Friday, June 15, 2012

Prologues in Movies VS. Prologues in Books

We have all heard it.  Agents hate prologues.

I bet it is true.  A prologue is an introduction scene in a novel that usually doesn't seem to have anything to do with the rest of the story and may introduce a character or a scene which isn't relevant until later in the book.  In my opinion, a lot of writers use a prologue to info-dump the reader.  (Trust me, I'm not immune - I'm cutting the info-dump of a prologue from my current project.)  Most readers will skip a prologue.  If they were intrigued by the back cover of a book, they don't want anything that will ruin the story for them later on.  A prologue might enhance the story, if the readers cares to read it, but it shouldn't be vital to the plot.  The first chapter is what should be extremely important.  Prologues can be used for dramatic effect, such as getting the point-of-view of the bad guy in a crime novel.  Those sometimes work well.

Ah, but what about prologues in movies?  Those aren't terrible. 

Prologues in movies are usually more accepted.  With a book, the reader can get a sense of the world by reading the back-story as it is spread throughout the story.  That can be harder to do with a movie, though I can think of two examples of prologues that are my favorite.  Some movies will start with a prologue that explains some of the timeline, such as "National Treasure" where the grandfather explains to the boy about the history of the treasure.  It fits. 

Here is an example of two prologues that work very well:  (My favorites!)





(Sorry about the subtitles, it was the only one I could find.  I love this!  It gives us a great background, letting the audience see a map of Middle Earth and it's got some wonderful lines!) 

I think a book can have a beneficial prologue, but if the information is so very important to the plot, it can probably be written into the story in a nice way.  Honestly, I will probably skip a prologue and just start reading the story. 

Can you think of a book/movie where the prologue worked or didn't work?

25 comments:

  1. I came to read this post just because I KNEW you would use LOTR as an example<3 I have that thing memorized!

    You know..because I totally have a life..

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    1. LOL, I had to use LOTR as an example - it fits perfectly! I have it memorized too, so don't feel bad. :) We are just awesome like that. :)

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  2. P.S. I sent you an email back for 3 and 4 but I've been having issues with my emails not sending so let me know if you didn't get it and I'll resend it. And go ahead and send me 5 and 6 :)

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    1. Nope, I didn't get an email from you about 3 and 4. I'll send you 5 and 6 while I wait for you to resend. Silly internet eating emails. :)

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  3. I think that sometimes, prologues can work in fantasies. SOMETIMES. I had one critique group, though, where the writer started out a fantasy with a prologue in which the characters are in their teens and underwent an attack by bandits. Chapter one then starts ten years before when they're children. When I told her I didn't think it worked, she said she put it in to make her book exciting right away. This isn't a good reason for a prologue. If adding a prologue is meant to instigate mystery or action, there's no point.
    Really, for books, prologues should stay in epic fantasies. And only if they're done well.
    But you're right about movies. We need the info ASAP to help us understand the world. We don't have character or narrator monologue to help us out in movies, either.
    I love the Beauty and the Beast prologue. :) Another childhood favorite of mine is from Swan Princess. I have it memorized still.

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    1. I agree - making the prologue start with action, but having it not really connect isn't a good reason for a prologue. Prologues should start in epic fantasies if done well.

      I forgot about the prologue from Swan Princess, that's another great one! :)

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  4. I wonder if prologues work in a series, as a recap of the story that has gone before it, maybe then you could read a certain novel without having read all those that went before it and if you had read all of the previous books, then you could skip the prologue. I say this only because I have been drawn to a book before and thought, this sounds good and then seen that it is part of a series and not the first one and then decided to give it a miss. Of course the idea is that you read them all but..

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    1. That does make sense, Kate. It would be helpful in recaping what happened in a previous book, but that can also be done in the story. I've been drawn to one book in a series before, but it is hard to get into it when you didn't read the first book. Thanks for visiting, Kate! :)

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  5. Kristen Chashore's prologue in Bitterblue was amazing!!!! It might have actually been my favorite part of the book, LOL. It was a scene from Bitterblue's childhood with her father and it was perfect to understand the effect he had on his kingdom even after his death.

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    1. Oo, that sounds good! I've never read her book. I'll have to add it to my list! :) Thanks Cristina!

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  6. I never read prologues. I think the one in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire didn't work too well, I always skip it, even though it's the first chapter, as the man in it really has nothing to do with it. x

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    1. I agree, that one didn't work well and I would rather skip a prologue and get to the story. :)

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  7. I love the Lord of the Rings one, I always watch it and get annoyed when people speak through it!
    In books, I prefer to get straight into the story. :)

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    1. Me too! I just love to listen and watch it. But in books, just start the story. :D

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  8. I love prologues in books. Always. I don't care if they give out much information- at that point, you have just started and it doesn't really matter. I think they're a great way of capturing readers' interest.

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    1. They can be a great way of capturing reader's interest, but that doesn't always work for me. It's interesting how different people like prologues. :) Thanks!

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  9. Hey I just realized that I either failed to tell you or you missed the comment about it but:
    I awarded you the Booker Award and you never claimed it! :P
    It was awhile ago now so I won't make you hunt for the post lol. Here ya go! http://thefictiondiaries.blogspot.com/2012/05/dear-diaries-ive-been-given-booker.html
    Sorry if I failed and never told you lol I do that sometimes as I'm sure you've noticed by now lol. But congrats!

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  10. my 1st chapter is prologue-like. its an incident to show the prblem that is being covered up. none of my betas/cps has said a negative thing, but the stigma hangs over my head bringing doubt...

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  11. I love Beauty & the Beast! Such a great prologue (and such a great score :) )

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  12. I read the prologue of Virals by Kathy Reichs and to me, it didn't seem to work well. It was just a cut-and-pasted scene from later on in the story that was almost a spoiler--and it was all action, to make it worse.

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  13. Hmmm... I think that the prologue in The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter worked pretty well. It kept me wondering about it throughout the rest of the story. It piqued my interest. But for the most part, prologues don't interest me much. I still read them for sure, but would rather just jump into the story.

    This is funny that you posted this because I just scheduled a post about jumping right into the action in the first chapter of your book. Great timing. It'll be up tomorrow.

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  14. hmmm this is an interesting question---don't know what i think about it--probably i prefer not to have one

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  15. I don't read the flaps or back covers of a book because I don't want to know a single thing about it before I read. My mom reads the last few pages before she starts the book. I guess we're the two extremes :) Some authors use prologues well (Dan Brown comes to mind), other times, I'd rather just get into the story.
    I left you an award on my blog today :)

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