At one point while writing a story, you’ll have to decide whether you want a prologue or an epilogue in your story, or perhaps even both. There is no rule saying that you need to use them, a lot of books don’t have them. But with certain stories they might come in handy, to fill that space where something was missing.
A prologue is a short text that you put before the first chapter in your story. It could set the setting for the story, give us some history, or even another (short) story that is somehow connected to main story and will be clear later on. But not every book has a prologue because not every story needs one. First you should decide whether your story needs a prologue or not.
A prologue is used for several things as I said before. Most often writers use prologues to explain to the reader several things in the background often in a scene that takes place before the first chapter. So it’s really just chapter zero. But this way you don’t have to slow your first chapter down with all sorts of detail or flashbacks and you can just keep the story going without having to explain too much.
Other times writers use prologues to hook the reader and make them want to read more. A lot of people read the prologue of a book when they’re wondering if they should buy it. If it manages to get them hooked they’ll probably end up getting it, which of course is good for the writer!
When you’re writing a prologue always question yourself if it’s really necessary. You need to consider if you can’t just use the prologue as your first chapter, or wind it thought your story making it clear to them in one of the first chapters. Never put a prologue in front of a book that isn’t necessary. You should also keep in mind that people often read the prologue first, so if you want to put a lot of history and detail in it, by all means don’t make it boring! No matter how exciting the first chapter may be, if the prologue is boring a lot of people probably won’t read on. A wonderful example is the prologue in Lord of the Rings the Fellowship of the Ring. It is great and all with lots of details about Hobbiton and hobbits themselves ... but boring as hell. (To be honest it’s actually a foreword and not a prologue, but still).
A prologue is also used for introducing characters, or where the main character stands (is he good, evil etc) or even a glimpse of something that is to come or a character that will come into the book, so that the reader looks forward to reading that. And lots, lots more.
If you’re not sure whether your story needs a prologue or not, see if the beginning of the story is exciting enough and will hook the reader. If not and you can’t make it exciting, then you probably need a prologue. Or if you think you should really give some background information for the reader to really understand the story, and you can’t just put it in the story without slowing it down, then you probably need a prologue as well.
When writing one just make sure that it doesn't get too long (people want to get to the actual story) and make sure that it makes sense and is exciting.
An epilogue comes after the last chapter, when the story is actually finished. Often it tells the reader what happened to the characters after the “happily ever after”. However just as with prologues, not every story needs an epilogue.
It could be that you finished your story perfectly and beautifully and you don’t want to change it—or actually I should say you can’t change it because changing it would ruin the story. However this way it doesn’t really say what happens to your characters and leaves a more or less open ending, or perhaps you have more ideas about what happens to them years later and you want to share them with your readers. These are excellent things to put into epilogues.
Again you should ask to yourself if you really need an epilogue. Can’t you just end the story at the end of the last chapter? Or do you feel that there is too much missing, that there are still too many questions left unanswered, or that the story doesn’t feels finished if you don’t know whether they really end up married or not? Sometimes a story ends and it’s just over. Of course you can always wonder what will happen next in their lives, but an epilogue isn’t meant to be another book, it’s meant to be a short text that brings closure to the story.
If too many things are still uncertain you might want to consider rewriting your story again and putting some answers in it. An epilogue shouldn’t just state dry facts. It should be written like the rest of the story and be exciting or pleasant
to read and bring a good end to the book. The hard part about epilogues is that you shouldn’t tell too much (or it will become too long, and a little mystery is never bad) but also not too little, or it will be useless. Besides that you have to write two endings, and writing an ending to a story is often one of the hardest parts.
For both the prologue and the epilogue goes that you should only use them when you really feel you need them, and your story isn’t complete without them. And you should keep in mind that they really shouldn’t be longer than about four pages (my personal opinion).
If you’re having trouble writing your prologue or epilogue, don’t worry about them before you’ve finished your story! First just make it and afterwards decide if you should even need one in the first place. (If you already know you want one when you start to write and it works at once, go for it!).
I hope this helped you all a little bit. If you really have trouble making it right you can always grab a few books and look at their prologues and epilogues. Figure out which work for you and which don’t, and try to understand why that is. Analyse them and try to learn from them. Perhaps it will help out your own writing.
This subject was requested by Chop-Chop. Thanks for your request and I hoped this helped you a bit! :) Good luck with your prologue! As always request and/or questions are very welcome!
Sorry this post got a little long ^^”