What is a prologue?
The beginning to start the beginning. A prologue is usually a chapter before chapter one. Sometimes it has something to do with the novel, sometimes it doesn’t.
With that being said…
Do I need a prologue?
Ask yourself, “will this prologue contribute to the plot?” If the answer is yes, then you can probably get away with having a prologue.
If the answer is no, then I wouldn’t bother. Some readers ignore prologues regardless of whether they’re important or not. You want your prologue to have some significance to the plot to start the novel off right.
What should my prologue be about?
There are a few ways to utilize a prologue. Depending on your plot and genre, some ways are probably better than others. You need to use your best judgement on which opening works best for your novel.
Take a dip into the past long before your novel even starts. The prologue can be a few years before chapter one, it can be a couple of days before.
This can be written in a different POV, as well. The prologue can explain something that happened long before your main character was born.
As long as there is relevant information to help the plot along, the prologue should be good to go.
If your novel is set in a new, fictional world some background would be useful to the reader. There are some things that should be explained before they’re thrown into a brand new world they know nothing about.
New world or not, you can always give information on other things such as a background on the main character.
Just be careful not to info-dump. You want the information to be relevant to the novel and interesting enough to the reader.
If it’s something that will be explained throughout the novel, then don’t bother to explain it in the prologue. Some things the readers should be able to figure out on their own as they read the novel.
What is an epilogue?
The end to end the ending… I’m going to hope that made sense.
While a prologue helps begin the novel, an epilogue helps end the novel.
Do I need an epilogue?
Ask yourself the same question you would ask about your prologue. Will it be relevant to the plot?
Most epilogues are used as an “aftermath” of the story. If you can wrap up your plot and give the readers a more satisfying ending for the characters, then an epilogue might be useful to the story.
What should my epilogue be about?
Most epilogues take a peek into the future.
Did your novel have an intense climax? Did it end immediately after the resolution? Use the epilogue to explain what happened to the characters and the world after that. It can be a couple months later or a few years later. Give you characters a “happy ending” or at least the ending they deserve.
Was a character pregnant? Fast forward a few months and explain the baby. It shows that life goes on despite the plot. Show how the characters have moved on with their life after the plot of the story.
Did any characters die? Fast forward and show how the other characters cope. Again, show how the characters have moved on with their life after the plot.
Sometimes prologues and epilogues aren’t necessary. Epilogues seem to be more common than prologues. Most readers like to know what happens to the characters after their hardships of the plot.
Good luck with whatever you choose.