Prologues & Epilogues: The Basement/Attic Dwelling Step Children of Writing

OutcastPrologues and epilogues seem to be regarded as something to avoid when writing. Yet I see them happen in books, especially romance. Personally, I don’t see too much trouble with them to a point.

Let’s start with prologues.

They can be a tool to show foreshadowing or an important tidbit to the overall story. Perhaps a good length is maybe a page or two but nothing more. What is should not be used as is one big info dump or spoiler for the book ahead. We certainly don’t want to see a ton of flashback scenes splattered through the book either but that’s for another day.

The first thing you want to do if you’ve started with a prologue is the substance of the words you’ve written. Is it a few years before the story happens? A wee bit of why your character’s flaw is the way it is? After you do this ask yourself–how important is it that I put this information at the beginning of the book? Did I just give a few pages of the big fat tell instead of show? If you can weave what you’ve written into the book itself without a flashback, consider losing the prologue. If it looks like you could expand it to show more of the story, make it chapter one and start there.

Out of the two, the prologue is the least needed in my opinion.

Now let’s talk about the epilogue.

I’ve used an epilogue once and as a foreshadowing tool in case I decide to make another book in the series. No saying that my editor won’t come back and say lose it or make it a chapter instead. We’ll see.

An epilogue is a great tool to fast forward time without the pesky need to put dates throughout your book or any type of timeline. I’ve seen it used, as stated before, in romance novels. It shows the happy couple having their first offspring and whatnot. A good tool to show all is well with them after all the trials they’ve been through in the novel.

Again ask yourself if this could be another chapter in the book or if the information is important.

I don’t think they’ll ever go away but maybe better decisions, though we’re knee-deep in the self publishing world, will be made with regards to using them.