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

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s topic is Prologues and Epilogues: Are they necessary?


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

The events that occur in the prologue of a book are typically a little removed from the main story in some way, such as a perspective of a character in the past or future, or a description of events that directly affect but do not fit into the timeline of the story. It can be used to lay some foundation for the world-building ahead and to set the tone of the story. The prologue should grab the reader’s attention and leave enough questions that makes them curious enough to continue reading. Chapter 1 of a book is where the actual story begins. It doesn’t necessarily need to overlap with the prologue (in fact, my favorite style to read is when it doesn’t).

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

It really depends on the type of book. In most cases, I find an epilogue useful, especially if it is set a little while after the ending of the book, because it’s a convenient way to wrap up any loose ends. Not all books require prologues though – it’s usually the plot and world-building heavy books that are found most often in fantasy where it becomes rather essential. I’ve always felt that having a prologue shouldn’t decide whether or not to include an epilogue and vice versa. They’re at opposite ends of the book and as long as neither of them are used as info dump locations, having one or both, in my opinion, does not affect how I perceive a story.

My favorite example of this is how the Empirium series handles this: there is a prologue in book 1 set far in the past that gives the reader a peek into the background of the story and world before then splitting into two timelines, one describing the events leading up to the prologue and the second those following it. This technique was absolutely perfect since it had me hooked from page one. On the other hand, the epilogue for this appears not at the end of the book, but at the end of the series in book 3 and it beautifully mirrors the prologue.

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?

As I mentioned above, I consider prologues and epilogues separately. Both are valuable in different ways and should be used according to the genre. For example, I find that mysteries and thrillers almost always benefit from an epilogue, but only rarely from a prologue. Fantasy novels, particularly series, can use both to great effect, but can also work perfectly well with only one or the other. Personally, I like having an epilogue when it fits because it allows for the narrative to come to more gradual ending rather than forcing everything into the last chapter or two. As for prologues, it’s not always necessary, but I find fantasy novels easier to follow when there is a well written one.


Which do you think adds more to a book – a prologue, epilogue or both? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


14 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: Prologues and Epilogues: Are they necessary?

  1. Stephanie July 2, 2021 / 9:13 am

    I love an epilogue in the last book of a series. It’s a great way to really wrap everything up and finalize any plot points! About the only time I don’t like epilogues is when they’re in contemporary novels and it’s like, “and then they got engaged and pregnant – the end” haha! I also like prologues, but it depends on the book. Sometimes they hook me because they give a peek into the future of the story and other times they feel really confusing and out of place. I truly think both just depend on the book itself!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) July 3, 2021 / 8:29 pm

      Epilogues are so essential when it comes to series! I agree with your point about contemporary novels – it’s a genre that is best when it leaves a little to the reader’s imagination.

      Like

  2. Ariel @Gemini Book Nook July 2, 2021 / 9:17 am

    I agree with how you said that the effectiveness of having one or both has a lot to do with the type of book. Usually I don’t care for either but I think the epilogue adds more. Getting to the end of a book can be bittersweet so having an epilogue that tells me or hints at what happens after the story ends is awesome. Great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) July 3, 2021 / 8:27 pm

      Thanks for reading! Epilogues are definitely a great addition since the ending of a story can sometimes be really action-packed and it’s not always possible to include everything there.

      Like

  3. JamieAdStories July 2, 2021 / 12:22 pm

    Interesting as I often see epilogues in books and quite enjoy them. I never quite understood prologues as Chapter 1s do the job mostly. Great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) July 3, 2021 / 8:30 pm

      Thank you! I agree, prologues aren’t always necessary, I usually find them useful in high fantasy novels where some level of background information is needed before diving straight into the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. readandreviewit1 July 2, 2021 / 1:01 pm

    Great post! I definitely agree that it depends on the type of book – although I always do love a well written prologue and epilogue! Epilogues truly are brilliant for tying up loose ends, especially in mysteries. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jaya Avendel July 2, 2021 / 3:51 pm

    I am not a big prologue person, I find. Unless done well, I prefer to uncover story/character background hints as I read as opposed to an info dump right at the start. I do love a good epilogue, though, as it is usually a place for the characters to really shine!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sister_Su - Writing Writers Rites July 2, 2021 / 5:12 pm

    Hmmm.. a good question. While I’m thinking of an answer, I just wanted to say how much I like the look of your blog. I really like how you’ve used a variety of fonts to break up the post.
    Now as to which I like the most – prologues or epilogues. Hmm… I find sometimes a prologue feels like it gets in the way, and I find myself mentally shouting at the author “Hurry up and get on with the story already!”
    So I guess I might like epilogues better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) July 3, 2021 / 8:40 pm

      Thank you so much! I agree, prologues can often be hard to understand and they don’t become relevant until much later in the story so they can get pretty frustrating.

      Like

  7. novaynoesis July 26, 2021 / 10:02 am

    well written. I have never thought much about this topic, but after reading this post, I could relate and agree to many points that you said.

    Liked by 1 person

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