Happy 2019! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here, but I’m hoping to get back to a regular schedule. I’m sad to say it won’t be every Monday like it was last year, but I do promise to be here twice a month to share book thoughts, editing tips, querying advice, and anything else that pops into my mind. So, pull up a chair and pour yourself a cup of coffee…
Today, we’re talking about prologues and epilogues. I’m sure you all know what prologues and epilogues are, so I won’t bore you with definitions. Let’s break these down one at a time, shall we?
There’s always a lot of talk online about prologues–whether or not they’re necessary and/or will having one make your book more likely to get rejected by an agent or editor. Like so much in publishing, the answer to this is very subjective. Some agents and editors are very vocal about not wanting to see a prologue. Others say if you’re going to use one, make sure it’s for a good reason, while others say they don’t care one way or another.
Personally, I fall in the middle camp. I don’t necessarily dislike them, and I won’t reject a manuscript simply because it has a prologue, but there needs to be a really good reason for it. So, when I’m reading submissions with prologues, I always ask three questions:
- Is the information given during the prologue something I absolutely have to know right then and there at the start of the story? Or, more specifically, is chapter one going to be confusing without the information I’ve been given in the prologue? (If the answer is no, then the prologue is probably unnecessary.)
- Can this information be worked into the story later via a well-timed flashback and/or engaging dialogue? (If the answer is yes, then the prologue is probably unnecessary.)
- How does chapter one start in relation to the prologue?
It’s been my experience that a majority of prologues are used in a gimmicky way. For example, the prologue is a short punch of action or emotion that ends with a mini-cliffhanger that gets readers’ hearts racing, but then we get to chapter one, and the story itself starts in a cliche or boring way–character waking up, rushing to work or school, driving, describing the weather/setting, etc. In those situations, the prologue feels like a ruse to grab a reader’s attention because the actual book doesn’t start in the right place. Prologues like that are completely unnecessary, in my opinion.
There doesn’t seem to be as much disagreement about epilogues as there is about prologues; at least, not that I’ve seen discussed online. Probably because they are generally more accepted within certain genres, like romance, for example. I, personally, love getting a small sneak peek into the immediate future to see where our couple is and how they’re doing. And, like with prologues, I won’t reject a manuscript for this reason alone.
So, what’re your thoughts on prologues on epilogues? Do you love them? Hate them? Does it affect your decision to read and/or buy a book? Share your opinions in the comments!