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Let’s Talk Bookish – Prologues and Epilogues: Are they Necessary?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where they discuss certain topics, share their opinions, and spread the love by visiting each others’ posts.

JULY 2: PROLOGUES AND EPILOGUES: ARE THEY NECESSARY? (SUGGESTED BY ME! -FIVES @ DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE)

Prompts: What’s the difference between having something as a prologue vs. a chapter 1? Is it too much to have both a prologue and epilogue? How does having one (or both) affect how readers perceive the story? Do you think epilogues have more value because they might tie up loose ends? Do prologues have more value because they can set the scene? Do you prefer having neither?

Welcome to the first week of July and our first LTB of the new month! As celebration (just kidding), we’ll be doing one of my suggestions for a topic this week. This topic came to me as I was reading a prologue (I believe it was in Shadow of the Fox), and I immediately rushed to Rukky’s page to submit my topic suggestion. Glad to see that it turned up! Remember, if you all have any suggestions, feel free to go to her page and find the submission form at the bottom of any of her LTB posts. Without further ado, let’s get on with the topic for today!

What’s the difference between having something as a prologue vs. a chapter 1?

To me, prologues are a chance to set the tone or mood of the novel. If the prologue moves straight into chapter 1 seamlessly and chronologically, logically, etc., the prologue itself probably could have been chapter 1 itself to the same effect. I would say this is especially true (or perhaps I am biased for this reason) in mysteries and thrillers. I do enjoy when the author instantly tries to draw you in with something super exciting from the near-climax that you end up anticipating for the whole book.

Obviously there probably aren’t any hard fast rules on the difference between the two. But I feel that prologues should offer something special. When I read the word prologue, I expect something that will be important that I will carry in my mind for the rest of the book; it better not just be a scene setting of the background for just chapter 1. In fact, that could be confusing for the reader, as I think generally labelling something as a prologue defines it as not part of the regular flow of the chapters, and therefore distinguishes it as something special. If the author is not doing something with the prologue, it probably should just be a chapter 1.

Is it too much to have both a prologue and epilogue? How does having one (or both) affect how readers perceive the story?

No, I don’t think it is too much to have both a prologue and an epilogue. But of course, once again I believe it’s what you do with it. If your epilogue is just an extra chapter for no reason, it is likely just too much. I think epilogues are easier to execute – usually just about the future (e.g. 19 years later), or another scene to set up for a sequel will do the trick. That being said, are epilogues necessary? Sometimes I feel like things are better left to the imagination…

I’d say having a bad epilogue can also affect how readers perceive a story – it can really dispel the magic and intrigue of a story just like that, if you give away all the mystery at the very end. In other cases though, a good epilogue can really give that sense of satisfaction that while it may not have been the point of the main story, it was good to know that things did turn out well in the end for your favourite characters. I’d say it can be hard to write a good epilogue, some people appreciate the glimpse of the future, others hate it. But either way I’d say it definitely affects the reader’s perception of the story.

Do you think epilogues have more value because they might tie up loose ends? Do prologues have more value because they can set the scene? Do you prefer having neither?

Whoops! I guess I kind of answered all these questions above already! In short, I think that epilogues can have more value since they might tie up loose ends, but I know plenty of readers who would prefer the more open endings as well. For prologues, I think they definitely do provide a lot of value for setting the scene, provided they are done appropriately.

As a mystery/thriller reader, I tend to enjoy a good prologue, I find that this really helps to set the scene/tone/mood and really gets me excited to read onwards, providing that forward momentum. And as a mystery/thriller reader, I don’t find epilogues particularly necessary. Sometimes they provide some extra spookiness, but in general I don’t find much value in it for the genres I read. Though I would never criticize a well-executed epilogue, of course.


And that’s a wrap! What do you all think about prologues and epilogues? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear what you all think!

18 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish – Prologues and Epilogues: Are they Necessary?”

  1. Ooh, good point about prologues that seem as if they could have just been chapter 1 in the first place! I don’t even know what’s up with those? The author just likes the idea of having a prologue??

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    1. Right??! What editor let that through? Haha, so weird when authors/editors like to shoehorn unnecessary things in….

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  2. I agree that if a prologue just feels like an early chapter 1, what’s the point!? I feel like in fantasy it can be years/decades earlier and seeing up for “why the world is like it is in present time” type thing, then I’m ok with it.. And likewise, sometimes I’d rather imagine the characters after the story how I want to see them – I don’t need the author to tell me “10 years later they got married and had a child and lived happily ever after!” Idk sometimes it feels necessary.

    I thought this was a great topic and really got me thinking, so yay for submitting this, great idea!

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    1. Thanks I’m so glad you enjoyed the topic! And yes I’m so not a fan of just …well…the HP epilogue hahaha. Sorry not sorry. But honestly TOO much detail can definitely be a sin.

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    1. Yeah it just came to me as well! It’s one of those things that you don’t really notice unless you pay more attention or if you’re thinking about a topic suggestion like I was haha.

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  3. This is a fabulous question and I loved answering it. I think genre plays quite a role in prologues and epilogues, a lot of contemporary certainly doesn’t benefit from a prologue. However anything with intrigue or mystery (and that can include fantasy, sci-fi etc) does need that scene setting.
    I totally agree with your statement – “If the author is not doing something with the prologue, it probably should just be a chapter 1.” Some authors clearly don’t understand the purpose of a prologue or epilogue! I do dislike epilogues that tie things up a little too neatly, I often prefer to leave my characters in the here and now, flushed with success and triumphant.

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    1. Absolutely agree, that’s how most of the novels get me to just plow through the whole book in one sitting!

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    1. Yes! I’ve seen many others say they like prologues in fantasies, or epilogues in romances…everyone truly does have their own preference, but there’s usually a place where a prologue/epilogue can be employed more effectively, it seems. Very cool to see everyone’s opinion on it!

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