Before explanations as to the exact content of this particular post, it is considered a perfectly necessary courtesy to make a formal introduction. I am the Whimsical Werecat, known simply as Whim if smaller titles are preferred, and I shall be making my paw print on this site through various blogs and topics that I find interesting or feel the need to muse about to those who care to read, or perhaps accidentally stumble upon.
Any future topics presented by me may or may not have specific intentions and will come when it suits my own fancy. There is no point in trying to fit a werecat into a schedule – especially if it is not of their own inspiration. But if anyone has any particular topics they would like me to write about, they are more than welcome to send their curious thoughts through to me, via the contact page. You can be sure I will investigate and consider it … in my own good time, of course.
Alright, well enough of introductions.
Now, onto my reason for this particular post and the explanation behind its title. What is before the beginning and after the end, exactly? Well, in the case of literary structure, I am referring to Epilogues and Prologues. Some of you may know what those terminologies are and where they fit into the arc of a story, but others of you may not be so sure as to their exact purpose or meaning. Well, curious little mortals, I am here to enlighten you!
To keep with the natural order of things, I shall explain what comes before the beginning: the prologue – “pro” of course meaning “before” or “forth”; a prefix of priority in space or time. Yes, yes, it all sounds very fancy.
A prologue is basically an opening to a story, oftentimes establishing a setting or event that gives background details, or introduces happenings or characters that play an important or specific role to the central storyline. A lot of the time, a prologue does not take place at the time the protagonist makes his/ her initial entrance, and may actually have nothing to do with the main character’s own intents and purposes, but it does tie in with the main story at some point in time. The details revealed in a prologue usually occur before the primary plot of the story transpires, or in some cases happens at a similar time, but in a different place/ country/ city etc.
And to those who are wondering, no, a prologue is not essential to the structure of every story. Putting in a prologue depends entirely on the author and his/ her wants and preferences. If a writer finds it will benefit the overall layout of their story if certain information is shared with the reader right at the start, then having a prologue is a great addition. Otherwise, starting alongside the protagonist is where it usually begins!
After the end is where an epilogue fits in. An epilogue is usually used to bring closure to a story, and to reveal the fates of the characters, although is sometimes employed to hint at a sequel, or tie up loose ends that do not fit into the events of the final chapter.
By means of an epilogue an author can take the opportunity to speak directly to the readers, although that is properly considered an afterword, depending on the how the words are made to relate to the preceding story. Sometimes the epilogue has been used to break down the fourth wall (the imaginary boundary between a fictional work and its audience) and give the main characters a chance to ‘speak freely’, and thus stray away from the narrative used in the story. Of course, the same works the other way around; an epilogue can continue using the same written view-point and perspective as was used in the rest of the book.
As far as structure and style, an epilogue is able to be far more flexible than a prologue. As I mentioned before, they can change narrative view-points quite drastically, depending on what point the writer is trying to get across. Additionally the information given does not always have to relate specifically to the subject of the story and can be quite peripheral. There is a great amount of freedom in the distinction between timelines as well. What is revealed in an epilogue can take place years after the main plot has ended, or can continue on almost immediately after the happenings in the last chapter.
As with the prologue, it is not essential for a writer to add an epilogue. It depends entirely on how they wish to craft the conclusion to the story. If the final chapter of the book is able to explain everything to the author’s satisfaction, then there would be no need to have an epilogue. If the last chapter ends on a climax, however, the addition of an epilogue allows for any subplots left in the wind to be given conclusions, and for lingering questions to receive some answers.
And there you have it, curious mortals: my explanation on prologues and epilogues, as told by the wonderful Whimsical Werecat. I hope it has satisfied your inquisitive minds, at least until I return for the next installment of my memorable, mesmerizing musings.
Always keep your curiosity and courage at hand, adventurers!