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Author Topic: In defense of prologues
Member # 8617

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I've always thought OSC was pretty much right when talking about prologues. With the idea of being efficient writers, it makes sense to start immediately with the story, not something that happened somewhere else. There didn't seem like any good reason for prologues.

Then I got to thinking more about Joseph Campbell and the hero's journey. I got to thinking about a hook balanced with showing the World of Common Day.

Prologues seem like a great way to get the blood pumping, to hook the reader, while still allowing the author to introduce the hero's World of Common Day.

I know this has been discussed before, and I realize that the only rule is to do whatever works, but I think this gives support to the prologue beyond just artistic imperitive.

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Member # 2197

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Prologues are one of those areas where there are a lot of examples of authors successfully breaking the rules . . . but that doesn't mean that the rule isn't there for a really good reason.
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Member # 8631

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I think it was those horrible info dump prologues that started the prologue hate. I don't mind them, and I read them and every other page in a book.

IMO there are only two rules for prologues.
1. Make them interesting
2. Make them relevant

I think I read elsewhere to also make them short, but I don't mind a long prologue.

That being said, I don't write prologues because I know too many people don't like them. I would if I thought it was needed, but I'm not sure if I will ever write a story that absolutely needs a prologue. There are always other ways to do things.

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Member # 9085

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The prologue to the Eye of the World by Robert Jordan is the hook that got me into that series for 20 years. It is just a few pages and the best prologue by far that I ever read. It is also the best start to any book I ever read.

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Member # 9196

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In my opinion, a prologue should be used to show a critical historical event that is relevant to the story, and should be narrated the same was as the story itself.

I would only do a prologue of there was a large time gap between the main story and the prologue narrative.

The key would be to show, not tell, what happens.

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Member # 9128

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Yes, I agree that the Jordan prologue worked really well. Too often prologues (in fantasy particularly) come across as vignettes or atmosphere with little momentum.

George R. R. Martin's prologue to Game of Thrones is a good one to discuss here. I think he wanted to establish the epicness of his series right away and understood that the slow build of his main arc would have made that difficult without a prologue. Truthfully, though, I would have liked the book better without the prologue because the process of discovering that bigger picture would have been deliciously drawn out. But that's because I trust George R. R. to deliver. A writer I didn't trust would have needed that prologue to pull me in.

I guess the point is to think carefully about what the prologue brings to the table. Does it show a REALLY integral scene the story cannot do without, or is it mostly background you can sprinkle into the main book? Could it be chapter one instead?

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Member # 9138

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What about a prologue that defines a very important event taking place far away from the protagonist?

I.E. My 'prologue' is a dream of an event, a murder, happening elsewhere. Those murdered can't really stick arround to tell exactly what happened, and my protagonist doesn't meet anyone who knew the victims personally.

Bad example? good use?

***edited for typo

[This message has been edited by MikeL (edited August 20, 2010).]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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MikeL, some mysteries have "prologues" like that for the first chapter.
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