Does your story need a prologue and epilogue?
Prologue and Epilogue: Are They Required?
Many books have prologues and epilogues, and several authors think they are necessary to round off a story. I say, it’s completely up to the author. You have to decide if adding these pieces is going to add value to your story or confuse the reader.
A prologue comes before chapter one. They shouldn’t be too long, because then you might has well just make it the first chapter. Prologues should be three pages max. Include a little snippet of what happens before the main event of your story begins.
Epilogues come at the end. Usually it shows what has happened to the characters after a significant amount of time has past. It’s a conclusion that wraps up the story while telling the reader what the characters are up to now. How were they affected after the climax and resolution of the last chapter occurred?
These two pieces should always come as a pair. Why include a prologue if you’re not going to square it off with an epilogue? If you choose to use this literary device, you might as well go all out.
Who Uses These Literary Devices?
I’ve seen these devices used in Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.
Moyes uses her prologue to show what happens to one of the characters before the main character, Louisa, meets Will. This gives you background information on Will. The prologue is useful to the reader because it gives you clues that become relevant within the story itself.
Moyes’ epilogue included a time jump that shows where Louisa is after her experiences with Will. Giving the story more closure and a strong sense of what Louisa learned and how she’s changed as a person.
It has been years since I read Salem’s Lot, so I don’t remember if it has an epilogue. The prologue showed the history of the town and provided information that became more relevant as the story went on.
I’m sure there are several stories that use these devices, but I can’t think of more right now. What are your favourite examples of prologue and epilogue use? Comment below!
Does Anyone Read Them?
I can’t remember where I read this, but I heard that no one reads prologues or epilogues. That really stuck with me when I was writing my book Strength From Within.
Then, I read a book that included a prologue and epilogue. I liked how it rounded off the story and gave me background without affecting the natural rhythm of the main story. I was inspired to write one for my novel, introducing myself and the goals of the short story collection. Then, ended it with an epilogue for a conclusive farewell.
Do I Read Prologues and Epilogues?
Personally, I want to read every word on every page that the author wrote. Maybe it’s just because I’m a writer too. I think it’s important to consume every part of that author’s story, because they put that in there for a reason. They wrote, edited, and revised those words for you to enjoy, so why miss out?
Skipping straight to chapter one is just like skipping to the end of the story. You don’t want to miss a chunk that you might actually enjoy if you give it a shot. When you read a book, enjoy the journey every page was meant to offer you.
When Do You Include A Prologue and Epilogue?
Include these devices if you think they will be relevant to your story. Don’t write a prologue about a girl cooking with her grandma, then jump into the story without bringing that part up again. Don’t write an epilogue that doesn’t give the reader any satisfaction of where the characters ended up or repeats everything you just said in the last chapter.
Include information in the prologue that you don’t want in the main story using several flashbacks and a ton of exposition. Not unless it’s going to add value and move the plot along. Include an epilogue to add to the conclusion of the story. Give a little extra tidbit for the reader to enjoy about the characters they’ve loved throughout their reading journey.
Every word in your book matters, so choose wisely (or ask your editor if it’s too much pressure to decide alone).
Thank you for reading my thoughts on Prologues and Epilogues! What are your opinions? Share below!
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