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July 12th, 2006, 12:45 PM
OK so I'm writing a prologue to a historical fiction about Ancient Rome, and I'm considering its length. Usually my prologues are around 2,000 words, but this one is on course to exceed 8,000-ish. I've ready in multiple places that prologues shouldn't be very long and shouldn't contain too much information because some people just don't read them. (I do, always.) Should I limit the length?

I was planning on introducing one of the secondary main characters, as well as the major opponent, over the course of 3+ scenes. Should I cut this down? I mean, I'm not sure if I should have a 15-page prologue, single-spaced, on Microsoft Word.

I considered just changing it to Chapter I, but I don't really want to because this takes place years before the bulk of the story. So I want to fit the above mentioned stuff in it, but I'm discouraged cuz a lot of readers flip out about bloated prologues (see expert Robert Jordan), and most prologues in books I read are only like 3-8 pages long. How do I confront this problem? Should I just keep going anyway? Split it up even though there's a time differential between the prologue and what I hoped to be the first chapter (not written yet)?

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Hereford Eye
July 12th, 2006, 02:38 PM
Why not make it the first three chapters of the story?

July 12th, 2006, 03:08 PM
True. Then I could have some thing saying, "__ years later"

July 12th, 2006, 03:41 PM
Well, consider that the prologue to The Lies of Locke Lamora is over 9,000 words* and no one seems to be complaining, and I would not worry too much about the length of your prologue. Besides, you'll likely cut out the fat in rewrites anyway, so why worry at this point? Just say what you need to say.

*according to Scott's own website: http://www.scottlynch.us/excerpts.html

July 12th, 2006, 04:24 PM
That's a good point; I can always cut. And a reference is always nice.

Oh and why have I never heard of Locke? Supposed to be really hyped; I was just reading about it. Thanks for showing me; it's on my reading list!

Andrew J
July 12th, 2006, 08:22 PM
And Robert Jordan has a 100 page prologue in Winter's Heart, so you're not sinning on length too much (9,000 words is about 10-15 manuscript pages, I think).

July 13th, 2006, 12:43 PM
Professional writers do not take out measuring tapes and obsess over whether the various parts of their stories are within acceptable limits. And acceptable to whom, anyway? The Committee for Brain-Dead Conformity?

Some fans do not like prologues -- any kind or length. But these are some fans, not all fans, and not even most fans. (Most fans don't even notice -- "A prologue? The book had a prologue? Oh, that first bit.") Those who dislike prologues are certainly vocal and determined, and seem to feel we should all bow down and agree with them, but I don't see why we should oblige them.

Prologues have a long tradition in fantasy and sf fiction, especialy in regards to chronology issues, and do not scare publishers one whit. There's no reason why you can't have a 12-15 page printed prologue if that is what works for the story.

Think of it this way, your job is not to write what readers want. It's to show them what they need. Well, what some of them need. The others are likely to not have enough good sense to realize you're a genius. Such is the burden we bear. But remember, fear has no place in the first draft. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

July 15th, 2006, 11:50 AM
The reader can always skip the prologue. That's their choice - but they'll miss so much.

Like everyone said, don't worry about the length for now. And you'll probably trim some of it in editing.


July 15th, 2006, 08:02 PM
Like everyone said, don't worry about the length for now. And you'll probably trim some of it in editing.

Aye, aye, cap'ns and cap'nesses!