On Prologues & Epilogues…

Do you use them? Do you hate them? Do you even know what they are or how to use them? Regardless of your answers to those questions, it’s your lucky day. If you use them, read on and see you agree with me. If you hate them, perhaps I can change your mind. ^^ If you don’t know what they are or how to use them, perhaps I can show what they’re all about.

Use the power…don’t abuse it.
– which I’m sure is applied in some fashion to every superhero comic book/movie ever written

What is a Prologue?
The beginning. The introduction. An event or plot point that happens before the coming events. (Or during, if you want to be cheeky.)

Why use it?/What it’s for?
-The scene is in a different POV than the rest of the story.
-The scene is told from a POV that isn’t the MAIN character’s POV.
-The scene takes place in a different year/month/week/day, etc than the rest of the plot. 
-You want give the reader background information that they may help them understand the main plot.

What’s it’s NOT for?
A place for the writer to “dump” information on the reader so you can be lazy and not use essential weaving skills to thread important information into the main plot. Example: Instead of showing the system of magic in the story through how the characters use it and react to it, you give the reader a detailed summary of how magic works and how it came to be.

Where you might have seen one outside of books?
The beginning of the original Batman. The beginning of the new Batman. The beginning of Thor. The first scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (I know it says Chapter One in the book, but that, folks, is what I like to call a Prologue disguised as a Chapter One.) The opening scene of Dracula. The first several minutes of Demolition Man. (Oh, yeah, I went all the way back there!) Basically, any movie that starts off with events that happened before the main plot.

What is an Epilogue?
A conclusion. An ending. A final scene that happens after the preceding events.

Why use it?/What it’s for?
-To skip forward a few years and let the reader know what’s happened in the main character’s life.
-To switch POVs and show the reader how another character or the villain is doing after the main events.
-To give the reader to a taste of what happens between books in a series. 
-To wrap things up. (Obviously)

What it’s NOT for?
This is not a place to dump the prologue for the next book in a series. This is not a place to confuse the reader by putting a storyline here that has nothing to do with the rest of the book. This is not the place to dump an extra subplot. Note: Yes this can be used to wrap things up, but it’s not for tying up loose ends in the MAIN plot. That’s lazy. Example: Ending a story with the villain getting away and having the hero squash the villain in the epilogue 3 months later.

Where you might have seen one outside of books?
The end of Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, Part 2. The final scene in Dark Knight Rises. The scene after the credits in Iron Man and The Avengers. The last scene of Captain America. The last scene of An American Werewolf in Paris. Basically any movie with scenes that happen after the main plot has been wrapped up.

My view: I’ve never met a prologue or epilogue I didn’t like. Do I use them? Surprisingly, not very often. I had a prologue two stories ago, the purpose of which was to give the reader insider information and drive them into the story. My last story had an epilogue because it was from a POV that I didn’t use in the main story. I did this, again, to give the reader inside information. Also, that book has a sequel that I’m mapping out and it’s a nice bridge into the next book where said character’s POV will be third row center. 

End Post. ^^


  • Thea

    I recently finished my first book that DIDN'T have an epilogue. Guess I like to wrap things up all neat and tidy! My next project has a short prologue, the first one I've written. I don't seem to like them as much….

  • krystal jane

    I wish I used them more often. I talk about them ALL them time. You would think everything I wrote had both. Neither one of my current projects have one planned, but you never know!

  • History Sleuth

    Saw your post in AW. I don't like them or hate them per say, it depends on the story. Sometimes it could easily be the first chapter or last chapter instead.In my one WIP I have a prologue because the instigating event happens about 100 years earlier. In the other WIP I have an epilogue because a few months have lapsed. It was an important twist to the ending but didn't fit as a last chapter. So in my opinion it depends.

  • krystal jane

    Glad you stopped by!I agree that a lot of times they're used incorrectly or just plain used for no reason. I think the way you're using them sound perfect, though. If everyone put thought into how they're using them, there probably wouldn't be all this controversy around them.

  • Diane Carlisle

    I've changed my first chapter to a prologue because it is written from the killer's point of view and I don't want the reader to believe the killer is my POV character moving forward. 😀

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