Prologues and Epilogues

Did you know people have a problem with them? When I say people, I mean mostly other writers.

A lot of it stems from believing prologues are skipped by readers, or they’re self-indulgent backstory only the author might care about. Others have said that it’s mostly agents who say they hate prologues more than readers.

Then there are other writers get away with their prologues by titling them “Chapter One.” Hi, Harry Potter! But, oh! What about chapter two being 12 years later or something. Wasn’t that weird? No. It wasn’t. Not for me, and not for most people who read it either, obviously.

Then we have the prologues that drop readers in the middle of a climactic moment—a do or die situation. And it’s a cliffhanger. As you read the book, you find that scene and while it’s written a little differently, you’ve already read it. At least you get to see how it ends this time. I’m on the fence with these. Once I realize I’m reading the same scene again, I skim until something new happens, and to be honest, I wonder if I should’ve skipped prologue instead. This might’ve been used more as a gimmick to hook the reader, and they just should’ve trusted us.

The prologues that irritate me the most are when the same event was still ongoing in chapter one. I haven’t come across it often, thank goodness.

I think prologues can be written in a different style, from a different viewpoint character than the rest of the book, hell, they can even be written in a different tense. If this prologue has a bearing for the plot, then give it to us.

Surprisingly, epilogues aren’t nearly as frowned on upon. You’re getting that extra little nugget from characters you’ve probably come to care about. Not only was the plot tied up, now you’re probably getting a really happy (we hope) moment to end on.

What it all comes down to is trusting your gut and your readers. If that prologue has a unique insight to the inciting moment, I’d include it. If it’s a gimmick to hook readers, maybe trust them to read first before pulling a bait and switch.

Do you skip prologues or use them in your writing?

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