Skip to main content
site map
rss feedemail usour twitterour facebook page pintrest
Latest Posts

Blogging By the Sea
Saturday, December 17 2016

Prologue and Epilogue. Do they have a use? Should they be used? Can you have one without the other?

Personally, I like prologues and epilogues whether they are action packed or just information that I might find interesting. The former because it gives me a glimpse into the past and piques my interest in what’s happening now and the later because it often gives me a peek into the future to see how these people I’ve come to like and root for get on after the story ends.

Sometimes there is some piece of backstory – perhaps history – that is important to the outcome of story as a whole. And often, if it is separated by time and or place from the rest of the action, it seems more appropriately placed in a prologue. Sometimes the story is complete at the end of the last chapter, but the writer wants to share something extra about the future of these characters that happens after the book ends so the author adds an epilogue.

But sometimes that backfires. In my first book published, a reader made this comment: “I loved the book and the characters, but why did you kill your hero?” I gaped at the man. “You didn’t read the epilogue?” His answer: “No. Should I have?” I told him to go home and read the epilogue and then let me know what he thought.

But that little exchange made me look at how I’d handled the ending in a whole different light. All of my romances are neatly tied up in the last chapter, the conflicts resolved and the happy-ever-after assured. I only include the epilogue to give the reader a peek at their life down the road. But if they choose not to read it, they don’t come away dissatisfied with the resolution of the story they just spent 300 pages reading. But that first book, ended with my hero being shot by a disgruntled citizen while he was waiting to vote. It’s a chaotic scene with my hero, Matt coping with confusion, pain, weakness and finally loss of consciousness. It leaves the reader not sure just how that election would turn out, since my hero was one of the candidates running for the office of President. But I thought I was being so clever with my epilogue that showed him two years later among the dignitaries at the launching of a new destroyer giving his wife a very personal hand sign that they had shared in other places in the story. Should that book ever get amended I will change that epilogue to be chapter 30 where it should have belonged in the first place. I’d only separated it out because of the lapse of two and a half years between chapter 29 and the epilogue. I guess there’s a time and place for everything and some books don’t need an epilogue. And some information shouldn’t be saved for an epilogue no matter how clever the writer thinks it is.

As for Prologues. While I like them and always read them with no expectation that the action is going to begin immediately, in our world of instant everything, readers expectations are for things to start right away, and perhaps prologues aren’t the best way to begin a book either. I just recently critiqued the prologue and first few chapters of a book by a writer not yet published but working toward that goal. His prologue was eloquently written and his description of the scene so vivid that I could feel myself in that silent room watching the dust motes dance in the shaft of sunlight and listening to the majestic ticking of an antique grandfather clock. The problem was that outside of this well described scene the action dragged. Several pages of troubling conversation hinted at an unpleasant situation, but didn’t really go anywhere. A reader eager for action would put the book down long before they got to the end of the prologue. Once I got to chapter one where the action did start, I suggested to this author that the prologue could be either seriously shortened or removed without impacting the story. The vague hints of information divulged in the prologue could just as easily be incorporated into the story at a later time, perhaps with a journal entry, a flashback, or a recounting of some bit of family history. Especially since his very first sentence in that first chapter was an attention grabber that left the reader with questions demanding answers.

Authors spend a lot of time and effort researching their stories and setting the scene. It’s a natural urge to want to share all that fascinating information with our readers. But does a prologue come across as an unnecessary dump of backstory? Or does it suck them into the story, and make them want to turn the page?

In the fourth book in my Tide’s Way series I included a prologue. It was brief, one page and all action with little introspection and a minimum of scene setting. An IED explodes, and my hero, a career Marine snaps into action rescuing fellow Marines who were trapped in their upended MRAP. He is shot, and seriously wounded, but perseveres in spite of the pain until all his men are accounted for. And I leave him there in the care of the medic reciting the 23rd Psalm. A lot happens in those few short paragraphs, but it’s urgent and important and if I've made you care about this young man you definitely want to know if he’s going to survive. So you turn the page. I could have titled it chapter 1 and perhaps that would have made no difference, but its brevity and nature just seemed different, so I called it a prologue. Had the reader decided to skip the prologue, they would have discovered the important information eventually anyway, but without that glimpse of the caliber of the warrior.

So, I guess my advice to other authors would be: Every book is different. Know your genre and what the expectations of your readers are and avoid using prologues or epilogues unless there is a very good reason to include one.

Why not hop on over to these other bloggers and see what they think about prologues and epilogues?
Margaret Fieland
Dr. Bob Rich
Marci Baun
A.J. Maguire

Rachael Kosinski

Victoria Chatham
Anne Stenhouse
Helena Fairfax
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines


Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 12:01 am   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, December 06 2016

Years ago, they cared for us. They walked the floor or rocked us when we were fretful as infants. They encouraged us to take our first steps, guided our hands when we first learned to write our own names and sent us off to our first day of school with hopes that we would do well. They cheered us when we succeeded and comforted us when we failed. They were our staunchest supporters in every undertaking. Eventually they sent us off to college or out into the working world, knowing their lives as parents of growing kids were over and a new chapter had begun. And still they were there to support us. Dads walked daughters down the aisle or counseled sons on how to be a good husband when we married. They pitched in with child care and advice when we became parents. They reveled in their roles as grandparents and passed on stories and advice to a whole new generation of youngsters.

(My mom with me - a long time ago)

But now they are aging and sometimes their bodies fail them. Things they once did with ease become harder and harder each day. They can’t wrestle with their great grandchildren, as much as they might wish they could and it’s the youngsters who now wait on them.

Eventually the time comes for us to take over their life decisions and it’s not easy. It’s especially not easy if they haven’t come to terms with their diminished capacities. My mom had Alzheimer’s and eventually had to move to an Assisted Care facility. She had always been an outgoing woman who loved her world and the people in it, and she didn’t really understand why she could no longer live with her beloved “Johnny.” We, her kids, knew it was because the stress was aging him too fast and his health was threatened. In actuality, she thrived in the new surroundings where there were activities and people to interact with all the time, but still she pined for her love. By the time she died she no longer knew who I was when I came to visit, but she still recognized that I was an important part of her life and her smile when she saw me lit up the room. We were blessed that she passed away before the disease robbed her of all enjoyment of her life. (My dad with his great granddaughter Anna)

And now it’s my dad who requires us to step in and help with his care. He’s always been an active man and at 96 was still mowing his own lawn and puttering in his shop creating various projects from wood, all skillfully and wonderfully made.  Then, in July, he had a bad fall. I just recently read that falls are the leading cause of death in the elderly – something I’d not known before. And his was a serious fall. He broke his pelvis and two vertebrae. He was in an unyielding neck brace and unable to put any weight on his feet for three months and by the time he was cleared to remove the brace and start learning to walk again, he’d lost a lot. We still believed he’d go home again, though. He wasn’t like other 96 year olds. He was strong and capable – he’d go to rehab and get better. Or so we hoped.

But by mid November that hope had begun to fade. Our most recent meeting with the staff at the excellent nursing and retirement community he’d been fortunate to find a bed in dashed our hopes completely. He can’t be on his own and probably won’t ever be so again. So, my brother flew in from Kansas and I flew up from Florida to join my sister to help convince him this is his new normal. He’s forgetful and is often happy to have us take over tasks like his banking and taxes, but now we have to take over all of his affairs. Fortunately he’s okay with that. It could be worse. But it’s hard to see the man you once thought was a god reduced to being so dependent on you and his other care givers. The man who once carried me on his shoulders now needs me to carry on his affairs for him. He has ceded those responsibilities with grace, but it’s still hard.

In the next few months there will be much I have to do on his behalf, but then, no matter how big those tasks are, no matter how hard they might be, they won’t be a fraction of the care he once gave me. And I am blessed that I still have him with me for at least a little while longer.

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Add to favorites
    Site Mailing List  Sign Guest Book  View Guest Book 

    Skye Taylor
    St Augustine, Florida

    Site Powered By
        Online web site design