How to Use Prologues, Part 11, Prologues and Epilogues

open book with sketch of 3D pirate and treasure on the left and a sailing ship on the right.
Image courtesy of Tumisu via Pixabay

Hi SErs! It’s a day of Harmony here at Story Empire 🙂 Today, I’d like to talk about epilogues in relation to prologues. Here’s a link to the previous post on Recap of Tools.

What is an Epilogue?

An epilogue is like a prologue in that it adds to the main narrative. The main difference is that an epilogue comes at the end of the book rather than the beginning. So, where a prologue comes before the main story, an epilogue comes after all the other events have happened. An epilogue can jump way ahead in time or only an hour or a day or two. However, it MUST be linked to the events and characters your reader has become familiar with throughout the main story. As with a prologue, only use an epilogue if the information doesn’t fit within the main narrative … for example: to introduce a new character or jump ahead in time.

Does a Prologue require an epilogue?

The quick and easy answer here is no. The two are separate tools and can be used independently, individually, or can bookend one another.

Why use an Epilogue?

  1. To hint at a sequel.
  2. To limit the possibility of a sequel.
  3. Further advance the story to a satisfying resolution.
  4. Introduce a new but related element of tension (to set up a sequel, as in point one but more definite).

How to use an Epilogue:

  • Relate these new events to your main story: First and foremost, you have to ensure continuity. Otherwise, there is no point in adding an epilogue.
  • Keep it concise and relevant: The end of your main narrative will have been filled with tension and emotion of some sort, and the last thing you want is to leave your reader feeling as though they are now wading through treacle, and–worse still–for no reason.
  • Epilogues and Afterwords: Whichever you use, this final writing should show effect, affect, and change. In my book, FALLOUT, I used an epilogue to jump into the near future to show how the characters were coping with the ‘fallout’ and all the tumultuous changes they’d just lived through. In this instance, I brought back one of the minor characters from the opening chapter as a way to bring closure for the main character at the end and to round out her character arc.

Summary: As with a prologue, an epilogue is only needed if the information doesn’t fit within the main narrative. Keep your epilogue concise and relevant. Evoke emotion (which sort will depend upon your story and its genre).

TOP TIP: When you write a good epilogue, and have a valid reason for using one, it will enhance your story rather than detract from it.

Remember: There are NO hard-and-fast rules. You can do anything you want, as long as you do it well and with good reason.

In my last post, Paula Cappa had some wonderful questions about epilogues, and I hope to have answered them in this post. (Thanks for your lovely input, Paula!) If I haven’t covered all those queries, or if any of you have more questions, please let me know in the comments, and I shall do my best to offer clarity.

That’s it from me today. I hope you’ve found this series of posts useful. I’ll see you again on Wednesday 22nd February, when we’ll close up this series on prologues with an easy, at-a-glance summary of the whole topic 🙂

Bio Box for Harmony Kent that links to her website

The prologue series so far:

Part One, Prologues Overview

Part Two, What a Prologue Is and Isn’t

Part Three, Prologue Dos and Don’ts

Part Four, Does Your Story Need a Prologue?

Part Five, Backstory Delivery

Part Six, Spoilers Ahoy

Part Seven, Unexpected Clues

Part Eight, Outsider’s Report

Part Nine: In Media Res

Part Ten: Recap of Tools

©2023 Harmony Kent

65 thoughts on “How to Use Prologues, Part 11, Prologues and Epilogues

  1. Another fantastic post, Harmony. I am plotting out my first epilogue for a current WIP. It jumps the story a decade into the future where the protagonist doesn’t get the life she imagined. It’s a great way to close that story. Thanks for leading me in that direction!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love epilogues, but I also love prologues, appendices, foreword, afterword and all the stuff that goes on with books. I suppose I just like books. I love a good epilogue, one that suggests what the rest of the character’s life will be like. I do not like a story unfinished even if it should be for the tale.
    This is just my nature rather than the norm for readers. So, I do not wish to comment on wither an epilogue is valid or a good thing. I am going to like it even if it is not required or undesirable. But I really do not see the measure of invective people put on such things. Some like them, some do not. What’s the big deal? Oh, and thanks for a great article Harmony.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never written an epilogue, but I enjoy reading them when I’ve struggled through lots of hurdles with characters and at the end, some of them have survived. It’s nice to skip ahead and know they’re going to be all right. It gives comforting closure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve only used an epilogue in a few of my novels, but in each case I jumped ahead in time.
    I actually enjoy an epilogue to close out a book, and often thing they’ve gotten a bad rap. If done right, they’re awesome and bring wonderful closure for the reader.
    Great addition to your series, Harmony!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Epilogues benefit from not often being skipped (as prologues many times are for some ridiculous reason). I really enjoy a good epilogue. If I’ve lived with and loved these characters for a while, it’s nice to get one last glimpse of them before I have to say goodbye. Great post, Harmony.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Excellent, Harmony! I’m using the “bookend prologue and epilogue,” where the opening hooks readers with a historical event related to the present day main plot and the ending closes the mental switch. Clive Cussler excelled at using the bookend format to tell action adventures, and the prologue started the narrative drive while the epilogue gave readers a great close and ultimate adrenaline rush.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great post, Harmony. Thank you. I’ve used a prologue in a few books, but I’ve not added an epilogue. They can be very helpful, as you’ve beautifully pointed out. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Writing the End – Part III | Story Empire

  9. I’m so glad you dove into Epilogs, Harmony. I did an overview in my Writing the End post, but they really needed more discussion and you’ve handled that here. Thank you! Your insights are great, and I loved your advice about being concise and relevant: “…the last thing you want is to leave your reader feeling as though they are now wading through treacle, and–worse still–for no reason.” I’m going to link this post to my epilog mention. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have only used an epilogue once in my stories, and it seemed to call for it. I felt the reader needed just a little bit more, but not enough to create another chapter. I love your suggestions on writing the epilogue, Harmony. I agree with what some others have said about not including a chapter from the next book at the end. I never read those. But I always read an epilogue. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. There were reasons here for a prologue that I hadn’t considered before, all of them useful. I did the equivalent of a prologue in The Bubble Reputation with a ‘Where are they now’ section. Your point about keeping them concise and relevant is an important one – I’ve read books with powerful resolutions that are then diluted by a rambling epilogue. Many thanks, Harmony! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: How to Use Prologues, Part 11, Prologues and Epilogues | Legends of Windemere

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