Novelists: Have you been tempted to include an introduction or preface?

Some of the discursive or descriptive beginnings of older novels have the feel of an introduction. I know it’s not in fashion now. I’m writing a satirical science fiction novel that attempts to encompass our (insane) times as well as the dystopian trajectory of climate etc., etc., and am now tempted to include a sort of “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” introductory section. Currently I begin in media res, with the main character in Washington DC. Would readers today accept an intro?

Everything I have read suggests against this due to readers short attention span. If you like the idea write it and test including or not including with your beta readers. Editing my first sci-fi novel and did not include intro/ prologue. Maybe yours will revive the practice. Good Luck

Readers will accept everything, as long as they feel entertained. Established authors and classics can get away with less entertaining ramblings, because the reader knows / expects that there’s a point to it and that it’ll be worth it and pay off later. Don’t count on that. Make it fun to read. If a part doesn’t add to the reading experience — it probably shouldn’t be there.

One book of advice that I read – sorry, don’t remember the source – opined that the desire for an introduction is a sign that the author doesn’t trust the reader to figure things out on their own. (Or doesn’t trust their own ability to convey the information through the story, rather than separately.)

I’m personally agnostic about introductions, but I would recommend thinking very hard about why you want one.

I think these are good opinions. In my case it’s because I want to establish a tone and ambience. It’s always difficult to juggle plot, character, description, ambience and make it feel seamless.

Who “writes” that introduction/preface ? You, or the narrator ?
If it is you, I doubt you’ll achieve what you want this way. (As a matter of fact, you might even do worse. By breaking the “invisible curtain”.)
If it is the narrator, and done well, then yes, that is a way to pre-set the tone and atmosphere. (Works especially well for first-person narrated stories.)

I hadn’t thought about that question but of course you are right. The only voice that can speak other than the dialogue of the characters is that of the narrator. I’m not writing something ‘meta’ enough to include an authorial voice, although there are plenty of examples of works that “break frame” in that way. Not me.

IMHO, authors are too stingy with their electrons. I come down on the side of writing everything that seems interesting to you, and cut it later. Let it be expressed. Often, the process of writing the dubious thing will lead the writer to a new idea that would have been otherwise undiscovered.

Write everything that intrigues or delights you. You can fix it later.

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