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Unearned Epilogues

edcomet

At the end of your story, if you put in an epilogue to tell everyone the Billy finally got out of the Navy and married Roslyn and they had 6 kids, one of whom became a Senator, be aware that this only works if the reader has a deep emotional attachment to Billy and Roslyn. If we don't, it just exposes how shallowly we were following your plot line. It's a risk and I think it's a bigger risk for shorter stories and also for the more improbable storylines.

Replies:   REP
REP

@edcomet

I think that you are overlooking the fact that readers don't like unfinished subplots. If the story's plot is about Billy's life, then ending the story without filling the reader in about Billy's life after the story's end point is a mistake that can result in dissatisfied readers.

This type of mistake occurs more often in short stories, so epilogs are needed to fill the reader in on what will happen to the character.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@REP

This type of mistake occurs more often in short stories, so epilogs are needed to fill the reader in on what will happen to the character.


I don't consider it a mistake. When the plot's conflict is resolved, the story is over. What happens to the characters after that is not part of the story. It's basically another story.

Look at the first Bourne story. You don't know what happens to Jason Bourne and the girl at the end. They're not even together. Only that they survived.

Then a sequel was written which tells the reader what happened to them. And then a new story begins.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Switch Blayde

I agree with most of what you wrote.

Most short stories do not have sequels. Readers do not like being left hanging, so an Epilog chapter or even a couple of paragraphs summarizing the main characters' future will satisfy the readers. I consider creating a situation that results in unhappy readers to be a mistake.

Replies:   oyster50
Ernest Bywater

It's been my experience if you don't close out the character you get inundated with requests for a sequel, so I've learned to close the character out when I'm not interested in doing a sequel at all.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

A couple points: first, just like prologue, few readers are prepared to even recognize an epilogue. Since most genres don't bother with them, it's generally best to avoid them altogether. Even with a genre as steeped in them as sci-fi, only about 40% will even glance at an prologue, meaning readers often start without understanding where they are. If the same is true of the epilogue, you're risking losing that reader closure you're seeking.

Following on that, I also wouldn't use them for short stories, as epilogues are a pretentious way of ending a story, especially for a short story where your dealing with a single scene in a person's life, not the entire ensemble. As Switch says, it's best to simply end on a decision note: either everyone is happy, or everyone is upset, don't go telling readers what happens, as half of a story consists in the future that readers create for the characters.

Instead, epilogues, when they're employed, are best used for long epics, where users have gotten comfortable with the characters and dearly want to know whether everything turns out well or not. Also, as Ernest points out, they're a handy way of minimizing requests for an immediate sequel, as you've already told readers what happens, thus forestalling the need for them to find out in the next installment (not that it really forestalls them, though).

oyster50

@REP

I don't know how unhappy they were, but several readers asked what happened to the characters of one of my stories.

Silly me. I'm on the second sequel now.

Replies:   AmigaClone  REP
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

only about 40% will even glance at an prologue

You can work around that problem on SOL. I'd consider having the system call something that is a prologue 'Chapter 1'. Then, for readers who know what the term means, I'd use the chapter title 'Chapter 1: Prologue'.

AmigaClone

@oyster50

The "second sequel" also gives updates to the characters in two other completed stories, and connects to the two other ongoing ones.

That does not count the ten or so other stories who's characters have become at least tertiary characters of a four book series :).

Centaur

I've never taken any formal writing. with that said.

I've always seen the Prologue as the introduction to the main character, who he is, what he does, and the lead off to the first chapter.

Chapters 1-x have the plot, conflict, subplots etc. And are resolved by the last chapter.

As EB stated the Epilogue closes out the book and MC living happily ever after. showing the book(s) have ended.

So depending on the book/story that info dump maybe needed to properly end the book/story. or the reader might feel like the hit a wall or fell off a cliff with a sudden stop at the end.

Replies:   REP  Ross at Play  Not_a_ID
REP

@oyster50

That happened to me with Time Scope, which for me was supposed to be a short story. I got numerous requests for me to continue the story.

I learned a lesson the hard way - don't try to support multiple serial stories. I currently have about 4 serials going and am planning the demise of at least 2 if not 3.

Replies:   oyster50
REP

@Centaur

the Prologue as the introduction to the main character


I see it as the background information that the reader needs to understand the story. The MC's background can also be introduce.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

It's been my experience if you don't close out the character you get inundated with requests for a sequel


Not necessarily a bad thing. That happened to me with the short story "Last Kiss" so, after telling reader after reader the story was done, I expanded it to a full-length novel.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


it's generally best to avoid them altogether


Writer's Digest lists 6 reasons for using a epilogue:

Wrapping up story events after a traumatic or violent climax. This is an especially important technique when the ending is abrupt or surprising, as when a major character dies, or when the fate of the characters is not clearly depicted. If your ending raises more questions than it answers, you will need to rewrite it or create an epilogue to resolve this problem.

Highlighting consequences and results of story events. Perhaps you've written a comeuppance story, or the ending features a major revelation. The epilogue will serve to assure the reader that justice has been dispensed.

Providing important information that wasn't covered in the climax or denouement. If a character was ailing in the story, you might want to explain his fate. Or, if a character becomes pregnant, the epilogue can explain the birth of the child. This can work especially well if the father dies or the child has special significance to the story.

Suggesting the future for the protagonist and other characters. This is an important consideration in series fiction or if you're planning a sequel. An epilogue might also be appropriate if a character undergoes severe physical, emotional, or psychological trauma, to assure the readers of his full or partial recovery.

Making the story seem realistic. For example, if you've killed off a character, the epilogue can be written by another character to explain how things went down. Or, if you're writing a story and the ending was literally explosive, the epilogue assures readers that the protagonist has survived.

Providing data on your large cast of characters, especially if you've written a sweeping historical or epic. Often, with a large cast, it's difficult to suggest the fate of every character. In Vanity Fair, William Thackeray wrote an epilogue titled "Which Contains Births, Marriages, and Deaths." While this may seem old-fashioned to some readers, in a highly complex novel you can sometimes justify following the cast into the future.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Suggesting the future for the protagonist and other characters. This is an important consideration in series fiction or if you're planning a sequel. An epilogue might also be appropriate if a character undergoes severe physical, emotional, or psychological trauma, to assure the readers of his full or partial recovery.

I've used epilogues, like you suggest, for a number of uses, say showing the MC at his graduation, after surviving an assassination attempt at the conclusion of the story, or when a character dies, relating how those close to him carry on, or in one case, when the ALL the characters seemingly die, to reveal that two actually recovered and lived to continue the tale.

As for prologue, while they're typically considered info-dumps, you can vary this. In one story, the prologue describes a two-minutes NASA mission that goes horribly wrong, the results of which form the basis of the rest of the story. In another, the prologue sets the environment, such as an outpost, struggling to withstand the sudden appearance of a horde of zombies, after having survived the zombie apocalypse for a decade. Or, having other people, unknown to the MC, notice his otherworldly abilities before he becomes aware of them, telling the reader things he won't know for several chapters.

An epilogue can also buy you time to write a sequel, as you leave the story with a satisfactory conclusion, only to hint at more troubles in the future, or have the MC preparing for an upcoming confrontation (thus it can either be comforting or nerve-wracking).

Generally, though, since my stories tend to be somewhat dark, I like to end up on a positive note, which I accomplish in the final chapter/epilogue.

Ross at Play

@Centaur

I've always seen the Prologue as the introduction to the main character, who he is, what he does, and the lead off to the first chapter.


dictionary.com defines a prologue as
a preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel.

I don't think the kinds of details you describe about the MC should be in a prologue. Doing that creates what I'd call an information dump. Details such as that are better woven into the main narrative of the story ahead of, or at the time, readers need to know them.

A prologue should recount some event(s) from the past which affect how the main characters act during the main body of the story. I suggest authors who are considering a prologue which even mentions their MC should ideally look for alternative ways of including the information within the main body of the story.

I think prologues should be reserved for descriptions of significant events not involving main characters from before the time frame of the story which readers will need to know to understand the character's actions from the start of the story proper.

The main body of the story should then describe - and resolve - actions by major characters within a relatively limited time period. Any catching up of things main characters did in the past should be woven in the main narrative as and when they are needed.

That is the ideal I think authors should aspire to, but doing so in a manner which does not feel intrusive to readers probably requires skills beyond those of many authors. Perhaps, newer authors may need to accept using an information dump before their story proper begins - but they should be aware the result will be ideal.

* * *

I'm curious to know what the more experienced authors here have to say about the desirability of not using prologues when the information one could contain can be woven into the main narrative of the story, and whether they'd take a different view when the events described in a prologue make no mention of the main characters in the story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
oyster50

@REP

I had three active, separate stories going at one time. I still have three, but all three currently running are branches of my Smart Girls universe.

I keep entertaining the idea of cutting down, but I find that I like the 'side-story' as a tool to develope a story line separately that might be a distraction from the core story.

As you might imagine, I do NOT write fiction for a living.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I'm curious to know what the more experienced authors here have to say about the desirability of not using prologues when the information one could contain can be woven into the main narrative of the story, and whether they'd take a different view when the events described in a prologue make no mention of the main characters in the story.

As you say, prologues have a specific purpose—info. dumps not being one of them—though they're only reasonable in a very few select genres. Info dumps about history, or about the character, deserve to be spread out, so they don't feel like a dump truck backing up and covering you in manure. Instead, information about a character should be released in small bits at a time, so it can be absorbed and put into context. If readers get it all at once, they'll forget it all within a page or two. Putting the details into context and relating how they impact the characters is what's not important, not what happened 50, 100 or 1,000 years ago.

But you're right, the prologue shouldn't be a part of the story itself (ex: "Chapter 1: Prologue") as it takes part outside of the normal scope of the story.

Ross at Play

Testing.

I want to checking whether I can update this thread.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

It's back.

imnotwrong

@Crumbly Writer

A couple points: first, just like prologue, few readers are prepared to even recognize an epilogue. Since most genres don't bother with them, it's generally best to avoid them altogether. Even with a genre as steeped in them as sci-fi, only about 40% will even glance at an prologue, meaning readers often start without understanding where they are. If the same is true of the epilogue, you're risking losing that reader closure you're seeking.


I would be interested in knowing where you got that 40% stat. I can't think of anyone I've known in the past 20 years or so who regularly skipped prologues or epilogues. If it is meant to add to the story, they read it. Simple as that.

What many will skip are forewords and afterwords. While these can offer incite into the creative process, the don't often add to the story itself. So that's what most of my friends and family choose to skip.

Switch Blayde

@imnotwrong

I can't think of anyone I've known in the past 20 years or so who regularly skipped prologues


Based on comments on wattpad, I'd say 90% or more of the readers there skip prologues.

People always ask if they should write one. The almost unanimous answer is they won't read it. Never do. Some say if they get lost in the story and there's a prologue they skipped, they might go back and read it then.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Switch Blayde

I think the alleged distaste readers harbor against prologues is funny. I started my current story with a prologue. Now I'm wondering what the 40 percent or maybe even 90 percent of my readers thought when they skipped the prologue and the first words of chapter 1 they read were: 'Several years later'

REP

@imnotwrong

So that's what most of my friends and family choose to skip.


Wikipedia defines a Foreword as - A foreword is a piece of writing sometimes placed at the beginning of a book or other piece of literature. Typically written by someone other than the primary author of the work, it often tells of some interaction between the writer of the foreword and the book's primary author or the story the book tells.

As a reader, I have noticed that authors often use Forewords and Introductions to provide the same types of information that one would expect to see in a Prologue. As a novice author, I followed the patterns I noticed as a reader. Therefore, I tend to use the terms interchangeably. Epilog is undoubtedly the proper term for the information I provide to my readers in my Forewords and Introductions.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Keet
Updated:

As I download and reformat stories I want to save I have seen the following:
Foreword
Prologue
Introduction
Epilogue
Glossary
and maybe one or two I have forgotten.
For me they mean the following:
Foreword/Introduction: information that the user needs to understand some parts of the story. Can be historical background or something.
Prologue: lead-in for the story but it is part of the story. I expect to read that what happened until the "real" story starts in chapter 1 or what the leads to there being a story to tell.
Epilogue: Closing of unfinished threads, most likely some time after the story finished in the last chapter. Something like: "1 year later ... and they lived happily ever after".
Glossary: list of terms used in the story that a "normal" reader does not know or can understand. Might be existing terms but could also be something like a made-up language dictionary.
That is what I expect, but not necessarily what is the official purpose though I think I'm close.
So far I have not seen references or literature lists, although I have seen some references to places or events in forewords/introductions.
So concerning the topic subject: epilogue is part of the story but "completes the finished story" if that makes any sense.

Ross at Play

@Keet

So far I have not seen references or literature lists

These are definitions taken from dictionary.com:
Prologue: a preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel.
Epilogue: a concluding part added to a literary work, as a novel.
Foreword: a short introductory statement in a published work, as a book, especially when written by someone other than the author.
Afterword: a concluding section, commentary, etc., as of a book, treatise, or the like; closing statement.

Prologues and epilogues should contain information essential for readers to understanding the story. What generally separates them is the events occur before or after those in the main body of the story.

Forewords and afterwords should contain information not essential for readers to understanding the story. They may describe things like explanations of why the story was written, and are not necessarily written by the author.

Given that many readers do not know that authors expect them to read prologues, I'd be inclined on SOL to call prologues 'Chapter 1: Prologue'.

Replies:   Keet  imnotwrong
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Writer's Digest lists 6 reasons for using an epilogue:


Does it list reasons for a prologue?

Some authors eg James Patterson use it for an action scene, either a crime the protagonist is eventually called upon to solve, or a flash-forward to an exciting point in the book.

In SciFi and Fantasy there's something of a tradition of using it to infodump the history or rules of the universe, and there's equally a tradition of readers skipping over it and coming back to read it later if the story grabs them.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Does it list reasons for a prologue?


This is my favorite article on when to use a prologue: http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/prologue.shtml

Wanted? A Double Opening

Does your novel truly require a prologue? Unnecessary prologues are a dangerous lot: at best they are ignored, at worst they turn the reader off. Remember, it's there to do a certain job for you, so make sure that a) that job is essential, and b) no one else can do it.

Essential means that the prologue has to contribute to the plot. It has to reveal significant, relevant facts, without which the reader will be missing something. You cannot afford to have your prologue idling away under the pretence of creating an atmosphere. Its first duty is to supply information that is or will be vital to the understanding of the plot.

But that's hardly enough. After all, every chapter delivers key facts, which ultimately amount to the plot. What makes bits of information require a prologue? Any number of reasons. Perhaps relating them in the body of the novel would cause a breach in point-of-view etiquette. Perhaps they occur in another time or place, and have too much weight to mention by-the-by. Or they might choke the narrative to death with background details. Any of these cases, and some others (which we'll soon discuss), call for a prologue.

To make sure your prologue works well, you can put it through a simple two-step test: try to leave it out and see if anything important is missing; then try to change its title to "Chapter One", and check if the plot integrity is damaged. If you've answered both questions with a yes, then your prologue is doing a good job.

Job Listing

What can a prologue do for you? A basic acquaintance with literature will yield four major types of prologue, each with its own specialties. They are: "future protagonist", "past protagonist", different POV, and background.

Job description: "future protagonist"

The "future protagonist" prologue shows the hero or heroine some time after the main part of the plot has taken place, and is written in the same point-of-view and style as the rest of the novel.

In third-person POV, its primary use is to give the end of the story first, while the novel itself explores how things had come to pass. A good example is "A House for Mr. Biswas", by V.S. Naipaul, where the prologue begins several weeks before the protagonist's demise, while the first chapter backtracks to just before his birth.

In first-person POV, you will usually find the protagonist sitting and writing a memoir, or explaining why one must be written or told. The tone is usually personal and reflective. The emphasis is on the protagonist's own impression of the past, whereas the actual end of the story may be only alluded to. Such is the case in Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose", where the prologue introduces Adso at an old age, thinking back to his youth when he and his master William had solved a mystery at an abbey. Adso's account gives us a background of the era, and his own impression of Brother William, but in no way hints as to how the mystery was solved.

Job description: "past protagonist"

The "past protagonist" prologue is generally used when the protagonist has a defining moment in his past which must be known to the reader, in order for the reader to understand this character. Think how cold and alien Batman would be, if we hadn't first seen young Bruce standing bewildered over the bodies of his parents.

Often, trying to cram such an event into a flashback would considerably curtail its importance and strength. Relating it in detail in the prologue has two advantages: it sets the novel in motion with a strong, usually emotion-charged event; at the same time, it creates an immediate affinity towards the protagonist. It can be done both in first- and third-person POV.

Job description: "different POV"

A different POV prologue describes a certain event from a point-of-view different than the main characters of the plot. This event may occur in the same time-frame as the plot, or years before or after. Its relevance may be made clear in the course of Chapter One, or Chapter Thirty-four. However, it must have a relevance, which will affect the plot substantially in some way (otherwise it's idling away). A different POV prologue should be written in third-person, even if the novel is in first-person.

This sort of prologue allows you to pull off many plot-twists, without having your readers screaming "deus ex machina". In other cases, it allows you to introduce a danger of which the reader should know, but the protagonist shouldn't -- yet. For example, you can have the villain lay out the fate he has in store for the hero, and then begin Chapter One with an unsuspecting protagonist, who is now likely to elicit concern rather than boredom.

A master of this type of prologue is Clive Cussler, author of many best-selling adventure novels. He uses it every time. In "Sahara", for example, the prologue follows the struggle for survival of aviatrix Kitty Mannock, after her plane crashed in the desert. Her story remains unfinished and its relevance unexplained, while the plot switches to Dirk Pitt -- Cussler's eternal good-guy -- in his endeavor to prevent a worldwide ecological disaster. Not until three-hundred pages later does Dirk Pitt stumble upon the remains of the plane, which he utilizes to escape certain death. It works, both for Dirk Pitt and the reader, only because Cussler had established the plane's background in advance.

Job description: "background"

A background prologue can usually be found in the science-fiction and fantasy genre, where the settings may differ so wildly from our own world, that without a proper explanation the reader might get lost. Trying to explain such settings as you go along might slow your pace to a trudge. The line is hard to draw. On one hand, you cannot require the reader to wade through an essay of history (or future-history) as soon as he picks up the novel. On the other hand, you cannot throw him into deep space and expect him to start flying. Of all types of prologue, this one is the most risky.

The key is to create a balance between information and interest. You can do this by telling a simple story, plot-wise, which will demonstrate to the reader the mechanisms of the world. Such a narrative would usually follow the lines of a "different POV" prologue, with emphasis on exposure rather than on intrigue.

In Heinlein's Time Enough for Love, the body of the novel follows Lazarus Long as he recounts highlights from his three-thousand-year-long history. The prologue is written like a historian's preface to a published memoir, and analyzes the credibility of the events therein. Along the way it explains how people have come to live so long, and how this had affected human society. It also gives background about Lazarus Long, which makes the reader look forward to meeting this character "face to face". The preface is signed by the Chief Archivist of the Howard Foundation, which makes the reader feel as though he'd just burrowed a book from a future library. When the reader meets Lazarus in Chapter One, he knows roughly where he's standing, and he's free to concentrate on the chain of events.

Worker's Guidelines

Any workplace has a list of dos and don'ts; the prologue is no exception. Here are some:

The prologue should always be an integral part of the novel, written in the same spirit and style. Otherwise it's a personal preface rather than an opening chapter.

The prologue should read like a short story in every aspect, except for its ending. Rather than resolving all conflict, the end should leave the reader intrigued. Any conflict created in the prologue, however, must be resolved somewhere along the plot.

The prologue should start with a strong and intriguing hook as if it were the only beginning of the novel. This does not exempt Chapter One from beginning with an equally strong and intriguing hook.

The prologue must stand out from the body of the novel in at least one fashion: the time of the events (which should be stated both in the prologue and in the first chapter), the POV character, and so on. The reader should feel a distinct switch in his mind when he begins reading Chapter One. And just as important, he should never experience the same switch again within the novel. For example, if the difference between the prologue and Chapter One is an interval of five years, you may not fast-forward time again within the novel.

The one exception is a novel wherein the point of view shifts between several characters, and the prologue is a "different POV" type. In this case, the switch between the prologue and Chapter One is bound to occur many times throughout the novel. You can keep the prologue distinct by assigning it to someone outside the group of POV characters. Later on in the novel we may meet him once more, but never see things through his eyes again.
Necessity, content and form -- if your prologue is a professional in all three, then you have acquired a superb worker. Now you can begin doing your own job: telling an interesting story to your readers, and taking them all the way to the epilogue.

Crumbly Writer

@imnotwrong

I would be interested in knowing where you got that 40% stat. I can't think of anyone I've known in the past 20 years or so who regularly skipped prologues or epilogues. If it is meant to add to the story, they read it. Simple as that.

A combination of download scores, responses, emails and more generally, feedback from other authors in the fiction circuit. Note: That was for Science Fiction, for other genres, it would be much lower, since the readers aren't used (i.e. "trained") to read the prologue, instead treating them as a Preface instead.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

Epilog is undoubtedly the proper term for the information I provide to my readers in my Forewords and Introductions.

You mean "Prologue", not "Epilogue", as the epilogue wraps up loose ends in a story, and readers generally can't skip it without missing the conclusion to the story.

However, there are distinctions between them. A "Forward" is generally defined as "information relating to the story". Specifically something about the writing of the story, something specific about it (my most recent Forward explains how the character's telepathy is formatted and how various alien terms like "homeworld" and "home world" differ).

A Prologue, though, is fictional and sets the stage for the story, but generally isn't a part of the story itself, so it's considered separate from the story, even if it does involve the main character.

In one of my stories, the Prologue featured an accident in space which sets up the following story, while in another it features how other people recognized a character's 'unique abilities' long before he did.

Of course, those are all separate from a "Preface". There are a lot of ways to go when you first start a story.

Replies:   Keet  REP
Keet

@Ross at Play

So far I have not seen references or literature lists

These are definitions taken from dictionary.com:

A little misunderstanding. I didn't mean that I didn't see references about prologues etc. in this forum thread but I meant I haven't seen references or literature list as part of a story on SOL. Come to think, I haven't seen an "afterword" yet but I'm sure there is a story somewhere on SOL that has it.

Crumbly Writer

@Keet

So far I have not seen references or literature lists, although I have seen some references to places or events in forewords/introductions.

I've been including "Bibliographies" in my books since I first wrote A House in Disarray back in 2015, but I haven't been posting them to SOL. Recently, rather than having the reader page between chapters, I've provided links on my epigraphs, for those curious about where I got the reference, which takes them to the specific bibliography reference, but again, there's no way to implement that on SOL. However, for my current and next story, I DO plan to post the complete Bibliography, but ONLY after the story completes, as I doubt ANYONE will ever even glance at it. Still, if someone likes a quote, and wants to use it themselves, they have an easy way to authenticate it.

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Crumbly Writer

A Prologue, though, is fictional and sets the stage for the story, but generally isn't a part of the story itself, so it's considered separate from the story, even if it does involve the main character.

"sets the stage for the story" That is the absolute best description I have seen about what a prologue should be about, at least how I feel what a prologue should be.
Does a "Forward" exist or is it a typo for "Foreword"? I have seen the spelling Forward in what I thought was Foreword but I can't find such a definition.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Some authors eg James Patterson use it for an action scene, either a crime the protagonist is eventually called upon to solve, or a flash-forward to an exciting point in the book.

In my A House in Disarray, the Prologue details the crime, which forms the basis of the story about a detective investigating the crime. I used the same approach with Singularity, where an accident in Space is sets up the story, but is all action with a bit of philosophical insights tossed in. Essentially short and sweet.

There's a reason why readers distrust prologues, as they're often a snoozefest!

Crumbly Writer

@Keet

Does a "Forward" exist or is it a typo for "Foreword"? I have seen the spelling Forward in what I thought was Foreword but I can't find such a definition.

Yep, it was a typo. It should read "Foreword" or maybe even a "Forward Foreword". 'D

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Crumbly Writer

which takes them to the specific bibliography reference, but again, there's no way to implement that on SOL.

I think most of the SOL audience is not interested in a bibliography. Most, like me, just want to read a good story!
I'm sure it could be implemented on SOL but it would take Lazeez a lot of work for very few interested. That's one of the reasons I reformat downloaded stories with self-written code so I can add little gadgets (like adding a feet-to-meters table with the used lengths in the story for my reference).

Keet

@Crumbly Writer

Yep, it was a typo. It should read "Foreword" or maybe even a "Forward Foreword". 'D

"Forward Foreword" Good one. One of the explanations for "Forward" I found was "Get in front" so I wasn't sure it was correct or not. A Foreword is in front after all.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ernest Bywater

I use a Foreword to say something about the writing of the book, and a Prologue to provide useful background information that helps with the book. They do different tasks.

In Odd Man in College I use the Foreword to talk about the help I received from people in the USA and to explain something about how the USA law enforcement system works so readers understand it. In the Clan Amir series I use the Prologue of different books in the series to lay out changes in the society from the last book.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Keet

"Forward Foreword" Good one. One of the explanations for "Forward" I found was "Get in front" so I wasn't sure it was correct or not. A Foreword is in front after all.

Dare I try another definition from dictionary.com? :-)

It's a noun versus adjective or adverb thing.

'Forward' is mostly used as an adjective or adverb. dictionary.com lists a couple of uses as a noun: a position on a sports team, a prepayment in finance.

'Foreword' only exists as a noun to mean a short introduction to a published work.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

In Odd Man in College I use the Foreword to talk about the help I received from people in the USA and to explain something about how the USA law enforcement system works so readers understand it.

I'm not sure whether ANYONE knows quite how law enforcement works in the U.S.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

'Foreword' only exists as a noun to mean a short introduction to a published work.

Tis the one word before all others, truly the penultimate word, if ever there was one!

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

penultimate

Definition of penultimate (from Merriam Webster on line)
1 : next to the last the penultimate chapter of a book
2 : of or relating to the next to the last syllable of a word a penultimate accent

It isn't "the one word before all others."

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

It isn't "the one word before all others."

My bad, for some reason I was thinking of "Penultimate" as being the "First". :(

"Never mind!" (for all you Gilda Radner fans)

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

Since this thread started about unearned epilogues I have to wonder what they see is an earned epilogue.

Replies:   robberhands
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

"Never mind!" (for all you Gilda Radner fans)


whoever she is!

robberhands

@Ernest Bywater

Since this thread started about unearned epilogues I have to wonder what they see is an earned epilogue.


The OP answered this question in his opening statement.

An epilogue is earned when the readers are 'deeply emotionally attached' to the characters of the story. As a reward for the author of the story, they'll even read an epilogue. So that actually means, the author of a story has to earn the privilege of writing an epilogue and when he's earned it, his gracious readers will reward this fortunate writer by reading the epilogue.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@robberhands

What he said is:


... be aware that this only works if the reader has a deep emotional attachment to Billy and Roslyn.


Which means if his evaluation of an epilogue is along the lines stated above it is totally subjective to just that reader which equates to the evaluation as being total BS since no one can know exactly how every reader will evaluate the story. If that were true there would never be an epilogue because you'll never have one where everyone who reads the story agrees it's an earned one.

..........

However, the bulk of the posts in this thread have been about what is and isn't an epilogue (and other story additives) on an objective basis, thus I was asking for an objective statement on what constitutes an earned epilogue as against an unearned epilogue.

typo edit

Replies:   robberhands  AmigaClone
robberhands

@Ernest Bywater

I didn't mean to imply I'd agree with the OP's statement. To the contrary, for the same reasons you already stated, I don't think there is such a thing as an 'earned' or 'unearned' epilogue.

imnotwrong

@Ross at Play

These are definitions taken from dictionary.com:
Prologue: a preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel.
Epilogue: a concluding part added to a literary work, as a novel.
Foreword: a short introductory statement in a published work, as a book, especially when written by someone other than the author.
Afterword: a concluding section, commentary, etc., as of a book, treatise, or the like; closing statement.

Prologues and epilogues should contain information essential for readers to understanding the story. What generally separates them is the events occur before or after those in the main body of the story.

Forewords and afterwords should contain information not essential for readers to understanding the story. They may describe things like explanations of why the story was written, and are not necessarily written by the author.

Given that many readers do not know that authors expect them to read prologues, I'd be inclined on SOL to call prologues 'Chapter 1: Prologue'.


These definitions agree with my understanding of these terms, and I believe the people I'm around. But maybe that's part of it. Different people having different understandings of this terms. Add to that the apparent fact that the Internet seems to increase factionalism and groupthink, and it could easily explain some of the disagreement on these issues.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@imnotwrong

Prologues and epilogues should contain information essential for readers to understanding the story.


I think from this point we're being treated to Ross's personal opinion (or else the compilers at dictionary.com have problems with their English).

Note that some top authors use prologues as teasers, and they're certainly not essential to understanding the story.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  REP
AmigaClone

@Ernest Bywater

I was asking for an objective statement on what constitutes an earned epilogue as against an unearned epilogue.


I don't have a completely objective statement, but my opinion is that an earned epilogue for a particular character is one where there might be a reasonable expectation that several readers form an emotional bond with.

Going for an extreme example - I would give as an example of an unearned epilogue a bystander that the MC saw once from a distance.

The MC and other major characters (both good and evil) would have "earned" the right of an epilogue to their story because of the amount of time the author has put on them within the main story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Note that some top authors use prologues as teasers, and they're certainly not essential to understanding the story.

That's what's recommended that authors do, but then, as we've seen here, trying to convince authors they should follow a particular guideline is like herding cats. They scatter every which way.

Replies:   robberhands
Crumbly Writer

@AmigaClone

The MC and other major characters (both good and evil) would have "earned" the right of an epilogue to their story because of the amount of time the author has put on them within the main story.

For me, I'd assume that, if a reader hasn't bought into the character by the conclusions, they'd likely not have stuck around to the end. So you've gotta ask yourself, if the did stick around to the very end, what's the difference between waiting for the final chapter and reading a little extra to find out what happened to everyone afterwards? I mean, either you're into the story or you're not!

robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

... trying to convince authors they should follow a particular guideline is like herding cats.

Why would you try to guideline authors? I don't believe uniform story writing is a worthwhile goal. I don't even believe it's your goal.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
REP

@Crumbly Writer

Yes I was thinking Prologue when I typed Epilog.

Misspeaking does not mean I don't know the difference between the terms.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@REP

Prolog

A pro log is better paid than an amateur log. An EPI log has a medical problem, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).

"(EPI) causes problems in how you digest food. Your pancreas doesn't make enough of the enzymes that your body needs to break down and absorb nutrients.

Enzymes speed up chemical reactions in your body. The enzymes made by your pancreas move into your small intestine, where they help break down the food you eat.

When you have EPI, you don't get the nutrition you need because your body can't absorb fats and some vitamins and minerals from foods. You might lose weight or have pain in your belly.

There are drugs that work for most people that give you a new supply of enzymes, so you can go back to digesting food the right way.

Besides taking medicine, you can manage your symptoms by making sure you follow the right diet. Your doctor will recommend foods that will help you get enough nutrients and protein that you might be missing.

Symptoms
You may not have any symptoms at first. But once your pancreas gets so damaged that it starts to hurt your ability to absorb fat, you may get some symptoms, such as:

Pain or tenderness in your belly
Bad-smelling bowel movements
Diarrhea
Gas
Feeling full
You might also lose weight and get other problems, because your body doesn't absorb enough vitamins. For instance, you could develop a bleeding disorder if you're not getting enough vitamin K. Or you could get bone pain if you don't get enough vitamin D."

REP

@awnlee jawking

Note that some top authors use prologues as teasers, and they're certainly not essential to understanding the story.


Prologues, Forewords, Introductions, Epilogues, and Afterwords can be a section/part of a story and each has a specific meaning.

Just because one of the above sections is included in a story/book does not mean the content included by the author matches the normally expected content of the section's title. In fact, most of the definitions of the above sections that I have read define where the section is to be placed in a book/story and many of the definitions provide very little about the types of content to be included in the section.

What I have found to be common of authors here at SOL is they know the titles of the different types of sections, but they may not know what is to be included in those sections. Therefore the authors select the title that they think is appropriate to the content they are providing to the reader. The problem is sometimes complicated by the author providing a mixture of content without separating the different types of information into multiple sections.

Replies:   awnlee jawking  REP
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

I'm sure that even as I write this, an author somewhere is thinking up an imaginative new use for a prologue that the 'experts' aren't aware of. Whether it's an effective idea or not, only time will tell.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@REP

I should have clarified my comment by saying top dead-tree authors. For example, I remember one prologue expounding the helplessness of Dr Temperance Brennan's situation, sealed in and left to die with no-one but the antagonist knowing her whereabouts. Then the novel proper starts, detailing the events leading up to Tempe's incarceration.

AJ

Replies:   REP  robberhands
REP

@REP

The problem is sometimes complicated by the author providing a mixture of content without separating the different types of information into multiple sections.


I have a section in my story The Ark Part 2 that starts out explaining why I wrote the story with a very brief synopsis of Parts 1 and 2. The Ark Army plays a major role in the story so a brief explanation of the Ark Army's creation and structure is provided. In many places, the dialog is radio communication between Army units and personnel so an explanation regarding call signs and radio discipline is provided. Time references are included in the story using both the 12-hour and 24-hour time reference systems with an explanation of the two systems and how to convert between the systems. A listing of commonly used abbreviations and terms is provided.

What would be the most appropriate Title be for this section: Foreword, Introduction, Prologue, or something else?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@awnlee jawking

I would call that foreshadowing being misnamed as prologue.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@REP

I would call that foreshadowing being misnamed as prologue.


I wouldn't call it foreshadowing because it's not hinting at something that's going to happen, it actually tells what happens.

And since so many authors use the technique, common usage means that the prologue is not misnamed.

I think we'll have to disagree on those points.

AJ

Replies:   REP
REP

@awnlee jawking

I wouldn't call it foreshadowing because it's not hinting at something that's going to happen, it actually tells what happens.


FORESHADOWING: Suggesting, hinting, indicating, or showing what will occur later in a narrative.

https://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_F.html

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Whether it's an effective idea or not, only time will tell.

Unfortunately, time doesn't talk particularly fast.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

What would be the most appropriate Title be for this section: Foreword, Introduction, Prologue, or something else?

I'd put it in a Foreword, since the information isn't actually a part of the story, but the information helps the reader understand the story (i.e. it's a non-fictional piece about the story).

Now, if you covered that material in dialogue between a couple of characters, then you could include it in a prologue or first chapter. There are different ways of conveying such information.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

I should have clarified my comment by saying top dead-tree authors. For example, I remember one prologue expounding the helplessness of Dr Temperance Brennan's situation ...

I thought Dr Temperance Brennan is a character from a TV series - 'Bones' or something. Did some 'top dead-tree author' write a fanfic novel?

Ross at Play

@robberhands

I thought Dr Temperance Brennan is a character from a TV series - 'Bones'

Yes, but there are books too.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

Yes, but there are books too.

Thanks! So Kathy Reichs wrote the book series as well as she produced the TV show. I'm officially impressed.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

I'm officially impressed.

Perhaps you should read the books first. :-)

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

Perhaps you should read the books first. :-)

Money has spoken; I don't need to read the books or watch the show to be officially impressed.

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Kathy Reichs wrote the books that provided the inspiration for the TV series. If you've ever watched them, you'll note many affectionate nods to the books - something that I personally dislike.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@REP

Thank you. I don't set much store by blogs but it's nice to know that the guy agrees with me.

AJ

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

Kathy Reichs is also a Co-Producer of the TV show 'Bones'. So I guess her 'affectionate nods to the books' can be seen as self-praise. I'm officially less impressed but still envy her for the money she's made.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

I'd put it in a Foreword,


Me too.

I'd consider putting the reference information in an appendix if readers need to keep referring to it to fully understand the nuances of each scene, although that might be overkill if there isn't very much of it.

You're best placed to make that sort of decision.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

Okay, since we're discussing parts of a book, what would you call a glossary of locations in a book?

My 'space saga' is getting a big large, and while I don't specifically want a glossary of alien words, I would like one listing the various place names, the names (and descriptions) of the various aliens), etc.

Does something like this already exist, or should I simply coin a new term? Maybe Localography?

Replies:   Reluctant_Sir  Keet
Reluctant_Sir

@Crumbly Writer

Since it is a space saga:

Astrography is the mapping of the heavens, but has been co-opted by many science fiction writers to also mean the mapping of stellar and interstellar objects and locations.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Reluctant_Sir

Astrography is the mapping of the heavens, but has been co-opted by many science fiction writers to also mean the mapping of stellar and interstellar objects and locations.

That's not actually half-bad, though I wonder how many readers—even regular sci-fi fans—will recognize it for what it is?

Keet

@Crumbly Writer

Does something like this already exist, or should I simply coin a new term? Maybe Localography?

There is an existing term: Celestial cartography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celestial_cartography

Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Centaur


I've always seen the Prologue as the introduction to the main character, who he is, what he does, and the lead off to the first chapter.


More typically, they're setup for the setting in which the story happens. It is "background information" that will help potentially explain other things which happen elsewhere in the story, but are not an active part of the story itself. Which is a large factor behind the expression of "the past is prologue..."

It also is why many writers/others claim that prologue chapters that are labelled as such often get skipped. Many authors have a tendency to "data dump" in prologues, and how much of that information is relevant can be wildly variable. In Sci-Fi in particular a common example would be "trivia information" such as "Xyz Corp at the Magellan Lunar Colony discovered the key breakthrough enabling FTL travel in 2067."

Sure, establishing the existence of FTL is likely to be pertinent, but if your story is set in 2760, the need to know about Xyz Corp specifically isn't likely to exist. If it somehow becomes relevant, some might consider that information either potentially spoilery or cheese, again giving reason to avoid the prologue.

Edit: Sometimes characters "in the main story" CAN turn up in the prologue, up to and including the MC themselves. That said, the normal approach with prologue is that whatever happens in it, it is somehow separated from the rest of the story by some means. Otherwise it is simply a mislabeled chapter 1.

Which brings us back to "introduces the reader to the setting the story occurs in." And on that note, this goes back to "avoided by many because of potential for spoilers" SOME prologues literally are the gun above the mantle in the opening act. The author slips the thing into the prologue so it can't be accused of deus ex machina before the conclusion in that it did not "come out of nowhere" because cagey readers have known about it all along because they read the prologue.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Not_a_ID

Sometimes characters "in the main story" CAN turn up in the prologue, up to and including the MC themselves. That said, the normal approach with prologue is that whatever happens in it, it is somehow separated from the rest of the story by some means. Otherwise it is simply a mislabeled chapter 1.

That, plus the seemingly low read-rate for prologues, is why I've always insisted that you never put anything essential to the story into a prologue, only things which help the reader better understand the story. Not only does that allow the story to stand without the prologue, but it helps to train readers to read them. As Not_an_ID suggests, for too long readers have been trained to skip over tedious prologues. :( Short and sweet is how I like 'em!

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Crumbly Writer

Short and sweet is how I like 'em!

A prologue should be short. If it becomes to big you started the main story and it should be a chapter. What I don't understand is that a reader would skip a prologue. It's where the story starts isn't it? Maybe a lot(?) of readers don't understand the term "prologue" and just don't know that they should start reading with that because it's where the story starts. I can understand someone skipping a cast/introduction/foreword/preface/glossary but never a prologue or epilogue.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Keet

What I don't understand is that a reader would skip a prologue.

Of course, you don't understand it because it doesn't make any sense. When I pick out a story, I read it the way its author intended for me to read it. If the prologue is shit, for whatever reason, I drop the story since the author has proven he isn't very good and I've no reason to believe the rest of the story will be any better.

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@robberhands

If the prologue is shit, for whatever reason, I drop the story since the author has proven he isn't very good and I've no reason to believe the rest of the story will be any better.

Good point. I think the prologue has a function in creating interest to start reading the story. But as you stated, it could also make a reader decide not to continue, which services it's own purpose.
Maybe a good prologue which makes a reader decide not to continue can prevent some 1-bombs that would come after reading the first chapter.

helmut_meukel

@awnlee jawking

Kathy Reichs wrote the books that provided the inspiration for the TV series.


True, and yet the MC (Bones) of books and TV series share only the same name and profession.
Different lifes, personalities and ages. And the books let no space for the TV Bones to be the younger self of the book Bones.

This said, I liked the TV series then read one of the books and was irritated by this other Bones, but got over it and have read eight of the books.

HM.

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