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Author Topic: Informal prologue poll
MaryRobinette
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Who here skips a prologue when reading?

I don't.


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Beth
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I always read prologues. I sometimes think they're useless and should have been cut, but I read them.
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dpatridge
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ditto on beth. one of the worst of the "useless" prologues is a foretelling of events exactly copied from later in the story.

if the prologue is an event from later in the story, and is retold at that point in the story, it is useless, and i count it as a negative against the author and publishing house.


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HSO
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I read everything in a novel, including acknowledgments, publication dates and printing data, introductions by the author, other authors and editors. I never skip a prologue or an epilogue for that matter, and if a novel has a map, then I spend a bit of time familiarizing myself with it before reading the story.

I can't help these things, it's nearly obsessive compulsive.


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Tess
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Does skimming the prologue for relevant information count?
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GZ
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I read them.* And I like author notes.

(*In fiction anyway. NonFiction books I find the prologue/introduction boring beyond belief and may require some detailed understanding of the topic I won't have until I actually read the book. These I skip, although sometimes I read them after I finish.)


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Christine
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I skip over author's notes and introducotry material but I have recently come to understand that in science fiction and fantasy, "prologue" is synonymous with "chapter 0" too many times to skip over. It is usually something that happened earlier in time and has a loose connection to the rest of the story that is otherwise important.

In my WIP I have been struggling for almost a year to decide whether or not to put in a prologue. The prologue is already written. In fact, the prologue is a short story I wrote a year and a half ago that is currently being considered by Strange Horizons after having made quarter finalist in last quarter's WOTF contest. It is a full and complete story in and of itself. The main chunk of the novel then takes place two years after the close of the short story and involves the same main character and many of the same themes. I finally decided to go with yes, despite the fear that some people would not even read it and here is why: First of all, it's a darn good story. (My favorite short story by me to date.) Second, it fully explains a situation that is difficult to explain adequately in flashbacks and exposition. Third, it is all relevant information and, from one point of view, is where the story actually starts. BUT there is a caution with prologues. First of all, when a prologue starts a novel the novel starts twice and needs two hooks: one for the prologue and one for chapter 1. (I've done that.) Second, none of the information in the prologue can be mission critical or if it is it must be repeated. I'm doing that. Basically, you *should* be able to read the novel without the prologue. In my example, the prologue merely gives a detailed and live-action showing (rather than telling) of a very interesting thing that happens in the main character's life and begins her motivation for change. If it were entirely a character story this would have to be chapter 1 rather than the prologue.

That was longer and more information thatn you needed, huh?


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mikemunsil
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I do what HSO does.
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goatboy
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I'm somewhere in the middle. If the prologue is short, I'll usually read it. If it's 20 pages, I may skim it in a couple of minutes with only small sample readings here and there, or skip it entirely. If I skip it and find I really like the book, I will often go back and read it after a chapter or two. If I skip it and hate the book, then I didn't waste any more time than necessary to come to that conclusion.
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Jeff Vehige
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I always read a novel's prologue.

[This message has been edited by Jeff Vehige (edited January 15, 2005).]


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Lord Darkstorm
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I will read a prolog as long as it is in story form, and isn't dull. Some series I have read in the past had a recap of previous books as a prolog, those I happily skip. I almost prefer a series recap in a prolog. Saves the author from trying to explain the past several book in the story.


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ChrisOwens
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I always read everything the write puts down in print. I definitly don't want to skip the prologue in fear I'll miss something. But then, there's good prologue and there's bad prologue.
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djvdakota
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I used to NEVER read prologues. Then I read a few books in which the prologue was the best part.

I still, however, count myself in goatboy's camp--I only read them if they're short.


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rickfisher
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My dear Mrs. Kowal,

I go along with HSO--I read everything. Even OTHER people's introductions to the book, although I've learned to skip those if they're really, really boring.

But I would expect most people here to read the prologue. I would expect the percentage among readers in general to be much lower.

Sincerely,
Mr. Fisher


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rjzeller
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Always. Not that I find them always necessary, but I do, nevertheless.

OSC's first Homecoming series book comes to mind, there is a brief prologue. If it weren't there the rest of the novel would still work out fine for me, but having it there gave extra depth and dimension to the book.

I think that's what they're for, essentially. Perhaps Christine has the best take on it. Essentially, they're backstory that may be important to give the milieu a little more depth, but should be critical to the telling of the story. If it is critical, it's chapter 1 or it's referred to throughout the story.

Chapter 0....I like that. Perfect.

my 2 pennies.


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Survivor
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I read the prologue, and base my decision on whether or not to keep reading the book on whether or not the prologue is any good.

I think that's only fair.


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mikemunsil
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This informal poll is representative of those Hatrackers who are likely to read prologues.

I guess the greatest value in our responses do not revolve around the central question, but rather in our approaches and reactions to reading a prologue.

That said, it seems to me that we as a group, expect prologues to ground us with regards to central events affecting the main characters, or to represent the author's skill to us, or to take us by the hand and lead us into yet another world.

[This message has been edited by mikemunsil (edited January 17, 2005).]


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HuntGod
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I read everything as well.

It honestly never occured to me to skip the prologue.


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Axi
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Same as HSO. Even the acknowledgements...
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TruHero
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I also read them if they are short. Too long or boring and I skip 'em or skim 'em.

I had the thought a while back to call the prologue I had written chapter 0 or 1/2 (0.5) or somesuch, just for that reason. Seems like it's not all that original of a thought, Christine beat me to it, or perhaps someone has actually done it?


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Christine
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If I considered that 99.9% of my original thoughts are thought of by someone else first, simultaneously, or sometime thereafter I would go crazy. If I hadn't heard it from someone else first then it was original and if two hundred people think of it too then we've all had the same original thought.
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HSO
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Perhaps there is an etheral (or divine) Thought Pool where all original thoughts spring from. Any and all of us are capable of drawing from the pool as needed, even simultaneously. This would explain how several people can conceive of the same idea at the same time -- or near same time.

Of course, the Paradox that lies there is that no thought is ever truly original if it comes from somewhere else... it must mean that someone has already thought of all the thoughts beforehand.

Unless, this Thought Pool is the sum result of all human thought at once: combining, arranging, rearranging randomly, always creating new thoughts -- some useful, some not.

Just food for thought.


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goatboy
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My own personal take on this is that our thoughts are created from clues that are input from our environment. The less specific the idea, the more likely it is to be thought of by more than one person viewing the same clues.

On the other hand, I've had instances where things startling close to some of my ideas have suddenly turned up somewhere else. So that means that either: A)I and another have had very similar environmental input, or B) that theory about putting a whole bunch of monkeys together in a room with typewriters just might be a proven fact.


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Silver3
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I read prologues, but I still find most of them boring. The problem is that I never get over the slight sense of disorientation that overcomes me when I finish the prologue and then the story moves to characters and concerns that more often than not have nothing to do with the prologue.
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WobblyG
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I read everything that is part of the story otherwise it feels like cheating to me. I get done and I haven’t “really” read the book. How’s that for obsessive?

WobblyG


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Survivor
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I tend to live in the land of feeling that my original thought is validated if someone else can think of the same thing (with or without help from me).

But that's too many of my thoughts aren't being thought by other people. If I were normal, I'd no doubt feel different


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Keeley
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Jordan's Eye of the World had a great prologue, IMO.

I read them, but I usually only look at the map when a place is mentioned. There are exceptions.

The order of things I read in the book goes like this:

1. book title and cover art
2. description on book jacket
3. introduction, author's notes, and even the acknowledgements on occasion
4. table of contents (if there is one)
5. prologue
6. first chapter

There are books where I don't get sucked in by the beginning and, if the concept is interesting, I'll pick a spot at random in the middle and see if things get any better.


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hoptoad
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I never read a prologue, always skip to whatever is labelled Chapter 1. I don't read introductions or forewords either. They feel a bit like apologies.

I don't like glossaries of made-up words; it makes them look like sad, little, misunderstood orphans when I want them to be big, proud and brave.

I like maps, but feel contempt for poorly executed ones, especially if they contain a standard MS Word script font in an attempt to simulate authenticity.

Also, I can never bring myself to read a story or watch a TV show or movie about 'a writer'. I don't know why, but they feel a little shallow and pathetic to me.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited January 19, 2005).]


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punahougirl84
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I figure if the author put it in, it is part of the story - I've never skipped one, nor even considered it. Why would I skip a part of a book I intended to read? Calling it "Prologue" is just a way of telling the reader that s/he needs some history or lead up to where the new action starts - there is some distance between it and the "beginning" of the story, thus calling it "Prologue" instead of "Chapter 1." Not that "Chapter 1" denotes true beginnings - how often does the author have to go back and explain things anyway?

If you are concerned that people might skip it, or think you did not follow some sf/f writing suggestions that said "no prologue" then don't number any chapters - just give them names. Hopefully you would be a good enough writer that your reader would figure out that 5000 years separate chapter "In The Beginning" from chapter "The Age of Wizards" or whatever ;-)


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