Prologue and Epilogue, both or neither?


There are many things a writer has to consider when writing a story. But one of the most important and difficult to decide is not only where to begin but how. Should the use of a prologue be used and if so should an epilogue follow?

Many writers use both or either and as many refuse to write them. With such a split preference are they really necessary?

 

Prologue – is an opening to a story that sets the setting and gives background details.

Uses for it
1. Serves to provide information that cannot otherwise be incorporated in the main story.
2. Can set the mood, pace, and voice for the story.
3. Helps to introduce the main characters, villains, and or hint to the plot of the book

Pros
It helps lay out the background details without the need to rely on flashbacks and other tricky methods that can cause confusion and loss of interest in a reader. It can provide the author with a chance to use a different point of view besides the one the main story will take.

Cons
They can break up the reader’s concentration. The use of it can lead to the need to grasp the reader’s attention not once but twice, once for the prologue and again for chapter one.

Do you need to use it? Should you?

If you can provide the background information throughout the main story without distracting the reader or disorienting them then a prologue is not needed. If you can create the setting the story will take place in the first chapter then go without it.

If you can’t do either of these then use it.

Example:

In my series The Five Kingoms of Severi I used a prologue to introduce Edwin (the main character) and his parents. I was also able to introduce Toren, the Queen of Severi and her relationship to Edwin’s father. Why did I use a prologue? Because Edwin is only a baby and thus was able to start chapter one seventeen years later and with a clear understanding of the setting. The reader is aware that magic exists but not everyone has the ability to use it. It is also evident that Kale shares a destiny similar to his son’s.

 

Epilogue – a piece of writing at the end of the main story, usually used to bring closure to the work and presented from the perspective of within the story.

Uses for it

  1. Serves to reveal the fates of the characters that stretch beyond the ending of the main story.
  2. They can be used to hint at a sequel or wrap up any loose ends the ending did not cover.
  3. They can take place any time after the main plot has ended, the time can be days, weeks, months, and even years.
  4. It can be written in the same voice and perspective as the main story or in a different form.

Pros
Helps answer any lingering questions and plot holes that could have been created throughout the main story. It can serve to show a HEA or HFN ending for those who prefer it.

Cons
It can cause more questions than answers if not used correctly. It can lengthen the story and create an ending that changes the reader’s conclusion about the story, in other words it can ruin a perfectly well told story.

Do you need to use it? Should you?

If you can end the main story with all the questions and angles covered then you can go without an epilogue. If you wrote your story right from the start there would be enough material you could leave the reader with that could later be used for a sequel and thus no need for an epilogue. But if you want to show what the characters are doing after the story comes to a close then an epilogue is exactly what you need. This works great if the time frame is too great to leave it as another chapter.

Example:

In my story A Prince from Another World I included an epilogue to show how my main character was faring after he managed to reach his destination. The epilogue takes place a few months after the story ends and it also serves to reveal another important fact which I will not list due to spoilers. But a sequel is hinted, something that wasn’t clear in the main story, and strengthens the HEA ending.

 

Final Advice…Keep in mind that both a prologue and an epilogue should be shorter than a regular chapter (once you have mastered them then feel free to break this rule).

To sum it all up it is different with each writer and reader. Do what works best for your story and never be afraid to try something different.

 

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