Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beyond the Story...

Prologue, Forward, Appendix...

These are all things that are in addition to the main story of the book. (There's also footnotes, indexes, etc. but I'm not going there right now.)

Lynnette at Chatterbox Chit Chat posted about prologues on Wednesday. (If you don't follow her, read her Post and the ensuing conversation.)

But it got me to thinking about prologues, forwards, and appendixes. Authors will include them, but do they matter and do we read them?

I usually read prologues. I figure they're there for a reason. Once in a while I come across one that appears to have no bearing on the novel itself, but most seem to matter.

Forwards - okay, I never read these... I think they are boring. Maybe that's just me.

Appendixes I tend to refer to at least once during the course of the story. Often these appear in science fiction or fantasy - genres that tend to include a lot of 'odd' names and devices. Sometimes they help with pronunciation, too.

So what does everyone else think? So you read these things or skip?

And for the record, there is a prologue in my upcoming novel. I wrote it at the suggestion of my publisher. Now that it's in place, I can see how it really enhances the story. So hopefully people read it!


Karen Jones Gowen said...

When I love a book, and I come to the end, I don't want it to end, so then I go back and read everything i might have skipped at the beginning before I fell in love with the book. Prologues, forwards, glossaries, whatever. Otherwise, I scan forewards, speed read the prologue and get right into the story.

Undine said...

All of the above, but I can top that. I'm the only person I know who reads footnotes!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I often skim through the appendixes before starting a book so an odd word doesn't trip me up halfway through.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sometimes I read them. :) I DO write prologues, though. Just can't seem to help myself.


Hannah said...

I always skip forwards. I'm with you...boring.

I read prologue and write prologues but apparently, they are going out of style. Boo! Chapter One it is!

I only look at appendixes if it's needed or if I have a desire to know more. Otherwise, I just ignore it.

Summer Frey said...

I read prologues, and I'll read a forward about half the time. If the appendix or glossary is at the beginning of the book, I'll usually read through it, even though it seems to give away plot points sometimes...

I don't usually do glossaries that are in the back except for pronunciation OR if it's part of a series and I've forgotten (Robert Jordan).

Anonymous said...

Prologues need to be short and concise. I don't need to know lenghty details about the weather or the taste in clothes a charcater prefers. Some prologues are an excuse for data dump. Keep 'em short, and I'll read them.

Stephen Tremp

JournoMich said...

Prologues are almost always a part of the book these days, so I definitely read them. Forwards--if they're short and if they start off in an interesting way. I will refer to appendices if the information is either interesting or necessary to the understanding of the book.

One of my favorite things to read is the biography of the author. I love to know where he or she is coming from, and how that played a role in their writing.


Sarah Ahiers said...

i read almost everything in a book (though i may just skim forewords or afterwords)

Helen Ginger said...

Prologues I'll most often read. I don't read Appendixes unless they're really helpful, like scientific words I can't decipher from the text or a family genealogy that I need to keep track of for, say, an historical book.

Straight From Hel

Jemi Fraser said...

I always read prologues. I don't know if I've ever read an appendix in a novel. Doubt it. Same with forwards. Get me into the story!

Jamie Gibbs said...

Prologues and epilogues I always read. Forwards I don't bother, and I do my best to ignore appendices (I like to have my own ways of pronouncing things).

Undine: Me too, but only if they're written by Pratchett :P

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Karen, I like the idea of coming back later.

Undine, you just read those footnotes.

Diane, I guess I like a challenge since I don't look unless I am stuck.

Palin, I like prologues, too.

Summer, it's easy to forget if you're reading Robert Jordan!

Stephen, mine is REALLY short. If it's three pages once it's in the book, I'll be surprised.

Michele, I usually read the bio as well!

Falen, you are getting your money's worth then.

Helen, I can understand why an appendix is necessary for history books.

I agree, Jemi.

And Jamie, I didn't even think about the epilogue! Thanks for pointing that out.

The Old Silly said...

I'm kinda like Karen. If the book is really great, I'll want to read "about the author" bio, the foreword (if I haven't yet - if a foreword catches my attention right away I'll read all of it) and all the front and back matter.

Marvin D Wilson

Anonymous said...

The prologue is chapter zero as far as I'm concerned (but then I'm someone who doesn't like to watch a tv thriller if I've missed the first two minutes). Wouldn't dream of skipping it in case the big themes or images pop up in there...

I nearly always read the footnotes too - if they're proper footnotes and not endnotes, that is (aargh, frustrated-reader memories of Infinite Jest).

No to the appendix though, unless it's engagingly written in its own right...

DEZMOND said...

I read them because I'm the one who writes a lot of them :) I write prefaces and forewords for most books I translate and I also write a lot of footnotes throughout the book to explain some information that you writers often take for granted thinking the readers will understand each and every word you write :)
If I get attached to a book while reading it I always like to read all of those and plus prologues etc because it just gives you some new info and a kind of a satisfying farewell from the book you just read.

I once even had a case when some readers told me that the preface I wrote for a certain novel was actually much better than the book itself [blush blush] :)

Lola Sharp said...

I am not a huge fan of prologues. My problem with them is that too many unskilled writers use them as backstory info dump, because they don't know how to backfill well. I don't like having to start a book twice.

Yes, there are exceptions, but for my taste, a prologue needs to have a real purpose, be well written, and short.

Otherwise, I read pretty much everything front to back, top to bottom, if I like the book.

Great post/blog.
I'll stick around, if you don't mind.


B. Miller said...

My book does have a prologue, and it's very important to the story that follows. I like to think of my book as a movie that's slowly unfolding in my head, and the prologue is what the audience would see before the initial credit roll.

I only read forewords in certain books - some of them are really boring to me, as you said... but I find a lot of enjoyment in reading Stephen King's forewords, because they're well written and it just feels like he's talking to you.

Great post, Alex! Good luck with the ongoing book. :)