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16 January 2012 @ 08:25 am
Prologue / Teaser in Fantasy, Help or Nuisance?  

  By Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

“A prologue (Greek πρόλογος prologos, from the word pro (before) and lógos, word),” Wikipedia tells us, “is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information.”

In fantasy the prologue usually describes the circumstances that brought the world to its present state of disarray (i.e. the rise of the great evil our hero/heroine will have to overcome) and/or offers a prophecy about the One who will set things right. So we readers know when we meet the protagonist, he/she is the One the prophecy foretold.

A teaser, as per my definition, is a scene at the beginning of a book that ends with the protagonist’s life/quest in jeopardy. A scene we will not reach until later chapters because, after the teaser, the book goes back to an earlier time in the story.

The purpose of both, teaser and prologue, is to engage the reader in the story so that he/she will keep reading during the slower scenes the author needs to establish the world and the characters.

Although I understand the need for these two devices, as a reader I always found both prologue and teaser annoying. They were, it seemed to me, the authors’ acceptance that their first chapters were boring.

Yet, I must confess I have given in to the temptation and written a teaser for my sequel of Two Moon Princess (http://carmenferreiroesteban.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/the-king-in-the-stone-teaser/). Whether it will stay or not in the final version, I haven’t decided yet.

What about you?

Do you like teaser/prologues in your stories, as a writer and/or as a reader?

airicka_phoenixairicka_phoenix on January 16th, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
I think it could be a good thing and a bad thing. Most teasers can help draw the reader into the story, hook them if you will. But if not executed properly, it just sounds silly and out of place. I know there are several books that had I started on chapter one straight off, I would never have made it to page two. It was the teaser that kept me reading, needing to know what happened and why.
cynleitichsmithcynleitichsmith on January 16th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
I always say, "If it works, it works. If it doesn't, punt." Don't worry too much about preferences/biases/fashions elevating one device or approach over the other.

For me personally, the test of a whether a prologue remains is whether it's necessary for the execution of both the internal and external arcs. It's a high standard, and the burden is on the prologue to prove itself.

But I've used two over the years....
Maureen: Flowers [columbine]elvenjaneite on January 16th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
I have to admit that as a reader, I usually skip them. It's not so much that they make the first chapter look boring as that I tend to want to actually get to the story.
cindy_poncindy_pon on January 16th, 2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
Silver Phoenix has a prologue.
since it took place about two decades
before the actual story, i think it fit
as a prologue. it was also absolutely
necessary to the novel.

i think prologues are totally fine if
they make sense. if they are too long
and indulgent, then of course, not so much.
as a reader, i do read them, not always
at first, tho. depending on how long they

as both author and reader, i don't do
teasers. i hate them a little. haha
so they don't work for me as i avoid
them like the plague.

i don't like being teased. =)
cindachimacindachima on January 16th, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC)
My first three books (the Heir Chronicles series) all have prologues. My next four, in the Seven Realms series, do not. I don't know whether I just got prologues out of my system, or if there is something about the Heir World (Ohio?) that requires a prologue. I'm now working on a new Heir book. It had a prologue, but I got rid of it. But it ain't over yet.
Anneblessed_oak on January 16th, 2012 11:16 pm (UTC)
I generally dislike jumping around in time. I also avoid spoilers. So I'm not much of a fan of teasers. A nice, mood-setting prologue is always okay by me, though.
Skylark: exploreskyewishes on January 17th, 2012 12:04 am (UTC)
I don't mind prologues, as long as they contain a vitally important scene and not a history lesson, but I never like teasers. Not only does it disrupt the beginning of the narrative, but when you finally reach the point where that teaser scene ought to be, it steals the thunder from the climax.
carmenferreirocarmenferreiro on January 17th, 2012 03:17 pm (UTC)

Thank you so much for your comments.

The general consensus seems to be "use these devices at your own risk," for by doing so you risk annoying some readers.

So, it's back to the drawing board for me, that is the computer screen, to rewrite my first chapter until is strong enough to keep the reader engaged.

Amy Butler Greenfieldamygreenfield on January 17th, 2012 09:31 pm (UTC)
I'm fine with prologues, as long as they're necessary. I had one on my last book that wasn't, so out it went!

Teasers are more of a problem for me, both as a reader and as a writer. It's hard to get a good teaser that isn't a spoiler, and often they don't quite live up to their promise.