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Is it bad to use an Introduction and/or a Prologue in Middle Grade Fiction? I have a lot of information that is useful, but the information in dialogue will sound fake and way too much info-dump like.

I liked the way Jurassic Park does it. Has an introduction with the fake backstory and history over the years, and then the prologue for the present story.

Is this a bad thing for this age group, as long as I don't drone on too long? It's historical, and I've got to have something to bring the reader up to speed. OTOH, I worry because the story doesn't start off with something exploding or having a vampire, so the reader doesn't care.

I have seen most of this,

When is a prologue useful?

I mainly want to know about children/middle grade/young adult.

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It is always a bit difficult to compare the first novel of a newcomer with the 17th novel of a bestselling author that got turned into a movie by the single most bestselling movie director. Who knows how Jurassic Park would have sold if it had been your first novel and published next year ... Apart from that, Jurassic Park is about dinosaurs, not some vage historical fact that teen boys don't care about. Every kid loves dinos. Its an automatic seller. Does your theme have that general attractiveness? –  what Jan 28 at 18:18
    
Related, but not a duplicate: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/9505/… –  Lauren Ipsum Jan 28 at 20:16
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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Middle-grade targeted or not, I think backstory should be exposed gradually.

I can remember kids (and not-so-kids) complain about a long piece of text without dialogue. At some age of one's reading career, one realizes that's where many interesting things happen (or else that one doesn't like reading), and then complains about too long descriptions and information dumps. I won't enter in discussing if that's the way of getting old or getting used to boring stuff. What is sure is that kids don't want boring stuff.

Therefore, the question you should ask yourself, as What said in his comment above, is if your prologue is boring. I have a prologue that starts with dialogue and continues with blood spilling, swords swinging and stuff blowing up, so I don't believe a prologue means info dump.

I think the best is to hook the readers with questions, not answers. Is all your backstory absolutely essential to understand anything of what is going on? Maybe you can leave some stuff to be explained later. You can also try to identify the one thing that matters the most as backstory, and then explain it with a scene (some action happening that explains the backstory) that will conform the prologue.

Answering the question directly, it can be good (look at Rowling's HP and The Philosopher's Stone), and it can be bad as in any other book. I think the middle grade fiction demands higher quality standards at least, not lesser, than other targets; because middle graders get bored more easily, they are new in reading, they have to be captivated to keep them, and they have a lot more things to do.

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+5 for "I think the middle grade fiction demands higher quality standards at least, not lesser" –  what Jan 28 at 19:37
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As I read your question, I couldn't help but think back to the time I first read Harry Potter and the philosopher's stone. I was in grade 2 and I don't remember if there was a prologue or not, however, the introduction to Harry's world felt like a prologue (or it wouldn't have been a problem if it was in this particular book).

If your story has an unusual setting, premise or unusual characters/any other unique aspect in the novel, then it would be nice to include a prologue. It's like a sample for what the story is going to be like. However, if you want to pull the reader right into your story or are afraid that the prologue might give the reader not the right expectations of what is to happen later on, I would avoid it.

Thinking back to the Harry Potter book, I remember loving the background info that was presented to the reader through a scene, rather than telling the history. If your prologue is very short, then you should be able to get away with a Jurassic Park-like intro. It should be a sampler scene/monologue that entices your readers to proceed to the first chapter.

This is a question I've been pondering over for quite some time, which is why every time I open a novel that has a prologue, I analyze my reactions or expectations to it and how it affects the novel as a whole.

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An intro OR a prologue might be fine. An intro AND a prologue would not be fine. If you must have one, pick only one. Jurassic Park was a book written for adults, and even so it amazes me that it managed to have both.

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