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Who hates Prologues?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Netardapope, Sep 27, 2016.

  1. Russ

    Russ Istar

    That is some serious speculative cynicism.

    Let me offer a different perspective, based less on speculation.

    Editors and agents see tons of books and see huge numbers of bad or useless prologues. They conclude that the need for a prologue is rare, (while indeed the need for a Chapter One, or a denouement or a climax is universal) and that they are beyond the means of most beginning writers to execute, so they, in response to the massive number of times they are asked questions by unpublished writers every time they show their face in public that most prologues are bad and most books don't need them or shouldn't have them.

    They also see new data these days that convinces them that people's attention spans are getting shorter and that many people who start books don't finish them. They believe that faster paced books are more popular. They believe, and learn, that prologues that engage in character development or world building as their primary purpose make them less palatable to the modern book consumer.

    I have no doubt that there is a body of people who teach more about writing than do the craft, but there is also a body of people who are very good, thoughtful, well educated, successful writers who love and understand both the craft and the market who suggest the situations where a prologue is really needed are quite rare.

    One is perfectly free to ignore their thoughts and engage in speculation about the Internet Echo Chamber.

    Personally I find your cynicism tastes kind of watery, or lacking in substance. Heaven forbid that "Credibility is gained because so much evidence is presented." Perhaps we should flee from evidence to emancipate ourselves. :)
  2. MAndreas

    MAndreas Troubadour

    I skip them. Sorry, I really don't like them. But I do agree it's a personal choice and for every person like me, there are folks who love them. I think it also depends as to why they are there. Some bias against them in the publishing world is due to authors using them as a "pre-info-dump" instead of finding a way to work that backstory into the book.

    That being said, if you like them, and your story has one--stick to your guns. Just my 2 cents.
    Russ likes this.
  3. KBA

    KBA Dreamer

    I find myself always reading them, but feeling impatient if they're long. I want to jump right into the main story, and if I page through the prologue and see it's many pages long, I'll still read it, but with a slight twinge of wanting it to hurry up.
    Netardapope and Russ like this.
  4. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    I usually start reading the first page with words. Usually I will figure out its a prologue fairly quickly and if it doesn't grab me as the first line, paragraph or page should, I skip it.
    I don't remember ever having to go back and read a skipped Prologue once I was into the story. So it wasn't needed and probably didn't add to the story.

    I have read some prologues that grabbed my attention. No matter what classification page one of the story starts, it needs to grip the reader.
    BTW if I actually notice a prologue I usually skip it, because most of the ones I have read are boring.
    Russ likes this.
  5. Azora

    Azora Acolyte

    I think they should be avoided not because they're bad, but because a lot of people skip them, so if you put important info in your prolouge and the reader skips it, then the story wont make much sense to them. That's why I don't write prologues.
  6. Malik

    Malik Auror

    If the reader skips your prologue and they find themselves lost a few pages in, then your prologue is obviously necessary, which means you've done it correctly.

    If the reader can skip your prologue and still know what's going on, your prologue is unnecessary. Kill it with fire.
    Netardapope likes this.
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I've seen writing advice on a number of occasions saying not to put essential information in the prologue because many readers do skip them and if they're lost they may or the book down and be less likely to buy your other books. Which leads to the question of why have one. I don't know that I've read many that are essential to the book, however.
  8. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    As much as I hate George R.R. Martin, his prologue in GOT is one I actually enjoyed. It was done right imo. When prologues are engaging and make me wonder more about what's to come, then I'll read them. It is kind of sad that they're getting skipped more often than not now; seems like some of the old storytelling techniques (like prologues, omniscient, writing without rules) just keep getting cut for lifeless prose.
    Netardapope and Demesnedenoir like this.
  9. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    While I'm agnostic on prologues, this on it's face is simplistic and wrong. If a reader skips your prologue and gets lost, it might just mean chapter one was written on the piss-poor side, LOL. Just because the info in the prologue is necessary doesn't mean it was necessary to be in a prologue. This sort of black and white judgment of prologues if off base. Prologues can serve more than one purpose.

  10. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    And this demonstrates a different form of prologue... the chapter that is called a prologue for a variety of tactical reasons. This is the easiest form of prologue to justify in modern publishing, IMO.

  11. I skip prologues if they don't grab me in the way that a story beginning should. If they're just a bunch of extraneous backstory stuff that I can't understand or care about yet. I'll read a good prologue but sadly most are infodumps, a pointless action scene to serve as a hook that distracts from the terrible, uninspiring beginning, or backstory I can't understand until after I've finished the book. I rarely miss them.

    I once read an entire book series (30+ books, each with a prologue) and skipped every prologue and never got confused or missed anything. I wonder sometimes what was in all those prologues, but it can't have been too important.
    Russ and Netardapope like this.

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