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Author Topic: Writing question - what's this called?
Belle
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Okay, so I'm back to working on my young adult novel project, and hope to get a lot done now between end of spring term and start of summer term. I have a general question.

What do you call the things at the beginning of chapters? For example, if we go to the link at this very site for chapter one of Ender's Game, I'm talking about the "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one. Or at least as close as we're going to get...." That. What's it called?

How would you note it on a manuscript? I know, it's early for that because I don't have a completed manuscript yet, but I want to include something like this at the beginning of every chapter, and not sure how to go about it.

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Synesthesia
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I don't know what it's called, but I'm thinking of putting something like that in my novel.
You could write it in italics or something like that...

I should know this too...

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SteveRogers
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I did this for one of my short stories. At the beginning of each section. Mentally, I just called them my mini-prologues. I didn't know there was a term for it.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Chapter headings?
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Liz B
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If there's a term, I most certainly should know it. As I don't, there must not be one.
/pedantic

(I like Steve's term.)

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Nighthawk
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I'm not sure what they're called, but I've seen them used many a time before. Didn't one of the Douglas Adams' HHGTTG books use 'em?

I've also seen them used in Infocom's Trinity as relevant quotes that pop up at key points, like they would at chapter breaks.

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rivka
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I believe Robert Asprin (whose Myth books all have 'em) calls them "chapter opening quotes." Catchy, no?
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Teshi
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I have a book called "The Rough Guide to Fantasyland" by Diana Wynne Jones which parodies these (and everything else that's a staple of fantasy, like stew), but I don't have access to the book at the moment and I've forgotten what she calls them.
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TomDavidson
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Jones called them "gnomic utterances," or something along those lines. [Smile]
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Chris Bridges
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I've always just called them "beginning quotes."
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Carrie
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"Those vaguely annoying passages at the beginning of chapters that you probably shouldn't skip over but do anyway."

At least, that's what I call them... most of the time. [Wink]

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Teshi
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quote:
Jones called them "gnomic utterances," or something along those lines. [Smile]
You're right!


... but I guess that term can't be applied everywhere... [Wink]

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BandoCommando
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quote:
Originally posted by Teshi:
quote:
Jones called them "gnomic utterances," or something along those lines. [Smile]
You're right!


... but I guess that term can't be applied everywhere... [Wink]

This phrase is most apt in Children of the Mind, where the "God Whispers" have little to no plot relevance. In EG, they mini-prologues (to use Steve's term) are central to plot, often foreboding and giving us access to information not available to the protagonist. In Speaker and Xenocide (respectively), the transcripts of writings and conversations between Human and the Hive Queen were sometimes relevant, but most often were rather gnomic. In particular, I refer to San Angelo's discussion of the "rabbi" in Speaker, and the Xenocide conversation relating to how humans use "history" in absence of actual memory.
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gsim1337
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I love how these forums can wander so far off topic...
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gsim1337
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Hey, I was just on the Heroes page, how did I get here? No wonder it didn't seem on topic...
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BandoCommando
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Well, I suppose my point was that you might need a different term depending on the purpose and/or content of the chapter introductions (there's a new term).

Sometimes there are a plot device, other times they are interesting, but do nothing for the book. I would hardly refer to the introductions of each chapter of EG as 'gnomic', for instance.

Also, consider Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" in which each chapter begins with a quotation from ancient military history. These are absolutely (or at least, mostly) irrelevant to the plot, nor are they gnomic, but they somehow manage to set the mood for the upcoming chapter. Also, they are (to me, at least) interesting in and of themselves as snippets of history.

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Zalmoxis
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A quote or quotes that lead(s) off a work is called the epigraph. I don't know if the epigraphs that go with every chapter have a specific designation.

Edit to add: Upon further reflection and research. It's an epigraph no matter where it appears -- only at the beginning, at every 'book' or other major division, and at every chapter.

The general practice with epigraphs is that they be meaningful (actually add to the work) and used consistently.

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BandoCommando
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[The Wave]

Zalmoxis, you're my new hero of the day.

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Zalmoxis
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Only of the day?

Well, I guess that's fine as long as everyone continues to refer to me as "Master of Discourse(s)" -- the parentheses can be indicated with hand motions when spoken.

Thus: *Master of Discourse* | lift up curved left hand palm facing to the right | *ehzzz* | lift up curved right hand palm facing to the left

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Belle
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Thank you Zal!

Well, I hope they are central to the plot...and I hope they add something and aren't just something to be skipped over.

They're going to be excerpts from books that the protagonist reads...we know the books give her significant information, but I don't want to have pages of info-dumps where I just pour all of it in. I thought it might be a good way to do some backstory, mainly historical facts about the world she inhabits without doing one of those monster prologues. In other words, the information is interesting, it adds something to the story and helps you figure out why certain things work in the world the way they do, but if someone did skip them it wouldn't be disastrous.

And I intend to keep each one short - maybe a paragraph at most.

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