How to write a prologue

Discussion in 'Author Discussions' started by Yhuandi, May 6, 2021.

  1. Yhuandi

    Yhuandi Well-Known Member

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    I have lot of idea for my story but always end up abandon one after another because one thing, prologue.
    Let say on idea #1 I have completed the world building, how power system work, essential character already made, and plot how thing would go in future. But whenever I start writing I never go further than prologue, even if i do when i read prologue again I always feels something wrong with it and end up deleting entire work and start thinking another idea.
     
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  2. plutotheplanet

    plutotheplanet Well-Known Member

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    you dont have to worry, though they are different think about how different a tv pilot is to the rest of the series.
     
  3. Feng Tian

    Feng Tian Well-Known Member

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    Nobody said you have to begin writing with the prologue... Just go with the snow flake method.
     
  4. demongordon

    demongordon Active Member

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    Prologue can really be skipped, because it most often than not is not associated with the story.
    You should start writting is your first chapter, and maybe a few chapter after it, is alot more important, you will need to set the tone and the promise you make with the reader.

    - Tone is how dark or light is your novel type, examples:
    Grim dark tone - most post-apocalytic novels, where human life mean nothing and there is alot of suffering and a more adult theme is expected.
    Dark and brooding tone - the world is mostly a miserable place but there is some people enjoying it somewhere but probably not the MC.

    - Promise, what the novel is about:
    Is a man fighting to survive against all odds? is someone trying to become the strongest throught determination? is about a revenge story? A light hearted comedy of OP MC? maybe the misadventurers of a coloful cast in quirky situations? Is there monster and magic? Is urban fantasy? is a isekai? there will be alot of fight or is more of a chess game like death note? Is alot of interesting character banter or is just the MC and the popcorn crowd saying how stupid the Mc is for fight the villain and later how strong the Mc is for defeating the villain.

    Whatever it is, even if you plan to change it later, you probably will need to do it gradual form or the sudden shift in tone and promise will scare the reader away. Can also be done in comedic way if you know what you are doing.
    some examples:
    Wrong -The Great Demon King for example set a Grim Dark world where the MC is a slave that was killed by it master, but then it hit a comedy shonnen lvl joke and you can't help but get out of the loop.
    Right - Beserk change from the Golden Arc that was normal if brutal normal human army fights to the "normal" beserk plot with killing demons and cannibal feries is a sudden shift of promise and a move from the dark to the grimdark scale, however it was hintted from the whole dozen episodes that was getting more and more depressing and promising that something big was going to happen, that reach the apex on the Eclipse Ritual.

    Setting promise is a very important task that can't be done in 1 chapter but you will introduce the world/setting and the main conflict and goal with it. You just need to keep in mind 4 things:
    - Your character need Plot goals that are his biggest goal (become the hokage), as well smaller and current goal (pass the kakashi training), this goals change as the MC is pressed by new information, obstacles and enemies and a character development goal (he wants to make friends)
    - Describe just enough to make direct impact in the current story and at most talk just 'brief comment/hint at/raise a flag' of others details that might be relevant in the near future. Most Xianxias the MC only know the current lvl of pratice and maybe the name of the next but have no fucking clue what is about. This also apply if you are describing people or the ambient, not all trees on the road need 2 lines description, neither all woman need to have the jade like beauty or say what kind of earlobe she has, unless you are trying to set some kind of atmosphere people are good at filling details.
    - Descring fights is hard, look up for some wuxia or other action novels/books for reference, in fact always look for reference in your favorite works and now don't read for the enjoyment but analise how they describe the ambient, how they write a dialogue, what they do when they need to do a info dump, how they change a plot point to the next, etc...
    - if in your story there is a more interesting moment in the future or the past why aren't you talking about that story instead? So always tell the most interesting story you can using your world and characters and not just reference past events that may sound alot more interesting than whatever it is being show. Example: Scene of action happen, old friend character goes to the MC and say "that is almost as crazy as that day in budapest with less ninja nuns." or The world has a great past civilization that barely won a war against space demons, while the current story is a dude killing goblin and later will kill orcs;
    Ofc, that doesn't mean you can't have a cool background and you may not want to write a war story and instead on a adventurers story(for example), but you can give the current plot also the cool stuff and not just leave it for the lost advanced tech empire.

    lastly I also recommend to try some books like robert mckee story and john truly the anatomy of story, while they are made to screenwritter they are important material in how to break a story in understandable chuncks.
     
  5. OceansInTheSky

    OceansInTheSky Member

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    I actually help my friend with this since he has a similar problem. I'm not the best writer, but to me a prologue is a hook for a story, both for the writer and the reader. Moving forward with your writing in general can be difficult, but something that helps is the motivation/desire to REACH that point in your prologue, where everything is happening or the buildup is strong.
    The prologue can be your most interesting point, it's what comes afterward that's the hard part. Just keep at it, aiming to reach that part.
     
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  6. Seaway

    Seaway Char Char Char!

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    Prologue isn't necessary for a story. But like others said, it can be a great hook for a story. Can be subtle or scene prior to events of the main story plotline, to help further the mystery of what is going on.

    A story I once wrote has a prologue. It sorta introduces how the character's is like. Gives more mystery and possible foreshadow of what will be the main event of a story.

    Not really much writing and definitely am still an amateur but I liked this prologue that I wrote a long while ago once.
    https://www.scribblehub.com/read/222807-lost-souls-shrouded-in-darkness/chapter/223730/
     
  7. Xian Piete

    Xian Piete Well-Known Member

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    When I read a prologue I immediately think "this story is going to suck, the author is already explaining useless crap to me and I haven't even read the first chapter." Right or wrong, that's how I feel as a reader.
     
  8. Darius Drake

    Darius Drake A poster of verbose posts

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    The question is, what is the prologue adding to your story? If it's adding something of value, or setting up the story itself, you'll want it, but if it isn't, then you don't need it. For example, Ex Rank Supporting Role's Replay In A Prestigious School, Never Die Extra, and Little Tyrant Doesn't Want To Meet With A Bad End. All three, when looked at from a distance tell similar stories, of a person reincarnated into the world of a video game they played who are doomed to die, and want to save themselves. Ex Rank has a full prologue, Never Die has a half-prologue for a first chapter that sets up the story, and Little Tyrant doesn't have a prologue at all. The reason why this is important is because of how the plot is affected by their prior life.

    Little Tyrant's previous life is important mostly because of his prior knowledge of certain events, and correcting the MC's behaviour due to realising that he would get killed as a teenager if he continues down his current path. As such, the actual details of said past life is completely unimportant, and thus the story doesn't need a prologue.

    Never Die only really has a prologue to showcase that the MC was obsessed with the game he reincarnated into, and give him reasons to know about how to give himself immunity to all poisons, and about so many of the potential traps the world could throw at him (he's afraid to stay in the game-world's equivalent of Los Vegas for too long, due to that sparking a riot by the showgirls, dealers and other assorted females in the game, for example. One that kills the in-game version of him).

    Ex Rank, meanwhile, actually needs it's prologue. It sets up the MC as a person who can't stop themselves from doing something that they've started, even for their own good. It showcases the game world as one where everything would fall apart if some of the actions the MC took early on didn't happen, complete with a bad ending, and allowing the MC to say "I earned the powers/foreknowledge that I have" in a way that nearly no other reincarnated-into-a-video-game story protagonist really can. It adds to the story that would progress, both using it as something the MC can use as a general guideline while also pointing out that "he's already made enough vital differences that will easily change the situation to one that's more beneficial for the future endgame". Basically, it introduces us to the worst possible path of the world, the "worst ending" if you will, and then pushes that to the side and says "we're not doing that, even if a bad ending is still possible". Hell, it doesn't even tell us everything about the MC's past life, just about the video game he was playing and how that affected his life.

    As you can see, despite being superficially similar, all of these stories have different "needs" for a prologue, which then shapes whether or not they have one. You should treat your story similarly, and ask the question "Do I need a prologue, am I trying to add one in because I feel like story's should have one, or, if it's that important to me, should I have a small snippet of a prologue as a part of my first chapter?"