It’s the final Round Robin of 2016, and I can hardly believe it! Has someone put me in a time machine and zoomed me to the end of the year? It seems no time at all since I was opening the first page of my 2016 calendar!
Talking of endings and beginnings is the perfect introduction to this month’s Round Robin topic, which was suggested by author Victoria Chatham:
Prologue and Epilogue. Do they have a use? Should they be used? Can you have one without the other?
First of all, the Prologue. Oh, the dreaded question of the prologue for writers. How I’ve agonised over this at times.
According to my useful friend Wikipedia, a prologue is: an opening to a story that establishes the context and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information.
I think that’s a great description. BUT should an author supply this context/background in the opening pages? Or is it better and more appealing to the reader if the author gets straight into the action and allows the backstory and context to emerge as the novel progresses?
This is the big dilemma for an author. Personally, I’ve only used a prologue once, and that was in my novel A Way from Heart to Heart. I wrote two drafts of this novel. Draft one started in the present day (with no prologue), with a scene where the heroine greets the hero on the doorstep. The atmosphere between them is a little distant, and neither character appears particularly sympathetic. I intended to drop the backstory into the book gradually, because I’d had it drummed into me that prologues were a BAD THING by lots of writing experts. I read this passage aloud at my writers’ group and it didn’t go down well. It wasn’t obvious what was going on, and my hero came across like a bit of a stalker. That wasn’t at all what I intended!
So, after trying my best to avoid a prologue because “experts” told me it was wrong, I tried writing a prologue to “establish context and give background details,” as it says in Wikipedia. In the opening prologue to A Way from Heart to Heart as it has now been published, I describe how five years before the actual story begins the heroine’s husband dies in Afghanistan. In the prologue, she is brought the news by the hero. The reader immediately has sympathy for them both through this prologue (at least I hope so!), it’s full of action, and it sets up the entire premise of the novel – that the heroine is terrified of further loss for her son.
I think prologues can be useful, but you should think very hard before using them, and only use them if the story will genuinely suffer without one.
And now on to epilogues. As a romance author, I do love a good epilogue if it shows the hero and heroine actually living their happily ever after. Epilogues can be useful if there are a couple of loose threads to the story that might leave the reader wondering what’s happened to a particular character. I’ve only written one epilogue, and that was for my novel The Silk Romance. Again, I thought long and hard about it. It’s obvious at the end of the book that the hero and heroine are in love (I’m writing romance, so I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers!) I could have finished the book without an epilogue, but I thought readers might like to find out what happened to the heroine’s family and best friend, and so I wrote a scene with them all together. I love to create a really happy, uplifting ending, and so I was really touched when a reader emailed me specifically to say how much she’d loved the epilogue. Hooray!
Victoria’s final question regarding prologues and epilogues was: can you have one without the other? Yes, I’d say you definitely can!
What I’ve mainly learned through my own writing is you can tie yourself in knots trying to stick to so-called rules, but when it comes down to it you should write the story the way YOU think is best!
I’m very interested to know what other authors have to say on this topic. If you’d like to find out too, please click on the links below.
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As a reader, how much do you think about the fact that an author has used a prologue or epilogue? Do they interrupt the flow of the story or do you find them useful? As a writer, do you try and avoid them or do you think they are sometimes necessary?
If you have any comments at all, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-QS
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com