Do you know the difference in a prologue and epilogue?


How do you know when a story needs one or both?

My current work in progress (WIP) has a short introduction (prologue.) So, I thought doing a little research on the subject might be in order. After all, I do want the reader to read past the first couple of pages. Right?

Here’s what I learned about the two.

  • A writer can use both to bookend a novel or use just one.
  • A prologue is where you can introduce something important to the story.
  • An epilogue is the cherry on top. The ending after the ending.

What I learned about a prologue.

A prologue should include one or all the three elements.

  1. Setting/fictional world and how the character came to be there.
    • Set the stage with a frame of reference for the reader.
  2.  An event key to the story and a character’s response.
    • Describe with action and suspense, not just adjectives.
    • Perfect place to let the event introduce a theme.
  3. Create intrigue.
    • Set up the reader to keep reading.

My WIP prologue includes #2 & 3.

I’ve not given much thought to epilogues before today. Although, I do enjoy reading a good one that wraps up a story. Especially a book that kept me on edge from beginning to end. A good epilogue relieves tension and enables me to tie all the dangling pieces together in one big knot.

What I learned about writing an epilogue.

  1. Wrap everything up into “happily ever after.”
  2. An epilogue can be used to hint or introduce a sequel.
  3. A place for the characters to reflect on the story.
  4. Show growth and change in a character.

Want to know more? Then drop to the end and click on a few terrific links.

But first…

Me Let's Discuss - Jeanswriting.comHave you ever written a prologue or epilogue for a book?

Do you plan on writing either for your WIP?

Do you like reading either in books?

Or, do you think books are better without either one?

What did I forget?

Talk to me in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Leave light on



Framing the Novel: The Prologue and the Epilogue By Reba White Williams

What is a prologue (and epilogue)? Examples and tips

Parts of a Novel: What is Foreword, Preface, Introduction, Prologue, and Epilogue?

Prologue & Epilogue



21 thoughts on “Do you know the difference in a prologue and epilogue?

  1. I use prologues in my books. The main action is set in the present day, in an ancient British university. The prologues are set in the same building, but 400 years previously. I use the prologues to set the general theme for the book, link events from the past to those in the present day and to set up the running jokes that flow through the novels. I find them a fun and helpful way of giving the story a bit of extra depth.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jean,
    If you write an epilogue (introduction, etc.) do you have to label it as such? My next book opens up with an author’s note and then moves to an epilogue as you defined it above. However, I didn’t label it as an epilogue. Would that be breaking the literary rules?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Chuck, as I understand it, the prologue is at the beginning (introduction) and epilogue the ending. No it’s not a hard fast rule to name the sections as such, although most writers do. I’ve seen some books where the prologue was titled something like “Six Months Earlier” or even use a date as the title. Same for the epilogue. “Six Months Later” or a title that lets the reader know up front this section is a wrap-up of the story. Hope that helps.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The prologue goes at the beginning. The epilogue is at the end, and in certain books I think they’re darn near required, and enjoy reading and writing them.

      Liked by 1 person

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