View Full Version : Prologues..are they a necessary evil
December 4th, 2003, 10:40 PM
Like many writers in here, I have been working on an epic fantasy, originally slotted for 3 books, but you know how that goes or grows as you might say. Anyway, I have written the first book...a healthy, 175,000 words monster that is just about how I would like it and am about half way through book II's rough draft, but I am still staring at 4 different prologues that I have written and cannot decide on a few things: 1) which one I like best and 2) if I really need to have one at all. Two are historical in nature, one is theological and the fourth is a glimpse of our hero's first sign of things to come as a child.
I know without having seen any part of my tale, you cannot help me with which one to pick, but what I want to know is, do you think you really need a prologue and if you have one, will that then act as the "eye catching" intro into the story, as normally chapter 1 would be.
Thanks in advance for your comments
December 5th, 2003, 10:03 AM
A lot of books have prologues and generally I like them. Not the kind that dumps information; but the kind that presents a tantalizing glimpse of what the story will be about. A "sign of things to come" as you described.
In Garth Nix's book Sabriel he puts in a very well-written prologue describing the main character's birth. A strange man, her father, shows up and whisks her away after her mother dies giving birth. The whole scene is tinged with mystery and magic and it really sets the mood for the opening of the book, which takes place when Sabriel is a teenager.
That's the kind of prologue I like anyway. Some background information is given but not too much; mainly, the reader's attention is grabbed, and the mood is set for the book.
December 5th, 2003, 10:21 AM
My favorite prologues are not about the main characters, but about minor characters or an antagonist who won't show up in the book for a few chapters. It allows for some suspense or to provide history without the "information dumping" effect.
Most importantly, as I read the first few chapters, I enjoy wondering how these characters are going to become involved with the main character.
December 5th, 2003, 10:57 AM
Seeing as I haven't read your novel or the prologues, I can't really say whether you should put them in or not. I would advise, however, not to use it as an opportunity to lump information on the reader.
December 5th, 2003, 09:51 PM
I love prologues that hint to some event but leave me asking questions which are not touched on until far into the story. I don't think that prologues which dump history are very enjoyable to read.
December 7th, 2003, 09:48 AM
I don't think prologues are necessary unless they do one (or both) of two things; give a slight history to the story, that may not be apparent until later but is needed, by putting it in a prologue it won't break up the stories flow. And/or create questions for the reader to think about, provking their thought and catching their interest.
Having said that it can also be good to throw the reader in at the deep end. Terry Goodkind does this and it works really well, but he does ensure that their are things to provoke the readers thoughts and make them ask questions within the first chapter. Thus acting like a prologue in some ways, but still getting on with the story.
December 7th, 2003, 02:48 PM
Thanks for the responses...definitely some things to consider! Right now, I am leaning towards the small glimpse of the hero's childhood. A time he does not remember by the time he is grown and our tale begins, but important all the same. Since my first chapter isn't the most exciting introduction, I figure I will use the prologue to snag my readers attention. Wish me luck! I will look into posting my prologue on here soon for you to review. Thanks again.
December 7th, 2003, 11:36 PM
I think Goodman has the right idea. I don't think you need to have a prologue to give insights into your character's past. If something's really important it'll get mentioned later or you can have an old friend say something like, "Remember that time..." but I wouldn't use that a lot. I read a lot and don't see prologues but the author does a good job in explaining said background. The only prologue I remember seeing was The Eye of the World and that prologue got me hooked. Too bad, I was bored after the next 100 pages and returned the book, but prologue can be good in hooking people.
December 8th, 2003, 12:43 PM
Absolutely not necessary. I see a prologue as a short story that is a teaser for the novel. When done well, it gives us some history or snippet of story that makes us want to jump in. Often the value is almost one of marketing... it can take several chapters to set up a story and get readers to want to stay a while... while a prolog is a chance to grab them right away before jumping into the detail. Agree completely that prolog data dumps are a drag...
Do it if it adds to the story, or helps bring the reader in quickly.
December 8th, 2003, 01:08 PM
Prologues aren't necessary. They can be done very badly, and when they are they can drag an otherwise good book down. A well-done prologue allows you to set up a part of the story that your protagonists don't know anything about, or give the reader a feel for the world, or any number of things. The thing about a prologues is that when you put "prologue" on a chapter the reader tends to keep the information they read there apart from the rest of the book, and that can be useful.
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