Monday, September 27, 2010

Here a Prologue, There an Epilogue

A couple of weeks ago, I did a guest post on Debuts and Reviews on breaking rules.  Since there is no end to my rule-breaking ways, I wanted to mention a couple of things about prologues and epilogues in books and get your take on them.  Some people lean pretty strongly against including either in a book.  In fact, I remember hearing one agent say on her blog that she flat out hated them and wouldn't sign a book if it had one, which I thought was a little extreme.  I'm of the belief, both as a writer and a somewhat voracious reader, that if they work for a story, why not include them?

Prologues usually foreshadow something that has happened or will happen in a story.  The trick about prologues, though, is providing just enough of a tease to intrigue a reader without giving too much away.  That said, sometimes they make absolutely no sense at all.  For example, I loved David Wroblewski's THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE but the prologue didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, even after I finished the story.  Still, I usually appreciate well-written prologues because I like a good tease.

Epilogues have been used in some interesting ways too.  Sometimes they tie up all the loose ends in a story; other times, like in Simone Elkeles' PERFECT CHEMISTRY, which I also totally loved like I was sixteen years old all over again, they leap years ahead and almost seem to start a new story all together.  But an epilogue worked for that book.  And I hated for that story to end!

What do you think about prologues and epilogues? Do they make or break stories for you?  Do you gloss over them or do you devour each word?

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By the way, I finished RAKES AND RADISHES this weekend and my review is up on Goodreads.

Don't forget the regular Monday Author Blog Hop started by the very cool Lisa where you can meet new-to-you authors and books! Authors: If you're a published author or under contract, hop on!  And don't forget to include this supremely cute author blog button with your post:

36 comments:

Donna Cummings said...

We must be sharing a mind today -- LOL -- I wrote a post about prologues too!

And I agree with you about if they work, then why not include them. I think sometimes they work better for the author than the reader though. LOL It really needs to add something to the story that can't be fit in anywhere else.

Liz Fichera said...

Seriously?! I will be by your web site toute de suite!

Joanna St. James said...

An editor told me to turn my prologue into chapter one, but that said I still love em especially epilogues, I am always loath to leave characters I fall in love with - says the girl who stays for the rolling credits at the movies hoping they will show something extra

Susanna Ives said...

As a reader, I enjoy prologues especially if it sets the tone and adds a degree of mystery. Sometimes, it creates a big boulder of suspense, poised on the top of a high cliff, ready to fall on the story at any moment.

In my humble view, until I have some hard statistical persuasion, rules are just suggestions.

And I'm still waiting for your good news!

Susanna Ives said...

oh and thanks for the balanced and insightful review on Goodreads ;)

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Joanna!

Me, too. I stay until the lights come on at movies. Drives my husband crazy! Too bad you and I didn't live on the same continent!

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Susanna!

Rules, smulees! Who needs 'em? By the way, thank you for writing such an amazing book that it kept me up most of the weekend!

Shirley Wells said...

So long as they're well done and not just there because the author thought it would look cute, I like them. A prologue can add great suspense if done well.

Any news you can share yet? You know we'll all keep nagging, don't you? ;)

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Shirley!

Nothing official to share. Yet. But soon. :-)

Liz Fichera said...

To those of you who grab the linky link tool for the Author Blog Hop, looks like the code isn't working (as of 8:02am PST). Lisa says it should be up and running again soon. Time to grab more coffee!

Dru said...

I like prologues as long as they are short. The ones that run 4+ pages, I tend to skip over.

I like epilogues, especially when it gives us a peek into the future.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Dru!

Funny you should mention long prologues...I started another book this weekend that I've been looking forward to. Not only was the prologue long, but it was in italics. Kinda hurt my eyes and unfortunately it lost me on the third page. I will restart the book next weekend in earnest but go right to the first chapter. An author takes a real big chance with those long prologues.

Nicki Elson said...

I agree that with writing, there should be no hard and fast rules. A lot of times prologues and epilogues seem superfluous and more like an indulgence for the writer, and in those cases, I think they should probably be left out. But in other cases, they add so much, whether it be suspense or information, that do add to the story, so it would be a shame to leave them out.

I wrote an appendix to my story, under the persuasion of some persistent readers, and I'll admit it was a complete indulgence and not necessary to the story, so when it came time for publication I left it out. Buuuut, I put it up on-line and I give the link to book clubs as a little bonus.

Nicki Elson said...

Duh, I meant "epilogue" not "appendix"...although I do have an appendix written and on-line too. Yeah, I'm super indulgent with myself.

Liz Bass said...

I was just thinking about epilogues last week. Vivian Arend joked to me that editors are supposed to think epilogues and prologues are the devil's spawn. I've seen recent posts by agents and editors saying they hate them. I must be odd, because I don't mind either...although epilogues sometimes make me impatient. As a reader, I like to imagine my own happily-ever-after, not have it spoon fed to me.
The editorial gods might smite me for saying this, but I think authors are bombarded with too many stylistic don'ts nowadays.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Nicki!

Great idea to leave up on your site as an "extra" for your readers! Hmmm. Must remember that!

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Liz!

Couldn't agree with you more--so many do's and don'ts! Just this morning I read two contradicting post articles (one from an agent; the other from a published writer) completely contradicting each other on rules on how best to open a novel. It was a definite "Calgon take me away" moment.

Also agree with you on epilogues. For me, they have to be a bit of a surprise (like the prologue). No spoon-feeding needed on the obvious. Give me something that makes me go "ahhhhh."

eleristone said...

As a reader, I'm fine with prologues and epilogues both. I even like cheesy everyone lived HEA with a half dozen babies kind of epilogues.

Laura said...

This is the second post I've seen about this subject today. You know what I think? Bring on the Prologues and Epilogues. I think authors sometimes write their best work in the beginning and end of the book.

But . . . I'm rule breaker. I make my own rules. Who needs uniformity?

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Eleri!

Thanks for the chuckle! I had this picture in my mind--epilogue, babies, that talking baby from the E-Trade commercials. Anyway, it made me smile.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Laura!

Thanks for stopping by and you've certainly come to the right place. We like to break rules here. Often. :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Well, after my publisher read my full manauscript, they sent it back for changes and asked if I could include a prologue. Once it was in place, the prologue really led the story off with a bang.

Maria Zannini said...

I don't mind either as long as they are short. If they start to go over a page, I get suspicious that the author is info dumping.

Marianne Arkins said...

I love epilogues as they usually are some significant time in the future and we get to SEE what really happened after Cinderella marries her prince. Not as big on prologues, tho.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Alex!

I love your publisher already! :-) Thanks for stopping by.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Maria!

Ah, yes. The info dump. A savvy reader can spot that a mile away. Not to mention it weighs down the story like wet cement.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Marianne!

That was the beauty of the PERFECT CHEMISTRY epilogue and why it worked so beautifully. It was like a bonus. You got a glimpse into the MCs future. Loved it, loved it, loved it!

Jenny Schwartz said...

I like prologues, but I'd heard the advice not to inflict them on editors/agents. Imagine my surprise when Deb (my Carina Press editor) asked me to add one to "Angel Thief" (out in late Nov). But she was right (she always is). The right scene, brief and tense, can really kick a story into action.

AuthorKimberlyLB said...

I tend to like prologues and epilogues if they go well with the book I'm reading. I will devour every word if I like what I'm reading.

Taryn Kincaid said...

As a reader, I don't mind. I like a prologue that foreshadows or explains something that happened years before the story starts, though. I really don't see any reason for a prologue immediate in time to chapter 1 (unless it's a peak into the villain's mind or something like that). Epilogues, love 'em, usually. Makes me feel like I can really close the book, that the story is really at an end...at least for now!

Taryn Kincaid said...

That should have been "peek" not "peak," of course. Luckily, Liz Bass is here!

(Who left my epilogue in, btw, even though it might be viewed as one of those cheesy HEAs!)

Jennie Bailey said...

I devour each word! I read mostly fantasy (YA and adult) so prologues and epilogues run rampant through the books that I read. Most are short teasers. I think if they are relevant to the story, they are fine to include.

I'm so glad you participated in the blog hop. Your book sounds really good and I can't wait to read it now!

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Jenny!

Oooh! So looking forward to Angel Thief! :-)

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Kimberly!

I'm with you: If I'm into a book, I don't care if it's written in crayon.

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Taryn!

I look forward to your release!

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Jennie!

Thanks for stopping by today - great to meet you!