Friday, September 24, 2010

Tip; Prologues...

As you can see, my word count has been BUMPED!  I am now over 33,000 words on Sadaar.

But today I thought I'd talk of prologues.

Prologues are commonly the things that get writers going.  When they write, they write a prologue--and things go on from there, usually.

For some strange reason, I do things differently than most.  Prologue?  I didn't have my prologue (on my first novel) until some time after it was finished.  And even then I tinkered with it off and on, and added another POV and some suspense to keep things interesting.

The reason I'm writing about this is because I started on my prologue--for Sadaar.

Now, for me, I put prologues in my novels for two reasons.

1) Foreshadowing

Ah, yes, we come to it again.  Foreshadowing is an excellent technique (one that I ought to write a post on sometime) that comes in handy when one is trying to bring some suspense and shock into the story.  I won't go into the denfinition of foreshadowing, but I use my prologue to foreshadow events that are to come.

2) Beginning

The plain truth is this; if you start an adventure novel with something that isn't an adventure, well, no one will want to read it.  With this in mind, I start my novels with these 'prologues' in order to kick the reader into the story and hold them there.

Besides this, there is one other way to use a prologue.

3) To Give Something...

At times, prologues give something.  They can give you events that happened in the past (like from L. B. Graham's Binding of the Blade series--each book started with a past event) or events that happened in the present.  And sometimes, they give a hint at what is to come, partly through foreshadowing.  If you give a reader a nugget of certain information, it can hint at what is to come, or what will happen.  If someone betrays your Protagonist, the prologue can be a scene(s) in which the traitor talks to the person who convinced him/her to betray the Protagonist--but the reader doesn't know who the traitor is, yet.  More on that in my post on Betrayal.

There you have it!  Assuming you're writing some sort of an adventure novel (if you're writing a novel, that is), one of the best ways to grab a reader's attention, foreshadow, and give a nugget of precious information is to have a prologue.  Successful prologues should have at least the first element--grabbing the reader's attention.  But that discussion is for another post.


♥Bleah♥Briann♥ said...

wow that sounds really interesting.

Amber Cuadra said...

I will tell you, though, I've heard from reliable sources that editors generally dislike prologues because they want you to just start the story already. So if you do a prologue, make sure you do it WELL. :) I have a prologue on my novel, but I'm actually considering turning it into the first chapter. Does a prologue necessarily need to be separate from the regular chapters? What is the point of doing a prologue instead of just titling it "chapter one"?

Just wondering your thoughts on that, especially when it comes to editors and publishing and things.


Jake said...


I have never heard that! Strange... most fantasy books I've read have prologues. And a prologue is the only way I'm going to get some action in at the beginning of my story--and besides, the prologue (from my first novel) takes place eight years before the events of my story.

Seth said...

It's true, prologues=bad. There is no reason to have a prologue. Many people think that because many big and "good" books have prologues, it is necessary and helpful. It is rare that a prologue would be helpful. Scroll to tip number #45. It deals on Flashacks, and touches on prologues I think.
Either way, there's really no reason that you can't get people interested in the novel without a prologue. Start with a battle, a little inner struggle. There doesn't even need to be action. A scene that in essence seems to be really simple and dull can be turned into something more drawing then a secret that will turn the world upside down.

Jake said...

That may be true, but I politely disagree on the subject that prologues are bad. :) Not all are. Prologues that are simply 'there' because everyone else has them ARE useless--but my book starts out fairly slowly. I have a prologue for all of the reasons I pointed out--it is a bit harder to foreshadow when in my Protagonist's POV, and rather impossible to give information to the reader that the Protagonist doesn't know. (I use one POV throughout the book, except on the prologue.)

But yes, for many, prologues can be useless. It depends on the reason for having a prologue.

By the way, I shall check out that link. :)

Seth said...

I disagree still. Even if prologues were okay and everything, and you had one in the beginning, then if the first chapters of your book start slowly-enough so that the reader would get bored-then you need to change that. For the average reader, if the prologue catches them-Great!-but you have to keep them.

Jake said...

I still disagree as well. :) It is still my opinion that prologues are not all bad.

And I intend to keep my readers. My first chapter isn't so slow that I would 'lose them', but I wanted to start my novel with something that would not only keep their attention, but GRAB their attention. My first chapter is a mixture of introduction to my world and a flash of danger near the end. But if readers picked up my first chapter, I doubt that the first paragraph would hook them. My prologue does a much better job. :)

By the way, would you mind addressing my other points, below? :D

"I have a prologue for all of the reasons I pointed out--it is a bit harder to foreshadow when in my Protagonist's POV, and rather impossible to give information to the reader that the Protagonist doesn't know. (I use one POV throughout the book, except on the prologue.)"

(By the way, thanks for the debate; it is refreshing. XD My mother never lets me debate.)

Amber Cuadra said...

@Jake - Yeah, I think a prologue in that instance would be a useful place to use a prologue. Or if you need to have a certain amount of world building set up before you start your story.

I like prologues. I think we should be very careful how they are used, though.

Millard of Swiftstorm said...

I despise prologues from amateur authors :P As a whole is a lame first chapter with no bridge to the second..I've never written one <_<

Archer said...

I agree that in the wrong hands a prologue can be a disaster. But most of the books I read that have prologues are usaly good, they me a sense of what the story is about and they also make me want to find out what does this have to do with thise or what's going to happen next. So I do like prologues...when written right and the author succeids in what he/she set out to do.
My book has a prologue and I used the advantage of letting something slip in the begining of it. That makes the reader interested in what happens next.
Usaly when a book starts with just a first chapter, all that happens in that chapter is the author introducing this new world this other planet, whatever it is he has made his story to be. So by the time your done with first chapter you have already lost interest in it. That is why I like prologues because they can give you a piece of what is in the book they can give you a way to make connections later in the story. So I like prologues and I think that they can make your story pop out in the first pages.

Something else to mention; I am a follower now!! Was I the one to make get to 40???
Well gotta go,

Be Blessed:)

Seth said...

@Jake, You don't have to have foreshadowing in the first chapter. If you want to keep it in one POV you will have to either get crafty or sacrifice the advantage of early foreshadowing. There's no reason you need to give the reader information that the protag doesn't know. I don't understand why you think that foreshadowing is a must.

@Archer, That's the authors fault for not knowing how to make a book interesting. A reader doesn't want a book to have a short tidbit of suspense, then a quarter-a third of the book be boring, and then finally get interesting again. They want to jump right in the action. Why do they have to be fully introduced to the world in the first chapter? Introducing a world in the first chapter makes it seem unreal and amateur. Two,

Archer said...

Seth; I'm not saying to jump right into action, you can have it however you want to be. What I'm saying is that if you wanted to give something of interest to reader before hand, you could only do that with a prologue. Also I understand that you don't always have to fully introduce everything of this story to the reader but you have to give some kind of base of understanding for the reader to follow and understand what the author is trying to right. So I say again if you have a mysteries scene that makes questions that shows what the story is about a prologue would be a usefull element to use. Making that prologue the reader can already know that the auther will have later in the book (not saying that the suspence and mysteriesness are going to be 3/4 of the way in it. It can be wherever it needs to be). But that tells, as I say again, the reader that there is going to be more than just characters and their own problems.
My sister reads over 200 hundred books a year she says on acation that she likes prologues when written and paragraphed the right way. So I would like to call a truce, we have our own opinions on prologues and I think we should leave it at that.
see ya,

Be Blessed:)

Jake said...


Not even a well done amateur prologue? ;)


Foreshadowing is not necessarily a must. My strongest reason for having a prologue is because the first few paragraphs in my first chapter aren't jump-out-exciting--though it gets better later in the chapter. I have no way I can change that. Besides that, however, the prologue is a good place for me to foreshadow the events of the book as well as give some information on the events that caused the story.

Oh, and I read that link--and I found this. "One possible exception might be a prologue that takes place several years earlier in the protagonist's life or in your story world, if it sets up the main problem of your story." This is exactly what I am doing with my prologue. :)

With that, I must go.

Seth said...

@Archer, I am simply defending what I have been convinced of by reading through various articles by editors and publishers. If you would like to call it a truce, then it is a truce.

@Jake, I think you might have missed a few things when reading that passage "One POSSIBLE exception MIGHT be a prologue..." Those were intentional phrases when the author of the article wrote it. I hate to say this to you, but it is possible to make the first few paragraphs jump-out-exciting. You don't have to have intense action to make a reader interested or excited. There are rare times when prologues are helpful to a book-but usually they are just done because people think they are necessary in a fantasy novel. I mean no offense to you, this is just what I've come to believe through my studying of writing. I will not be commenting on this matter. If you want to take it up with me, catch me in chat.

Jake said...


Sure, no problem. :) Thanks for sharing your opinion.

Star-Dreamer said...

For me, I don't have a problem with Prologues, but It depends on a few very important things. I wrote an article about it once right here:

At the end of the article I give four things to check for in a fantasy novel to see whether or not a prologue is needed or apropriate. But on the whole, I don't mind reading prologues as long as they aren't overly lengthy or just senseless set-up.

Archer said...

Seth; I'm glad we could call a truce and still keep in-touch so to speak. Now I'm realy interested in what you would think of my prologue in my book. If you have time to read it, then look in the first group of comments on Batson's blog for the kill this thread. I posted part of my book when everyone else started to talk and post about their book. I hope you like it, and please tell me what you think. Well gotta go,

Be Blessed:)

Seth said...

Archer, I'd love to read it. However, I don't think I'll get the chance to read it on that particular thread. If you want to email it to me at smr411[at]gmail[dot]com that'd be great.