Friday, May 15, 2009

You're the Expert: Prologues

Usually, when I do this feature, I don't tell you what I think because I really want to hear what you think without putting my thoughts into concrete form. My inspiration is usually a stray thought or curiosity and then I jot it down for you to elaborate on. I wholeheartedly believe that you are the expert on you and your mind, and love it to death when you share a bit of that with us. I heart your opinions! I also approach life hoping to keep an open mind about most things.

Apologies in advance because this week is different. I'm annoyed. Lately, it seems like when I read a book, the prologue foreshadows an event that would have otherwise been a surprise when I read it, but doesn't add any value to the story. I read the book with the prologue in mind and by the time I get to the climax, I've expected it. I feel like the author could have just incorporated the prologue into the body of the work and my reading experience would have been better. I am starting to despise the prologue and am considering not reading them in the future. That's a good plan until I skip one that has important info for the story that doesn't spoil the book, right?

So, what I Heart Monster honestly Wants To Know (and please leave your opinion even if you disagree with the statements I've made above because I respect your opinion):
  • Do you think a prologue is an effective literary device?
  • Do you think prologues are misused?
  • Do you enjoy most prologues?
  • Has a book ever been ruined by a prologue for you?
  • Has a prologue ever enhanced a reading experience for you?
  • Has there ever been a time in your life when you skipped prologues across the board?
  • Do you have anything else to add about the prologue in general?


Kait Nolan said...

Prologues have earned a bad rap across the board because there are so many people out there who do them badly. You're right. Very often the author could have incorporated that material into the book and not spoiled a surprise. It has become a lazy man's device for backstory. Or worse, shows the climactic moment and totally spoils it because they couldn't think of a better way to begin. However, I don't think this is the case for ALL prologues. SOMETIMES it deals with backstory that really CAN'T be related any other way because the primary story deals with characters who don't know what happened before. A lot of that depends on the POV of the book. A very common type of prologue in romantic suspense will be showing one of the serial killer's murders. I don't have any beef with this. Or when the prologue deals with events that happened a very very long time before the present story. I have one WIP in which I use a prologue because I needed to show events that happened to my hero when he was a child. I COULD have used a dream or flashback somewhere, but the prologue introduced a character that would have made no sense when she shows up two chapters later, if I hadn't. So anyway, I think you can't generalize and say that all prologues are bad or good. It's safe to say that some writers use them better/more effectively than others. In general, I never skip any part of a book because, of course, you don't know whether it's going to be important later.

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Kate said...

I am so blonde. I was thinking about blurbs/synopsis when you clearly wrote prologue. I don't like it when prologues tell me what will happen in the future. I feel as if I am just waiing for the event to happen and it can get boring. If they are well done, they are fine.

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Jo said...

Oh, you have asked for this long comment. You can't ask such questions and not get a long comment. You've been warned ;)

Do you think a prologue is an effective literary device?I think whether a prologue is effective depends on what's it's there for, and this could be different for each book. I know I always go back to them, and I'm sorry, but David Eddings is like King of books in my mind. In his Belgariad and Mallorean series, in the first book of each, the prologues give a bit of history from thousands of years ago in the book's world, that is important to the story, but isn't mentioned in the main body of the book apart from a summerised version. The prologues give much more detail. in the other books in the series, the prologues work for more history, and in some cases, as a "previously" - history that has been mentioned in previous books, but again with more detail. I say "previously" because i picks up on an important point in a previous book, and so your memory is refreshed in a way. When I read these books now, I don't bother with the prologues, because I just know the history so well now, tat it's not important for me to have all the detail.
Still on Eddings, in Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress, the prologues work as links; in Belgarath, the prologue starts at the same point the last book in the Mallorean finished. In Polgara, the porlogue starts from where the epilogue finished in Belgarath. It just connects it all - even though those stories are "autobiographies", it explains why they were "written" by the "authors".

For Melissa Marr, I've read her say that her prologues aren't definite "moments". The one in Wicked Lovely, for example, where a girl picks up the Winter Queen's staff and ends up the Winter Girl - the girl could be Donia, but it could be any f the previous winter girls. It's just something that's happened prior to the book that is important to the events of the book.

With the prologues for Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga, I've read her explain, and I can't remember the words she used, but I understood, so this is me explaining what I understand ;) The prologues are the thoughts Bella has in a split second - if you could imagine a situation where time feels like it's slowed down, and you're thinking several things at once, or certain things are clear to you *clicks fingers* just like that, that's what Stephenie Meyer's prologues are. And they can be slipped into the main body of the story during the event it's linked too. I can't remember where it is, but for Twilight, she has shown what she means by setting it out like "Text from the book. INSERT PROLOGUE HERE. Text from the book continues". Make sense?

Continued in next comment ;)

Jo said...

Continuing from last comment:

In all three of these examples, I think the prologues are effective, and I love them!

Do you think prologues are misused?Not in the books I've read. I haven't read a disappointing prologue, I don't think.

Do you enjoy most prologues?I do indeedy! It's your first taster of the book that can hint at what might happen in the story, and also gives you a taste for the author's style. I love them!

Has a book ever been ruined by a prologue for you?Not so far, touch wood! *Touches wood* :)

Has a prologue ever enhanced a reading experience for you?Oh sure. For the reasons mentioned in the third question's answer. The prologe for Twilight got me excited about and intrigued over the rest of the book, and with Eddings, his prologues are like mini-stories in themselves, and, well, I just love the way he writes, and his characters are just awesome! ;)

Has there ever been a time in your life when you skipped prologues across the board?Only, as I've previously said, if I've read the books before if they're several pages long.

Do you have anything else to add about the prologue in general?I think they're great, and look forward to reading a whole lot more!

I Heart Monster said...

Thank you for your honest opinion! You're right... I can't just rule them out together even if I've had like three bad apples in a row! :o)

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I Heart Monster said...

That's exactly how I feel!

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I Heart Monster said...

I think you'll get a kick out of this... I was venting to Monster today about this topic (after the post went up) and he told me basically the same thing that you just did! He just finished the Malloreon this last week... Then I handed him the Elenium and he goes, "This guy has a thing for stones of power." I go, "Do you want me to sell it?" He goes, "Woah. No. It's written by Eddings. It's going to be phenomenal." :o)

I agree that Melissa Marr and Stephenie Meyer did employ the prologue well... I can't speak to Eddings 'cause it's not my genre, but I know Monster agrees with you there. I hesitate to name names here, because I don't want to alienate anyone, but the one that really got me fired up this last week was Evernight. It ruined half of the book for me and added nothing at all to the story, imho.

Thanks for your honesty and your plethora of information... very well said!! Oh and I LOVE that your comment was so long that it made you leave two. That's an IHM first :o) You rock!!

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Wrighty said...

This is a great topic and discussion. There have been so many good points brought up already. I enjoy when a prologue leaves me hanging. Then I want to dive into the story. The only problem that I have with prologues is that I sometimes forget the important points that were brought up until I am reading about them again in the story! That's my own fault though if I'm not paying enough attention. :) (But it's the excitement!)

I am love, love, loving this blog! It looks so awesome (really), the colors, the layout, the header, everything! And of course your posts are pretty darn good too. I'm so behind visiting blogs so I'm playing catch up. So glad I'm catching up here!

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I Heart Monster said...

I do that sometimes too, and then when I flip back to see if I was actually off in la la land instead of reading my book I find that I either totally spaced the prologue or I just didn't connect it to the events from memory.

Thank you for all of the nice things you said about my blog! You're super sweet :o)

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