Author Topic: The Dreaded Prologue (631 words)  (Read 254 times)

Offline msgretagreen

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The Dreaded Prologue (631 words)
« on: May 22, 2019, 04:25:49 AM »
Hola! I’ve posted my first chapter in previous threads (which I am reworking based on invaluable feedback). In the meanwhile, I wanted to ask what people think of prologues. Generally, I agree they are not useful, and plan to continue submitting my manuscript as if one doesn’t exist. I do this because I think my story CAN stand alone without a prologue, but I also think that for history buffs (like myself) a prologue can add much to a readers understanding of an unfamiliar place and time. My novel is set in the Seychelles in the 1800s. Most people I have spoken to are not familiar with these islands. For this reason, I wrote a prologue called “A Place in History” to set up the world. Writer’s digest has an article about the pros and cons of prologues, and my goal fits into one of the reasons for it: Background/History: This type of prologue provides background to the history of the world and events that previously transpired—such as a major battle or betrayal. These events typically took place before the beginning of your story and somehow significantly impact the events going forward.

Of course, I don’t want to include dry info of no interest. What are your thoughts on the following 631 words?:

     The Seychelles consist of 115 small islands sprinkled in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The archipelago’s southern neighbors are the islands of Madagascar, Comoros, Reunion, and Mauritius. 1,800 kilometers due east lie Kenya and Tanzania in Eastern Africa, and a further 2,800 kilometers to the west, the Indian subcontinent.
     For most of man’s recorded history, the islands lay uninhabited.
     The Portuguese admiral Vasco da Gama is the first European credited with sighting the islands in 1502, but another one hundred years would pass before a documented landing. After a storm, a British captain of the English East India Company anchored for ten days in search of provisions. His crew found abundant resources: fishes, birds, turtles, giant tortoises, coconuts, and fresh water, prompting one sailor named John Jourdain to describe the forested islands as “some earthly paradise.” 
     During a period of great sea commerce, massive galleon ships traveled trade routes between South Asia, Africa, and Europe. Weighed down with goods, these slow-moving vessels became easy targets for corsairs. And the Seychelles?…A pirate’s hideaway.
     In 1754, war broke out between the French and the English. French authorities on Mauritius determined the Seychelles a strategic transit point for competitive shipping routes to India. Two years later, the French East India Company claimed the land for King Louis XV. France staked control and named the islands after the French minister of finance: Viscount Jean Moreau de Sechelles.
     Although the Seychelles were soon recognized for their wealth of timber and tortoises, it wasn’t until the intrepid planned agricultural development that steady plundering began. In 1770, Brayer du Barre led fifteen European colonists, seven slaves, five Indians and one free black woman to settle on St. Anne. They were followed by Frenchman Pierre Poivre in 1772, who founded the first colony on Mahe and introduced cinnamon trees and spices.
     The earliest French settlers, coming from Mauritius, Reunion, or French establishments in India, lived in poverty akin to their slaves. Some wasted their fortunes and abandoned their dreams, while the hardy persevered. Despite these challenges, foreign immigration trickled in and spread from Mahe to Praslin and La Digue.
     Many of the original settlers of this period came from upper class families in France. Some escaped financial and political woes, during and after the French Revolution, like deportees from Reunion who were exiled to La Digue. Others arrived from India after the collapse of French control. Left to their own devices, the power of government fell into the hands of wealthy, European plantation owners - the Grands Blancs. They established their own Colonial Assembly and constitution, which justified slavery as a farming necessity.
     The slave population grew faster than the white:
     Year 1789 - 69 white, 32 colored, 487 slaves.
     Year 1803 - 215 white, 86 free black or colored, 1,820 slaves.
     Year 1810 - 317 white, 135 free black or colored, 3,015 slaves.
     Throughout the Napoleonic wars of 1803-1815, possession of the islands alternated several times between France and Britain, with neither country investing much in the way of resources. In 1814, France formally ceded the Seychelles to Britain one last time. The British government argued for all French holdings in India, but eventually settled on the archipelago, and signed the Treaty of Paris. When the British took control, they administered their acquisition as a dependency of Mauritius, and interfered little in the micro laws of the land.
     The Seychelles may have been British, but they were emphatically French, with a dominant Creole and Roman Catholic culture. For the first three decades of the 1800s, the British ruled at a distance. Seychellois landowners might have complained about their dependence on Mauritius and making ends meet, but at the expense of their slaves, they led a pleasant life.
     This marks the place in history where our story begins…

Offline Kit

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Re: The Dreaded Prologue (631 words)
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2019, 11:03:37 AM »
Hola msgretagreen,

I admit to skimming a prologue first and if it seems I can get on with the story without it, I might skip it.

I think your prologue reads like an interesting text book.  I would not be bored if I were studying this for a class.

But as I read the story that follows it, I’m not going to remember the number of islands, kilometers, dates or statistics.

If it were my book and I really wanted to add the information, I might do so as an appendix, instead of a prologue.  This way the readers might see it more as optional reference, and big history buffs might see it as a little jewel.

Just my thoughts.

Best,

Kit
« Last Edit: May 24, 2019, 11:08:26 AM by Kit »

Offline msgretagreen

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Re: The Dreaded Prologue (631 words)
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2019, 11:55:13 AM »
Kit,
Once again, thank you for your thoughtful response. I am glad you do not think a prologue necessary to my story, and am fine with setting this brief entry aside.  :)

I am happy to read any pages you post!

Offline Stayce

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Re: The Dreaded Prologue (631 words)
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2019, 09:28:12 PM »
Hi again,

I agree with Kit. I may not know a huge amount about the historical period in question or this region in particular, but I think your first chapter does a better job of introducing the reader to this kind of information than this prologue does.

I would say that if this information is vital to the story, then finding a way to incorporate it into the main text would be preferable to what you have here. With regards to the rest, inference and world building can cover it.

Good luck moving forward, and I hope you do manage to get this story to a point you can see it in print.