Hi, Gang. Craig here again today with another one of my Expansion Packs. I stole the idea from some video games who offer additional levels, or new scenarios for download. In this case, I’m throwing back to my series on Three Act Structure.
Outside those three acts, there are occasionally a couple of other sections. These are the prolog and the epilog. Both are out of fashion these days, but can prove useful.
Confession: If the author includes them I always read them. Many admit to skipping them.
The prolog is a section that occurs outside, and previous to, the main story. It is best used to introduce elements that will become important later on. It’s the perfect place to plant information that will pose a question. Let’s keep this a simple food for thought exercise:
• A ritual at a stone temple that becomes an archeological site in the main story. This can introduce a frightening element the main character isn’t aware of. It builds tension. The mummy’s curse, etc.
• When action is going to be slow to arrive in the main story. Think about relocating velociraptors in Jurassic Park prior to meeting the main characters. It ties right into the story, but serves as an appetizer of sorts.
• Something horrible happens to a young character. Later this person becomes the serial killer and his method of operation reflects this horrifying event.
• When you want a dramatic contrast to build interest. The lush green environment from the prolog is a desert wasteland in the main story. You can answer this question somewhere along the way.
The epilog occurs after the main story ends. It should be set in the future after all the dust has settled upon the main action. It’s almost the mirror image of the prolog, it’s in reverse. It answers questions, and can put a different spin on the main narrative. Let’s get to some bullet points for your consideration:
• In a huge conflict, the characters sacrificed everything in a tragic ending. The epilog shows the children of traditional enemies playing together underneath a statue of your main character. It changes the perception of the tragedy.
• Your elderly main character observes the world with a smirk on her face. Only her act of espionage made this world possible, and nobody knows about it.
• Return to something expressed earlier in the tale. One of the characters is living a dream life as the owner of a tiki bar in the tropics after a life of danger and risk. Maybe she’s mailing off a manuscript of a fictional work that reflects the adventures in the story. (Even the title of your book.)
• Maybe your main character found a simpler life. He’s an armed guard for a group of wild rhinos, but still uses the weapons he survived the main conflict with.
• Captain America is an old man, but smiles about the life he lived with Peggy Carter. Not a lot of details, but we understand.
Like I said, both are out of fashion these days and are typically incorporated into the main story. However, the jump in time is great for giving a new perspective to the tale.
I suggest if you use one of these you do so with a purpose. If you can weave the matter into the main story, do so. They are best when short. If they have to be longer, perhaps an additional chapter is better advised. There are times when either a prolog or epilog can work well.
What do you think? Are you absolutely against these inclusions, or do you support them when appropriate. Let me hear from you in the comments.
Since this is my last post of the year, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a better New Year.