Author Topic: Does a prologue need an epilogue?  (Read 7113 times)

Offline Journey

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Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« on: December 21, 2011, 07:35:53 AM »
Hi all,
Haven't posted on here for a while. Yesterday after 14 months, I finished the first draft of my book. The book starts with a prologue which I'm quite comfortable with. It's a holocaust book and the prologue is about an old man, a survivor, who takes his grandson back to Poland to show him how he lived and survived the war.

Chapter 1 starts with the birth of this old man, some description of life in Poland and it introduces the characters of the book. Chapter 50 (the last chapter) ends with the birth of the old man's grandson. The same boy who the old man takes back to Poland in the prologue.

I am quite happy with the ending and have tried several times to write an epilogue. But the ending of the book is powerful, and I would like the reader stop there. Every time I attempt the epilogue it seems to wash out the punch at the end of the book.

Thanks for any opinions
Ella
Writing takes me to places and times that Air Miles doesn't cover.

Sam Cooper

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2011, 07:40:53 AM »
You mentioned that the book's ending is satisfactory to you as it stands. The only other reason I'd use a epilogue is if another book lay in the waiting.

But I don't believe that because one is used, another is needed.

Wolfe

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2011, 11:38:42 AM »
No, it's not needed or required if you use a prologue. But, know you have a bookend at the beginning, so it's expected to see one at the end.

If you don't feel the need for an epilogue, chances are you didn't need the prologue either. Try removing the prologue or at least changing it to Chapter One.

Just a suggestion.

Offline Journey

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2011, 03:02:22 PM »
Thanks for your reply

Wolfe, I don't know if calling it a Prologue or Chapter 1 is simply a matter of semantics.

In the Prologue I've introduced a 80 year old man going back to Poland to show his grandson how he survived the holocaust.

Chapter 1 begins with the birth of this old man the rest of the book follows his life right up until this same grandson he took back with him is born.

The reason I called it a prologue, is because it introduces the story about to take place. It's a different timeframe than the rest of the book? Does that matter? I'm certainly not married to calling it a prologue, I just thought it was logical.
Writing takes me to places and times that Air Miles doesn't cover.

Wolfe

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2011, 06:39:15 PM »
Well . . . ask yourself this: is it background and set-up to the actual story?

Offline Journey

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2011, 07:53:39 PM »
It's most definitely a set up to the entire book. So does that make it an epilogue?
Writing takes me to places and times that Air Miles doesn't cover.

Wolfe

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2011, 08:36:57 PM »
No, it's window dressing and you warming up to the actual story. Some editors call this pre-telegraphing. Now, I haven't read the story or even your prologue. But, I've almost always had the ability to remove a prologue without damaging the story.

In most cases, the prologue is a writer's attempt to foreshadow events. And these events can, and often should, be foreshadowed in the actual story. You'll find a lot of agents and editors dislike prologues because they do setup and background dumps.

That's not to say all prologues fail or are disliked universally, but that's a discussion hashed prior.

As always, it's your call. But, if your prologue is setup . . . you might want to consider an edit.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2011, 09:53:20 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Journey

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2011, 09:31:14 PM »
Ok Wolfe, I hear you and I appreciate your advice. I will definitely have to rethink this. There is no question that the information in the prologue eventually comes to play in the story, so losing it would not affect the novel, however I felt it added emotion and drama and set up the story to entice the reader.

The novel shows the best and worst of the human element and all the emotions that go with being a victim and a torturer. I felt the prologue gave the reader a sort of heads up.

You've given me a lot to think about. The last thing I want to do is turn off my reader.
Writing takes me to places and times that Air Miles doesn't cover.

Wolfe

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2011, 09:57:56 PM »
Ironically, you don't want to give your reader a 'heads-up' or any hint beforehand. To capture a reader, instantly, you want to shock and amaze them. If you can do this, and leave questions in their minds, you've got them.

You'll want to give hints later, but not from the start with a prologue. But, seriously, you don't have to take my word for it. Many agents and editors have blogged about their opinions about prologues.

Here's an article from Writer's Digest: http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/get-published-sell-my-work/what-agents-hate

Here's one from a literary agent: http://www.camarshall.com/2011/09/eight-reasons-i-hate-your-book.html

It's not a universal opinion, but will give you a hint about the general feeling some have in the industry.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2011, 10:00:26 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Annmarie

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2011, 02:47:21 AM »
Love the links, Wolfe. "A spineless female character is called a Bella."  :D :D :D :o
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Offline Journey

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2011, 05:30:26 AM »
“I’m turned off when a writer feels the need to fill in all the backstory before starting the story; a story that opens on the protagonist’s mental reflection of their situation is a red flag.”
—Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management

I pulled this from one of the links you provided. This is exactly what my prologue is, the protagonist's mental reflection of their situation!!!  :'(  :o :(

MY PROLOGUE IS A RED FLAG  UGHHHHHH!!!!

Writing takes me to places and times that Air Miles doesn't cover.

Offline Annmarie

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2011, 05:32:46 AM »
Better if we learn all this now, Journey, and not when we're shopping the manuscript to an agent. Every mis-step makes us turn in the right direction.  :)
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Offline Journey

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2011, 01:29:41 PM »
I know, I know. I love your signature...Stop Whining and start editing. I'm a good listener and a good learner and a GREAT WHINER!! :D
Writing takes me to places and times that Air Miles doesn't cover.

Offline Boshman

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2011, 03:24:36 PM »
Great thread, as most are here.

I am currently in the process of writing a thriller / action story that has a factual element to it. It takes the details of how ice sheets are formed and wear away / break off, which is all factual. Without the reader knowing about this, the story wouldn't really make sense, or would at least be hard to understand.

So, being that ideally we need to show, not tell, my plan had been to have a two - three page prologue showing just the facts about how ice sheets are formed and the pressures generated etc. as otherwise to try to include that within the actual story would seem awkward. The only other way I could see of including it within the story would be to have someone explaining all about it to another, which would obviously be telling.

So would this be background or set-up?  My view is it's background and needed, but I am likely wrong, so would welcome your thoughts and ideas.

Suggestions please?

Thanks

Boshman
« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 03:30:29 PM by Boshman »

Offline Matt Walker

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Re: Does a prologue need an epilogue?
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2011, 04:39:38 AM »
So, being that ideally we need to show, not tell, my plan had been to have a two - three page prologue showing just the facts about how ice sheets are formed and the pressures generated etc. as otherwise to try to include that within the actual story would seem awkward. The only other way I could see of including it within the story would be to have someone explaining all about it to another, which would obviously be telling.

I think you should probably explain it through dialogue. I'm not even sure it IS 'telling', as telling suggests narration and if it's through dialogue it's active. Anyway, although it may be important to your story, I don't think many people find the formation of ice sheets particularly interesting (I don't!), and if you 'show' it in a prologoue all you end up with is a boring prologue. And who wants that?! Remember that show/tell is a fine balance. Show us the things that are exciting, interesting, that keep the pace and the story moving. Tell us everything else that's vital but not particularly interesting. For instance, if your MC is caught up in a bank robbery, you should 'tell' us that he drove to the bank, and then 'show' us the robbery.

Funnily enough, I opened with a prologue to my current novel, and after reading a similar thread to this did away with my prologue because I realised I could fit all the information in the first chapter through the MC.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2011, 07:03:32 AM by Matt Walker »
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