This month for the Round Robin, we’re opining about prologues and epilogues. Do they have a use? Should they be used? Can you have one without the other?
This is an interesting topic. Before I became a publisher and editor, I didn’t really have an opinion on these. I think I was aware of when they worked and when they didn’t, but, beyond that, I didn’t think anything about it. Times have changed. (For the better or worse is up for discussion. grin)
Three or four months ago, one of Wild Child’s authors sent in a submission titled A More Perfect Union. Jim is an amazing author. If you haven’t checked out his books, you should. (You can find them here. All of his books are worth reading.) The book had, in my opinion, a prologue that ruined the book because it started at the end of the story. (This is the kind of stuff I’d edit out. As Wild Child is closing down at the end of December, we won’t be releasing this fabulous story, but I’m hoping he releases it–and deletes that prologue before he does. Hint, hint, Jim.)
A lot of prologues end up being a device used to either throw in some information from a POV that is different from the main one or from a much earlier time period of the character’s life. Sometimes, this works. Often, it doesn’t. I did this with a short story titled Some Place to Belong that was written for a charity anthology titled Dreams & Desires, vol. 3, released by Freya’s Bower and no longer available.
Auschwitz, December 25, 1942
The cool air assaulted her fevered skin. Exhausted, Svetlana turned her head to gaze upon her newborn daughter. Such a beautiful child. The pale blond hair and fair skin an homage to her grandmother’s Slavic heritage, the baby resembled a perfect china doll. Such a beautiful child for such a cruel world.
Silent tears trickled down Svetlana’s cheeks. Her daughter’s perfection hurt her eyes, her heart, and her soul. Knowing she could not protect her even if she lived. But she wouldn’t live. Pain wracked her body as cramps squeezed her womb. Blood gushed again, soaking the sheet beneath her.
The sound of dripping filled the room. The smell of death edged closer.
Please, Boże, protect my innocent child.
Darkness hovered in her peripheral vision, slowly expanding until her world went black.
* * * *
Hitler’s Berghof, Obersalzberg, Germany, late March 1943
“Heil, Hitler!” Josef Mengele saluted Hitler.
“Heil!” Hitler returned the salute and sat behind his desk. “So, what is the news?”
Mengele stood rigid before his commander, his excitement barely contained. “Wunderbar, Mein Herr. We have had our first successful birth. A beautiful girl child. Blond hair, blue eyes, fair skin. Perfect.”
“And the mother?”
“Dead. She bled out.”
“Zer gut. It is better that way. Her father?” Hitler asked.
Mengele smiled. “A wolf. We inseminated the mother’s egg with that of an alpha wolf’s semen. We tried a new procedure with this one and have found a way to force these pregnancies. This is the first child to survive.”
“She is just three months now, but very strong. Already she rolls over and crawls. She tries to pull herself up. I think you will be pleased. We have several other subjects about to give birth. If any of the mothers survive the birth, we will try to impregnate them again. Good wombs are hard to find.”
Hitler leaned forward. “Does she show any signs of her animal parentage?”
“Her eyes glow in the dark when light hits them, occasionally she’ll growl, and her strength certainly surpasses that of a normal baby her age. There is no way to know exactly how this will affect her as she grows, but we are hopeful.”
It was the first story in what was meant to be a series that hasn’t happened yet. I say “yet” because I’m actually working on the second one in the series. The new one is my WIP temporarily titled “Red Dawn.”
To me, the key to prologues is the length and what’s in them. This one is short, gives just enough information, and sets the tone. It doesn’t tell you what’s going to happen in the rest of the story like some I’ve seen. I wrote the story eight years ago. I think it works for the story, but I could be biased. (grin) Since that time, prologues have gone out of style, but I’ve written one into “Red Dawn” as well. It’s only 2 ½ pages long. However, it’s in the POV of the main character as a child.
My recent release The Whispering House has an epilogue. It’s very short, less than a page. One book I edited, the author had written a five or six page epilogue. Since the story had ended on a high note of a wedding, I really felt the entire epilogue was unnecessary. The author pushed, and I said, “Sure, but you have to cut it down to two pages max.” Personally, I still think the story would’ve been better without it.
The funny thing about this post is that I was about to expand on why prologues and epilogues aren’t good only to discover I use them. (Hahaha!) The problem is that too often I find them to be poorly done. The prologue gives away the entire plot before the story’s even begun, or the epilogue drags on until you want to do bodily harm to someone.
I have to admit that both of my shifter stories could stand without the prologue, but I don’t think I’ll delete either of them. (grin) I kind of think they’re cool.
Where do you stand on prologues and epilogues? Follow the links to discover what the other Round Robin participants think.