I’ve read conflicting views on whether a novel needs either or both a prologue and an epilogue. One sci-fi author I’ve read says every one of his novels has a prologue. Others say if the start to the story is strong enough, no prologue is necessary. The same likely could be said about the need for an epilogue. If an ending is written well enough, there is no need.
ProWritingAid had a recent piece on Does Your Story Need an Epilogue? This piece laid out when it is advantageous to include an epilogue, such as there are loose story lines needing wrapping up or new elements are introduced (usually after a time jump) that set up the next book.
A prologue that stays with me until this day is that found at the start of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. I hope the consensus is Martin’s writing is good enough to stand on its own without a prologue. Regardless, I think the prologue to A Game of Thrones is perfect. It not only sets up that book but the entire series. Does the book need the prologue in any way? Not really. It does introduce the ultimate villains, but Martin does that later just as well. I think the prologue is perfect because it sets the tone for everything that follows. I’ve always thought the tag line for the series should be: Everyone You Love Dies.
Being a short story author (until NaNoWriMo this year), I never needed a prologue or an epilogue. Then I started writing the first chapter in my novel. I had grand ideas for what to include and thought the chapter would run a couple thousand words. When I finished it, the chapter totaled 595 words; and it didn’t feel like a true chapter. It did feel like a prologue and a good one for introducing a central element of the novel. We’ll see how I feel about it once the first draft is done, but for now, my WIP has a prologue.
When I get to the end, I’ll let you know if there is an epilogue. I hear readers and publishers these days want a series, and an epilogue can help set up the next book. If need be, I have ideas for at least one more book in the universe of my WIP. I just need to finish the WIP to know whether I need an epilogue to bridge the gap. No pressure.
Let me know in the comments your thoughts on prologues and epilogues. Always necessary? Story dependent? Or never in this lifetime or the next?
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