Urgh. Finals weeks is mentally, emotionally, and physically destroying me, so hopefully this Round Robin serves as a nice little respite. Author Victoria Chatham suggested this topic:
Prologue and Epilogue. Do they have a use? Should they be used? Can you have one without the other?
When I was a brand-new writer, I loved prologues and epilogues. I thought they came part and parcel with every novel (maybe I read a lot of fantasy or something?). In recent years, however, it seems I've read a lot of articles or advice posts saying not to use them: they can be easily trite or, if you have to tack the info on at the end or in the beginning, it's not really necessary.
I'm not sure how much I buy into that, however. I mean, if your story has something crucial happen 12,000+ years before your story really takes off, you're probably going to need a prologue. A flashback would work, but not if you wanted the reader heading in from page one knowing something specific. So yes, they do do have a use.
I think an epilogue can nicely tie things up as well. In Serpents and Flame (hopefully coming out next year), I indulge in prologues and epilogues. In book two, I use a prologue to drop a truth bomb, but as 98% of the characters in the prologue are quickly dispatched and are located in a place the title characters will never be again, it's a prologue. Prologues often tend to be shorter than a regular chapter. Chapter One usually makes the reader think, "Ah, these are the main heroes." If Chapter Two swings in with a totally different cast/setting/time period, the reader is mostly like going to suffer whiplash. But if it's specifically demarcated as The Prologue, there's more room to move and play.
I also suppose there's a time and place for prologues and epilogues. They seem to fit more with fantasy, for one thing. And, quite simply, if your story finishes nice and tidily, there's no need to stick on extra fluff. (You might want the fluff because it's a cute random scene to show how everyone is living Happily Ever After, but your beta readers or editors will mostly likely ask you to unstich it.) The same goes for a prologue. If you can easily slip it into the narrative via flashback, etc., you might get the recommendation of getting rid of it. In Monet Evanesce, my narrative starts in 1894 and the second chapter is set in 2016. However, because I jump between the two timelines, it's not a prologue. I return to 1894, and weave the stories together.
I assume that prologues/epilogues are a heated topic in the writing world; follow along the list of this month's participants to see who thinks what! :)
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-QS
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com