Well, hello there neighbor—creepy, right?
It is another Sunday in the neighborhood of being an author. I hope this week was kind to you, that you hit your writing goals, and hopefully sold a few books along the way. If not, don't beat yourself up too much; it happens to all of us.
Come on in, but we got to make this quick, I need to go pick up my Aunt May soon, or else my Uncle Ben will be all disappointed in me again.
You might have heard some talk from time to time around the author water tower about prologues and epilogues and how readers hate them, and you should never use them. Here's the honest truth from every poll I have done and seen. It's not really true. In the last poll I did about it, I got over 1200 votes, and only 9% of people said they didn't like them.
9% is a tiny number to worry about. But it always feels like it's a more significant number because those who dislike prologues and epilogues are just the loudest about it.
But I didn't stop there.
I wanted to know more. Wanted to know why the weird hate for a great writing device at our fingertips.
This is what I found out from the dozens of readers and authors I talked to that dislike them.
The number one reason seemed to be they assumed them always to be info dumps that the author couldn't figure out how to incorporate into the rest of the story.
Again, overall, this isn't true, but there is some merit to it. A small percentage of authors do use the prologue for a quick info dump to create the bounds of the world you are about to dive into, more so it seems in fantasy. But with this said, I usually find 95% of authors do it very well. Creating a scene that can one start to create the world, and two give the reader enough information to make the first chapter more enjoyable, and three give an intriguing piece to the bigger puzzle.
The second biggest reason seems to be that the prologue has nothing to do with the story. That it was just added for the sake of having one.
Once more, this is generally not true, but a small level of merit is needed once more. By the end of some books, I have run across a few prologues that didn't seem to hold any real need or connection to the actual story. But with that said, neither did the prologue hurt the story in any way, so kind of a wash in my mind. Also kind of a dumb reason to hate on something, just sayin.
And the third reason some people hate on prologues—and this one really chaps my ass—like a lot. Is "they just want to get on with the story." Like what the actual fuck? You buy a book to read. Then you skip over the first part of the story; just to get to "the story," it makes literally no sense whatsoever. If you are one of these people—you need more hugs in your life.
Okay, so some of my little hints and tricks, since I am a HUGE fan of prologues and do use them when I deem them essential. But I will say this first; you do you, you write a prologue if you want to. I'm not here to tell YOU how to write YOUR story. Only you can do that. But I am here to put out some hints and info about them that might help you better create them or know whether you need it or not.
My first step to prologuing and this is the most critical step. Do I want a prologue? If the answer is yes, then write one. If the answer is no, ask yourself why it is no and then realize yes is likely the correct answer. But if it is still no, that is okay too.
Step two, what is the point of this prologue? What is the reason for creating it? Is it to world build? Info dump? Set the scene? Add foreshadowing on a specific event from the past or future? Creates a suspenseful event that sets the plot in motion later on while giving the reader a small inside track to that knowledge to horde over the MC? (Bonus points for those of us who can do all of this in one prologue)
If it is for info-dumping and world-building, try to avoid the plain Jane info dump, where you just have paragraph after paragraph of flowery scenes or world governing or of character description and cultural style. Small clips of this are more than fair, but if there is a lot of info you feel you need to portray within the prologue, try to blend it throughout, a little here, a little there. So, you slowly give the info without making it feel like a history lesson in school.
Step three. Have a hook. Something within the prologue that is somehow vital information to the story/plot/MC, something that if someone doesn't read the prologue, they miss out on something important later on. That way, those silly gooses that skip the prologue miss out, and when they talk about the book, the people who read the prologue can laugh at them for being dumb. (I'm only a little petty and evil)
Step four. Make it bloody count. This is, after all the first few pages of your story, and there are many readers out there who only read the first 5 to 10 pages before either diving in or dropping the book. So you need to make it count, whatever it is; however you are going to put it together, you need to make it POP in your own unique way.
Okay, so I think that covers prologues. *Takes a deep breath,* now onto epilogues.
Epilogues are more forgiving typically and not as vital since if someone is reading it, chances are they read the whole book already. But that doesn't mean you want to totally shit the bed with them. You want to leave on a high note, right?
I seldom use epilogues unless it is part of a series and I am hinting/teasing at something in the next book, or I feel the story/characters need a final moment to say their goodbyes to the reader.
If you aren't using it to set the tone for the next book in the series, and it is a stand-alone book or the final book, you want to make sure it leaves a final thought in the reader's head. You want it to click in them when they think about the book later; those last few pages remain in their memory.
Now that doesn't mean it has to be a happy or good memory if you want to make it bitter and cruel power to you. If it's not a happy ending, that's 100% okay in my books, but you need to make it impactful, good or bad. That way, they never forget you.
Remember, an epilogue is a farewell kiss to the reader. Leave them breathless and lightheaded.
*looks at time*
Crap, you guys have made me late to pick up my Aunt May! I need to get down there before she calls Ben, and he has to go pick her up! It can be dangerous down there. I would hate for something terrible to happen…
indie author's of the week
Jennah walters and keira lane
The East Wind breathes beyond the mountains, but its curse comes from hell.
From the toxic mist of an earthbound object, to a starlet and her fall from heaven to hell, to never being able to look at a sandwich in the same way again. The East Wind is a collection of horror and weird fiction that creeps far beyond mere bumps in the night.
- An object from the heavens unleashes a dreadful curse upon a small mountain town in The East Wind.
- The world is forever changed by a virus that fries the mind in Armstrong's shimmer.
- God's army is unleashed upon the earth in Do Not be Afraid.
- A starlet grasps for fame, but discovers her own personal hell in Apollyon.
- Humankind builds erects the most disturbing machine of all time in Kratos.
- Depression and the human condition take on disturbing form in the ode this mental health, Brain Fog.
- A ship hangs in the balance of a black hole and a dying universe in The Singularity.
- Trees hold far more than branches in the witch's tale of Black Mass.
- Man becomes far more than beast in the ritualistic horror of E-67, Volatile, Untested.
- An intergalactic hunter comes face to face with the mother of all evils in Mother of Jupiter.
- Something horrific creeps from the dusty music room in The Instrument of Fairhill House.
- When brain surgery goes wrong, one man finds his reality stripped to the bone in Strings.
- All hideous things come to rest within The Museum of Kozzannath.
- Warning! If you love a good sandwich, do not read Le Pain de Viande!
- Undead food walk the earth in search of human flesh in World War V.