Monday, August 12, 2013

From Prologue to Epilogue


Prologues are often thought of as a touchy subject for authors. Some like 'em. Some don't. I have read some fabulous prologues and decided to include one in my most recent story.

A prologue (Greek πρόλογος prologos, from the word pro (before) and lógos, word) is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information.

With a whole book-worth of story from beginning to end, when I then decided to include an epilogue, I had to narrow down several ideas ram-rodding in my head. While I understood the definition of an epilogue as stated below, I wanted it to have an exceptional raison d'etre  for my novel. It had to be as special as the story is in my heart.

An epilogue is a final chapter at the end of a story that often serves to reveal the fates of the characters. Some epilogues may feature scenes only tangentially related to the subject of the story. They can be used to hint at a sequel or wrap up all the loose ends.

My crit partner, Ashley, gave me a great pivotal phrase to base my epilogue intentions:
Bring the story full circle.

When creating an epilogue, I asked myself these questions and determined the answers:

1. What did my prologue set in motion that was reversed by the end of the story?

My prologue established the beginning of all my heroine's troubles. It marked the day when she was figuratively disowned by her father because of her mama's sin. My prologue set into motion a life bound by the shackles of sin. I dissect this throughout the story, bring about the perfect redemption found in Grace, and begin to turn it around.
So, in the epilogue, I know that, while the prologue set into motion the life bound by sin, the epilogue would reveal the characters' future in a life bound for Grace.

2 How in the world do I take my prologue and create a perfect antithesis to attain a treasure chest at the end of the character rainbow (arc)? :)

Besides wanting the characters to end up in a "dreamy" future (yes, I write romance), one that the reader will get to relish in their blessings and happiness, I needed to show the antithesis of all that occurred in the prologue to create an indulgent treasure chest for the reader.
So, I set the epilogue in the same place as the prologue, have characters enter at similar points doing similar things, but in a new lens of Grace and joy. While the boy might get the girl in the last chapter, the epilogue gives the chance to show their future family, something a reader might wish to see (I know I do!). To bring even more satisfaction, their future family takes over the old setting, the old scene established in the prologue, and creates an obvious fabric of redemption in the end.

  • Example 1- Situational- In the prologue, the heroine, at four years old, hides and cries in the barn because her BROKEN father finds out the sin of his wife. In the epilogue, the heroine's four year old daughter runs to the barn in a game of hide and seek, squealing and playing with her cousin, only to be coaxed out by her own LOVING father and her redeemed mama.

  • Example 2- Figurative speech

In the prologue, the heroine's mama's secret sin is buried deeper than "a harvest worth of crop", an appropriate
analogy since the setting is a farm in rural Texas.

In the epilogue, the heroine's mama is redeemed, and her blessings are more abundant than "a harvest worth of crop."

Using similar language in the opposite context will give power to your deeper theme and character arc.

Do you use prologues and epilogues in your writing? How do you "bring it full circle"?

Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous, mothering days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across historical cultures and social boundaries. Angie is an ACFW member and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.


Joanne Sher said...

Oh Angie. This is excellent! Never thought of prologues and epilogues this way. Great thoughts.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

This is such s beautiful concept, Angie, and beautifully written. I often think about the link between endings and beginnings - I love creating a sense of resonance. The example from your book is excellent, and makes me want to read it!!

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks, Joanne. Hope you have a great week!

Angie Dicken said...

Karen, I usually begin writing with a beginning and ending in mind, but this book has given me fits as I've rewritten it over and over...I think I've begun it in different places at least three or four times. The epilogue just poured out now that I know the characters so well!:)

Pepper said...

Wow, Ang. You really DID bring us full circle on this one :-)
Great descriptions and examples of both.
I wrote a poem prologue in my fantasy series but didn't write an epilogue
However I've written an epilogue in my contemp romances to give a more satisfying ending AND hint at a sequel...or 12 :-)

Unknown said...

Ooh great breakdown of what makes a prologue and epilogue work. I haven't used pro/epilogues in my books yet but I just may in the future. :)

Susan Anne Mason said...

I never thought of connecting a prologue and an epilogue. I love the way you did that! What a great way to tie the whole story together.


Tracy Krauss said...

I like the idea of connecting the two. I also think that each book is different - in some cases Prologues and epilogues add to the book, In other cases, not so much. People who claim to 'love' or 'hate' them are being a bit narrow... It's simply a case by case thing

Angie Dicken said...

Pepper, I will not be surprised if you have a 12 book series some day!! Love ya!

Angie Dicken said...

Melissa, Thanks! Hope you have a great week!

Angie Dicken said...

Yes, it's fun to write an epilogue after you've spent so much time with the characters and story...and then you get to continue a little bit!:) Thanks!

Angie Dicken said...

You are right. It is narrow to completely disregard one preference or the other. I have had authors tell me "stay away from prologues if you can"...but I love it for the book I've written! Thanks for commenting!