author sees it."

Then I listed various functions which I have seen Prologues fill in professionally published novels. (In other words, not only did the author think a Prologue "needed" to appear at the very start of the manuscript, before Chapter One, but an experienced editor had actually agreed with that decision. I have heard of cases where that didn't happen -- the editor insisted upon deleting a Prologue from the rough draft, on the theory that the rest of the story could get along just fine without it!)

This was my list:




1. Basic background information about the setting.

A quick overview of the history of an imaginary empire which rose and fell in the centuries before the hero of the novel was born, for instance. This can go along with having one or more maps, diagrams, etc., at the front of the book, but of course that's not a viable option here on FF. Most you could do would be to tell people in an Author's Note that there were links on your Profile page which would take them to where such maps were hosted somewhere else on the Internet.

Just taking a few pages at the start to describe the rise and fall of that empire, or whatever, can be a better approach than creating a contrived excuse for someone in Chapter One to lecture somebody else about the same subject in the regular dialogue. That latter approach is called the "As You Know, Bob" Syndrome, at least in cases when everybody in the room in that scene ought to already know everything the lecturer is going on and on about. Granted, sometimes there is a valid excuse for someone to not know all that stuff when we first meet him. A child, for instance. Or a recently-arrived foreigner. Or someone else who, for whatever reason, does not already have the same sort of education as does the character who is delivering the sudden lecture.

2. Unusual viewpoint.

For instance, sometimes the bulk of the novel is going to show us the viewpoint of just one character -- or perhaps the author plans that we will see the world through the eyes of just two or three characters, in rotation -- but the author wants to "set the stage" by showing us something important and mysterious which none of those "major viewpoint characters" were on hand to witness. So, for that single scene or set of scenes, the author shows us things through the eyes of some other character who will never again be the "viewpoint character" after this one scene is over. For instance, a prologue in a murder mystery might show us the thoughts and actions of the murder victim in the last hour or so of his life, with him dying at the end of that sequence. Then Chapter 1 introduces us to the detective hero who will be working on the case.

3. Recap of "What Has Gone Before."

In later volumes of a multi-book saga, there might be a prologue which was a quick summary of the major events of the previous book (or books), written from the "impartial" viewpoint of an omniscient narrator, instead of being colored with the personal opinions of any given character within the story.

Come to think of it -- the wall of text scrolling up the screen at the start of the original Star Wars movie (aka Episode 4: A New Hope) could serve as a special case; an example of a "Prologue" that recapped "what has gone before" in material which the writer (George Lucas) knew darn well the audience had never actually seen!

4. Framing sequence -- the Prologue and the Epilogue both happen well after all the chapters that come in between.

For instance, the Prologue might start with a character reminiscing about "what really happened many years ago, when I was young and frisky and was involved in the Great War Against Vampire Bunny Rabbits" (or whatever). Then we get the main narrative, which is basically One Huge Flashback. Then we close with the other end of the "framing sequence." In some cases, we don't even find out the name of "the nostalgic old character" when we meet him at the beginning of the story; we can only speculate about his identity until we reach the Epilogue at the end of the story and learn that instead of being The Superb Swordsman (or whomever), the guy telling the story in the third person is actually The Immature Practical Joker Who Was The Superb Swordsman's Closest Friend (or whomever).

In other cases, I've seen the Prologue go along these lines: An archaeologist is describing to us how he just recently unearthed, in an airtight container, the long-lost handwritten autobiography of a legendary figure who died a few thousand years ago. Then he offers us his translation from the Ancient Egyptian, or the Old Norse, or the Classical Latin, or whatever real or imaginary language this character naturally would have used to write his memoirs for posterity. Then, at the end, scholarly commentary in the Epilogue may say that there are serious reasons to doubt the accuracy of some of this narrative you've just read, because it contradicts what historians have believed for centuries. (In such cases, we readers are usually supposed to assume that the autobiography is authentic, and that the "conventional wisdom" of the historians has gone sadly astray.)




There are probably other valid functions for a Prologue to perform; those were just the first ones that sprang to mind.

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#12

ArDeeBurger Wrote: Oh ma ga, Mr. Ninja. I have been told the very same thing by an editor about my story, called DOTS - that just like in the first Star Wars movie, I should skip over Hank's hundrum boring pre-Dot life, and use my first 500 words to set a tone of horrifying, deadly death and disaster.

What is it with readers these days, anyway? Why does every book now have to start with hate, despair and horror?

It's not about the negative, but rather hooking the reader. I've edited manuscripts that start with the main character climbing a tree, playing a video game, drinking tea, and getting a medical examination. It's about presentation. 

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#14

OntoSomethingGood Wrote: Interesting discussion.
Just to add my two cents, I have used my prologue as a 'flashback' that gives insight into the MC's childhood. The first chapter then is directly a scene a few years later. 
I think it serves my purpose of preparing groundwork, with quick introductions to the MC and a few important side characters.



I see. Thanks for the reply!

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#15
My advice is to take your Chapter 1, copy it into a new document, and then rewrite Chapter 1. That's a zero-cost approach given that you can always revert, and it frees you up to not be worried about "destroying work." Good writing only happens when you're willing to delete. I just deleted 8k words from my book because it wasn't working, but I know it will be better for it. BTW, Chapter 1 is the chapter you will always edit the most. It's the most important chapter, and the hardest one to write, so take the time to get it right!

As for the prologue, if you didn't need a prologue before, you don't need one now. Prologues are for imparting information that adds context to what comes after—think of the prologues in Wheel of Time. Each one is an opportunity to get a window into the greater conflict that will be resolved in that book. They are definitely not a place to overcome entertainment shortcomings from Chapter 1.

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#17
I've finally come to a conclusion. I will not write a prologue, nor will I rewrite the first chapter. In terms of setting, background story and characters, I think is acceptable. I've rewritten lots of chapters of this same story for almost two years now, and I still don't see nothing wrong with this one in particular. It's up to readers if they want to read more. Honestly, I will not sacrifice narrative over views. (And yeah, Ayuman2007, you're right).

Btw, thanks for your replies!

Greetings.

Re: Should I write a prologue?

#18

Ararara Wrote: I gave your chapter 1 another look, and I can see that you changed some stuff around, but 1st POV is still mixed with 3rd when referring to the same character, even in the same sentence. So idk; if you won't change THAT, then what would you consider changing? 

If just like in your previous thread you refuse basically all the feedback the forum gives, then what's the point of asking us at all. You didn't say "yes" to a single person in two threads



Well, I actually changed a lot of little details here and there. And I don't know what are you talking about POVs mixing in the same sentence... Could you please show me when that happens? And this post is not about the writing, but if I should create a prologue to make the beginning of the story more interesting. In other words, I'm not asking how to do it. Still, this post could help some future writers, who knows.

Aaaaaand that's a huge no. I took a lot of the advice you guys gave me. The blurb (working on it), the title, the POVs, the tenses... Again, I don't know what are you talking about. Even if I refused to follow some feedback (thay I may have done, I don't remember), don't you think I'm in the right of doing so? It's my story, after all. But no, I thanked you all for your help. That's my way of saying 'yes'.

Have a good night, my dear friend. :)