I was recently doing edits on a book with an author and she had a prologue that was quite suitable to the book, something that had happened 20 years or so prior to the actual story, but was necessary info to the development of the characters and told in a way that started the book with great action. I was reading along in the book and when I came to the end, she’d titled what I felt was the last chapter (it had the resolution of the H/h’s romance in it and occured just several hours after the previous chapter) labeled as an Epilogue. It jarred me. I asked her about this and she told me she was taught and felt that prologues and epilogues were like bookends. If you have one, you must have the other. So she’d decided that what I read as the last chapter (on all my read-throughs) was an epilogue. That was a new one to me, both as an editor and a reader. She quoted an RWR interview as the place where the analogy was made by several authors/editors.
Truly, it never occurred to me that you’d have to have both. And to be frank, it doesn’t make a lick of sense to me, lolol. Sometimes a prologue is needed to introduce action that occurred long before the body of the story, or to set up the story in some way (perhaps in a unique POV not used during the book). But an epilogue is often used to show the characters months or years down the road. Kind of a peek into how they’ve moved along. Some readers say they love epilogues, some say they despise them and skip reading them. I can’t specifically recall a lot of people expressing such strong emotions about prologues, though I’m sure they’re out there.
Essentially, to me, the idea is that you use a prologue and/or epilogue because the story demands them, not because someone told you that you always have to have both. I don’t *get* that becuase that smacks to me of forcing something, conforming your story to a rule *grin*
So here’s the question for the day. As a reader, do you like prologues and/or epilogues and do you notice if there’s one but not another? And if you’re an author (editor/publisher/or other industry professional) can you explain the bookends theory to me in a way that I might buy into? Or would you care to disagree with it?
Oh, and just so no one thinks I’m blogging out of turn, I told the author I was going to use this as a blog topic. And the epilogue? It’s the last chapter in the final copy because in this particular book, I felt that strongly about this instance of it.