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  1. #1
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    Prologues - a good idea?

    Hi everyone, I'm in the throes of my query letter editing, and what feels like my final edit of my young-adult MS, and I am wondering whether or not to include a teaser prologue which drops the reader momentarily into some drama at the end of the book.

    Here's the situation. We meet Ellie, my MC, in the first line of the novel. We meet her friends, and there's some classroom banter on a field trip at the beach. Ten pages in, she passes out and wakes up on another planet. I'm wondering - is ten pages too much?

    It's not that they're a bad ten pages, I just worry that I need to tell the reader "don't worry - something dramatic happens later!", and I know the prologue is a good place to say it. I'm thinking specifically about the prologue Stephenie Meyer included in twilight - the dramatic glimpse into the book which encouraged the reader to keep going as Bella moved house, cried, then went to school, all before Edward appeared.

    Do you think it's a good idea, or is it a rookie cliche I should avoid, and focus on cutting the ten pages down instead? I just keep reading new YA novels and the hooks are getting closer and closer to the start, sometimes at the expense of realistic plot.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    PS - Please don't slam me for the twilight reference - there's a reason girls like myself were up until the wee hours finishing it



  2. #2
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    Prologues seem work for some stories and not for others. You have to figure out if it will work for your story.
    10 pages is way to long to hook the reader.

    RW

  3. #3
    James North
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    For hooking a reader, you have one, maybe two paragraphs. The first sentence is best. There are writers who believe it’s better to ease the reader into the story over a few paragraphs, but that works great for established writers, not so well for newbies. It’s your choice to use a prologue, but get your story started as fast as possible. Remember too, anything you can do with a prologue can be done without one.

  4. #4
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    I guess hook isn't the right word. I'm hoping the voice will hook them in the first paragraph. I mean suspense - action.

    But thanks - I'm getting the feeling the thriller/teaser prologue will help.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Avonne Writer's Avatar
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    Emily, you must also consider that with your Q, an agent might ask for a sample 3, 5, or 50 pages. If it's 3-5, or 1st chapter not to exceed 10 pages, that's all you have to impress the agent with. You want those pages to be your strongest. You have to decide which way that goes...with/without prologue.

    Best of luck

  6. #6
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    Emily.

    Prologues are tricky. They can't be cheats for a slow start of the novel proper, which is what you seem to be grappling with.

    Is ten-pages of setting up an ordinary world too much? No, of course not. It's not about how many pages transpire before the bang of plot begins; it's about whether the set-up in the ordinary world of a character is ripe with tension. That tension can come from many places -- voice, character, plot, theme, even setting. You start in the ordinary world of your character, but you start with a sense that that ordinary world isn't optimal. That something has been lost or missed. You build tension from the start because the reader senses what is not right with the MC. So on the bus and with her classmates, do you build a tension between what your MC is failing to be and what the reader senses she could be? That's all the tension we need. Not explosions and world-shifting. Just the simple human tension between failure and possibility.

    So if your bus chatter does not build tension about what is wrong with your MC that will be dealt with through the novel, if the reader doesn't get the sense that the MC is failing and wasting some part of herself, than deal with those ten pages so that the tension is apparent and real and makes the reader care to read more.

    A prologue designed to get the writer off without having to show the reader the tension in the ordinary world, before the plot explodes, is a cheat. Right?

  7. #7
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    Thanks, CK. That's exactly the sort of well thought out response I was hoping for. I just get worried by the James Patterson-esque drama so many new YA books are stuffing into their first pages.

    Someone seems to die, or be attacked, or have a nightmare in the first few pages of Every. Single. Book. My MS is a world away from that in-your-face style, but it's still explosive, in its own way.

    You know what - I've got some passages about the way my MC is failing in the first few pages. I might beef them up and see if I still feel like the prologue is necessary. That's a good way of looking at it. Thank you.

  8. #8
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    An update - I've done some serious trawling online, and have come across a few things.

    One - many people don't recommend sending a prologue to an agent at all in the sample material. I'd say this is a subjective issue, and it depends on the story/type of prologue, but I've read a bunch of negative comments about it.

    Second - here's an interesting blog post by Agent Kristin at PubRants. She says the 'hook' prologue is a rookie mistake, especially if the tone differs from the first chapter.

    http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2010/09...-openings.html

    I think - and this is what I think I'll go with - teaser prologues (like mine) are something you work out with your agent when you have one. As in, I should stop worrying about it and just work on my first chapters. If I'm lucky enough to snag an agent, they can help decide if we need to throw in a suspense-teaser prologue.

    Phew. I feel like I have it sorted. Bummer that I just polished my killer prologue.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Herman Munster's Avatar
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    Emily
    Whoops, twice!
    Last edited by Herman Munster; 05-02-2011 at 04:19 AM. Reason: Whoops, thrice! Geez, this is nosey!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Herman Munster's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Me BRite - Me Wize!

    Emily - Write a good book.
    Make the first line, paragraph, page and chapter better than there has ever been b4, and then make the rest of the book, better than that.

    Then you will have nailed it.
    The WORST book I ever read is "A stone for Danny Fisher" by Harold Robbins.
    I think that is the title.
    I will never read another Harold Robbins book, ever.
    Don't read that book and when you, as all contrarians must, cut out the first page and then paste it in the back of the book. He writes the climax on the first page. I mean the exact last page is what he puts in the front. I read the damned book cos I couldn't believe anyone was stupid enuff to tell me what the point was until I got to where I understood the story and needed a climax.

    I have no idea if he has ever done it b4 or since, but I am CERTAIN, I will never know.

    "A prologue is a dumbarses way of writing proper about what they believe they never did from the start!" - Me!

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