I am fairly new to the writing world. Though I write often and have way more ideas than I can get out at one time, this world of editing, and being connected to others that write as well is new. Being the Newb that I am, I read articles and take advice from the people that read my stuff. After I submitted a short story for publishing and it came back with editing ideas, I knew that I was in for it and wanted to learn more. Today I came across this article: writerunboxed.com/2013/04/22/april/. As I'm scrolling I see the part about how the prologue is hated. Now I feel almost stuck because I have 50,000 plus words and I can't really use the prologue as chapter one because it introduces a character that will not pop back in until the end of the book. The main character is introduced in chapter 1. Not knowing what to do I turn to the Anomaly for help.
So the question, is a prologue really bad? If so, is it okay to use it to introduce a character that will not be seen until later and the reader may forget about until the end? As I said I am new to this so I am open to any suggestions.
Post by This Baron of Mora on Jul 10, 2013 22:52:56 GMT -5
I'll keep it simple, keep it, any objection to them is generally baseless as they add key information (that is when done in a proper manner).
That being said, if you do want to avoid it you can turn to its traditional roots and write it as a sort of introductory speech like they do at the beginnings of plays, though being completely traditional would require it to be in verse. This could then be thrown into the start of the first chapter, but making it its own chapter would serve you no better than to make it a Prologue. Other options would be turning it into the dedication, though this likely won't work since it requires special circumstance, an example would be the one at the beginning of The Ballad of the White Horse, by. G.K.C. (which you can view for free online). There is also the Prefatory Note, this again requires a certain circumstance and once more I offer The Ballad of the White Horse as an example.
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Prologues--some folks love 'em, some folks hate 'em. Just depends on who you ask or what articles you reference. You can find just as many arguing in favor of them as there are arguing against them, and quite persuasively either way. Even among editors and publishers, it's a personal preference thing.
The questions you need to address concerns the role this character plays in the story. Is the character simply a means for supplying backstory or info-dump? Since s/he isn't the MC, does what s/he do in the prologue precipitate events the MC becomes embroiled in? Is the role "off-stage" but nevertheless influencing what the MC must deal with? When s/he reappears near the end of the book, does s/he play a critical role in the MC's conflict resolution?
Offhand, I can think of a couple of ways you might handle it.
If the character is a significant one, you can look for opportunities in your story where there could be subtle reminders that the character is, indeed, off-stage but influencing what's happening.
You can also intersperse chapters of what this lesser character is doing while the MC's story, the main story, is happening. For example, for every two or three chapters in the MC's POV, you could cut away at some cliff-hanger point for a chapter in your other character's POV. That way, the character is established enough so that when s/he appears on-stage with the MC, there's no "oh, I forgot about so & so" (if you only use a prologue) or no "where did that so & so come from?" (if you remove the prologue).
Be aware of what function the prologue is serving for the rest of your story, for it's totality. That should clue you as to how critical it is and whether you should keep it or remove it.
I've read the quick and dirtiest way to get around this problem: when querying agents with your book, call the prologue chapter 1. You can always change it back during edits.
I had a prologue in Storm Chase, and later chopped it out. It was backstory for a main character--and it turned out that I rehashed the high points of the prologue later in the story, anyway, dealing with her storm-related PTSD.
It's just a Yahoo email group. But people give and receive good critiques in there, and a number of people have gone on to get published. I'd be happy to tear apart the first couple chapters of your story. :-)
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In my experience, a lot of prologues are written more like the intro to a movie than to a book. This is most evident when one can skip reading the prologue and not miss anything when reading the rest of the book. I dislike this sort of prologue immensely, and it seems to be especially common in fantasy.
But prologues, like any other tool, are not inherently either good or bad.
[i]"Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."[/i] ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18[br][br]If a collection of unpronounceable letters and a number doesn't appeal to you, you may call me Randy[br][br]"The use of cliche is only a fault if it is to avoid creativity rather than prompt it." ~ Me