Let’s Start at the Very Beginning…

Duke low resTo prologue or not to prologue? That is the question.

Well, at least today! We can cover the meaning of life at some later date.

Not long after CLAIMING THE COURTESAN was published, I attended a one-day seminar by the legendary and wonderful Jennifer Crusie which covered many things, including her hints for how to write a great book. As a diehard admirer of her work (seriously, if you haven’t read WELCOME TO TEMPTATION, run to your nearest bookseller), I hung on every word. One thing she said categorically was no book needs either a prologue or an epilogue.

Interesting, huh? Especially as, having written my first four books without epilogues and then had numerous readers contact me asking me to write them, it’s clear that romance fans in particular ADORE epilogues.

With all those books, I felt I’d covered all the plot points in the story. They didn’t NEED an epilogue, although I think if I were writing them now, I would include epilogues. Romance readers, I think, just need that last little bit of happily ever after before they can close the book with a blissful sigh.

Days of Rakes and Roses final-72The first book I wrote with an epilogue was MY RECKLESS SURRENDER. Anyone who’s read that book knows that there was quite a complicated plot that went beyond what I could tie up in a satisfying way in the “I love you, you love me” part of the book. So, tiptoeing very carefully past Ms. Crusie, I went wild and wrote an epilogue. I know, I’m such a rebel.

Since then, all my books have had epilogues, not just for the sake of a few more kisses and vows of eternal affection, but because there were questions that needed answering beyond tying up the romantic plot.

I held off from prologues for much longer. Personally I really like a prologue when it’s well done. I think it’s a much more satisfying way of filling in important backstory than flashbacks or great wads of narrative. And because the reader sees the events on the page, it’s vivid and dramatic in a way something recounted later as a memory isn’t.

prologueInterestingly two of my favorite romances of all time both include prologues. LORD OF SCOUNDRELS by Loretta Chase breaks all the so-called romance rules in the prologue too – it’s long, it’s in omniscient point of view, it’s mainly narrative and there isn’t a whiff of a meeting between the hero and heroine. And you know what? It’s absolutely brilliant. We are so on the side of difficult, passionate, emotionally wounded Lord Dain by the time he turns up in all his cranky splendor in chapter one, thanks to that prologue, that we stick with him for the rest of the story. Lots of people obviously agree with me that this is a prologue that works a treat. LOS is regularly voted among the top three romances ever written.

Another of my favorite books, and definitely my favorite comfort read, is A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS by Eva Ibbotson. The prologue of this one reads like a fairytale and it sets up the story of gallant, generous, lovely Anna Grazinsky who needs every ounce of her courage to face life in England after the Russian Revolution. The prologue also sets up the Cinderella element of riches to rags and underlines the poignancy of the romance with the Earl of Westerholme who owns the house where she finds work as a housemaid.Β  prologue 2

When it came to my Sons of Sin novella, DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES, which is a story about childhood sweethearts separated by the heroine’s father, I wanted to show that dramatic moment in Simon and Lydia’s lives, the moment that set both of them off on divergent paths. They only come together again when Lydia is about to marry someone else. I could have covered the essentials in backstory, but it just didn’t seem to have the same impact and I wanted to show that these two, who are quite prickly when they meet again, had once shared a profound love.

Since then, ALL my book have had prologues. A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS needed an inciting incident to set Richard off on his quest for the Harmsworth Jewel. Again, it seemed better to do it on the page rather than have the characters recollecting it.

Rake BDI’ve just received the advance reader copies of my next book WHAT A DUKE DARES which is out in August. And guess what? There’s a prologue in this one too!

One of the things a prologue does really well is create a sense of space between an important event that has later consequences, and the rest of the story. In Duke, my hero proposes unsuccessfully to my heroine in the prologue. They don’t meet again for another nine years which is when chapter one starts. Because of the prologue, you know what’s at stake for these two when he rescues her from bandits (of the non Romance Bandits kind) on her way back to England from Italy.

Again, I probably could have done it in backstory but I don’t think it would be nearly as vivid or have the emotional impact as when the reader sees the disastrous proposal in real time on the page.

Are you a fan of prologues and epilogues? Do you have any favorites where you think the prologue or the epilogue really worked well?

BanditBootyI’ve got a signed advanced reader copy of WHAT A DUKE DARES (along with its prologue!) to go to one commenter today. International. So good luck.

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Comments

128 Comments

  • Jane says:

    Hello Anna,
    I’m kind of meh on prologues, but I want epilogues for the books I read. I find it necessary to tie up the loose ends and wrap up the story. Can’t think of any specific epilogues, but a good one leaves me content and satisfied.

    • Jane, the rooster too loves a good epilogue!

      • Jane, why are you meh about prologues? I’d love to know. I’m on a reader loop where someone said it struck them as a ‘lazy’ way for the writer to begin a book, which I think is interesting. I didn’t agree with her, but I was very interested in her thoughts. As a reader, epilogues are neither here nor there for me, although I want all the threads tied up and if the last chapter doesn’t do that and an epilogue does, I definitely want one. But an epilogue for the sake of one? Nuh. But I’ve since discovered that romance readers REALLY want epilogues. All this is fascinating to me, as you can imagine!

  • Is he coming home to visit Mama? Good Lord, Frodo will be in high dudgeon to be sure!

    I LOVE a good prologue and an even better epilogue. I am afraid if I really love a book my feeling is the more, the better. I am a greedy reader when characters touch me. I want to know as much about them as I can.

    I tend to agree if you have a story which really starts in the past the impact of seeing that past is much stronger than someone filtering it in in bits and pieces during the story. After all, the characters already know all of this. They’ve lived it.

    So, I am right there with you, you rule breaker you!

    • Wow, Louisa, neck and neck for the rooster. He’s preening,! But it looks like Jane just pipped you at the post. Perhaps it was alphabetical!

      Ha ha, I’m so glad you appreciate my rebel self. I’m such a BAAAAAAAD girl. Actually I miss the sort of books that had maps and family trees and notes to the reader and all the bells and whistles. I always felt a book that gave me all that was an event!

  • Tara N says:

    I love a good epilogue if there is a reason for it, and it’s not just saying they live happily ever after. If it’s characters I love I’m more likely to enjoy it.

    I find with a prologue, once I get into the book I forget all about it, so it doesn’t often set up anything for me.

    • Tara, wow, this is so enlightening. So far I’ve got two noes on prologues and one yes. I wonder if that says something about the quality of the prologue? I agree with you on not being a fan of the epilogue where it’s only lovey dovey and there’s nothing that happens/changes. I love it when it’s something like a pregnancy being announced or a baby being born. It places the characters in the great march of the future then, somehow, if that makes sense.

      • Tara N says:

        I agree about the epilogue – some go years down the track, so you know they’re happy – and also there’s no need for another book.

  • Helen says:

    Anna

    I love epilogues and prologues, Epilogues becasue I want to know more about the hero and heroines HEA and a bit more of wants comes and a prologue to start with something that as you say needs to be said rather than through the words in the story I really have a terrible memory sometimes and I know there have been some wonderful stories that I have read with either or both prologues and epilogues but at the moment I can’t think of them πŸ™‚
    I have read books where I would have loved and epilogue but there wasn’t one and I have emailed the author to say how much I loved the story but can I have an epilogue so a yes from me please keep being a rebel I love them and I am so so looking forward to Cam’s story the Dude August seems such a long way away πŸ™‚

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Helen, August IS a long way away, isn’t it? And I’m going to tease people with giving away ARCs for ages. My publisher was reasonably generous with them this time around so I’ve got a few to spread around. Bwahahahahaha!

      I’m seriously thinking of doing an epilogue for Untouched one day. There were a couple of plot points that weren’t covered in that one at the end – either that or write a book where Matthew and Grace are secondary characters. There’s one in the pipeline, but it’s getting the time to write it. I can see pups ahead for Wolfram!

  • Amy Conley says:

    yes and yes to both prologue and epilogues. I love and a blog because I really do feel like it up the story because you can go a week a month a year 10 years in the future the show where they end up still fits. so thank you Anna and every other author gives the readers an epilogue.

    • Amy, I think when readers love characters, they just don’t want to leave them! Makes sense. I think all my full-length books, at least, from now on will have epilogues now I’ve discovered how readers really look for them. I think with the prologues, it really depends on the story. I’ve got a Christmas novella out late this year that’s going to be the length of a category romance. That won’t have a prologue although it does have an epilogue. I really think it’s horses for courses. With A Rake’s Midnight Kiss, for example, Richard needed powerful incentive to do the crazy things he does that set the story up. That as a memory or a flashback wouldn’t have been nearly so strong. At least it my opinion. And the epilogue feeds back to the prologue too so it’s got that nice circular feel that I always enjoy in a story.

  • Amy Rose says:

    I personally love prologues, Anna, I completely agree with you that they provide the reader with relevant backstory in an engaging way. Who wants the pants bored off them with too much narrative or be left wanting with incomplete snippets of backstory through brief flashback when you are in the thick of the main story? I also love to see a bit of the HEA after the HEA so epilogues are fine with me too! I can’t wait to read ‘What a Duke Dares’ when it’s released too, Anna! Love that cover!!!

    • Hi Amy Rose! Isn’t that cover something? The words My Preshusss may have been muttered in its vicinity by a love-struck author. So glad you enjoy both prologues and epilogues. Sometimes I think it pays to tease the reader a bit with what happened in the past but sometimes I think it’s so much more powerful when they know exactly what occurred. At least that’s been my thinking with each of my prologues.

  • flchen1 says:

    Hmm… I imagine I’m with the majority of romance readers in adoring epilogues–that little extra bit of HEA ;)–and I find that some books really work well with prologues as well. I adore LoS–that’s a keeper and a re-read for me. On the other hand, some books read just fine without them.

    Looking forward to your new book in all its pre-/post-logued glory, Anna! πŸ˜‰

    • Fedora, I so agree with you about Lord of Scoundrels. And that prologue works so brilliantly to set up Dain’s character. That poor little boy – you know immediately what the wound is and how Jessica is really going to have to fight to heal it. Laughed at you describing the duke as pro and post-logued. As long as he’s not waterlogged! πŸ™‚ Thank you for saying you’re looking forward to the next one.

  • Hiya Fo! *waves madly* I’m going to be a disappointment to you. I don’t like prologues or epilogues. The latter tend to be saccharine sweet and lessen the impact of the end of the story. Mostly, they feel tacked on as an afterthought. For the former, I feel that backstory filtered in skillfully in quick bits made newish works better for me. Joanna Bourne has a marvelous blog on this HERE.

  • “I think it’s a much more satisfying way of filling in important backstory than flashbacks or great wads of narrative. And because the reader sees the events on the page, it’s vivid and dramatic in a way something recounted later as a memory isn’t.”

    Yes, yes, a thousand times Yes! Prologues ought to be a punchy introduction – a tease even, about the main element around which the story will pivot.

    I like them to be a little rollercoaster ride where we discover something important about either the setting, the plot or the characters.

    I want the reader to go ‘Wow, I can’t wait to see how that fits into the story’.

    As authors, we just taken our reader on an emotional journey where they have fallen in love with the characters as our hero and heroine fall in love and come to a point of acknowledgement.

    So to me epilogues serve another important purpose. They are the literary equivalent of the camera pulling back to see the hero and heroine ride into the (metaphorical) sunset in a film.

    Yes, it is a little about reassurance that the HEA is ‘real’ – especially the ‘ever after’.

    It is a encore, a final bow before the curtain closes on their story.

    • Wow, Elizabeth Ellen, you’ve clearly put a lot of thought into this. I agree with about a prologue – as you say, as long as it’s piquant enough to establish interest. I also like that often a prologue shows the characters in a different setting to the rest of the story so we see elements of them that may come into play later. And yes to the epilogue although I have to say I still like them to perform some story purpose not just be smooching and darling, darlings.

  • Susanne Bellamy says:

    Both serve a purpose and when properly used, each adds much to the story. Sometimes its importance and effectiveness is in the immediacy of a scene where you want to show the characters involved in a key event rather than narrative back story told in bits through the story. And I’m a sucker for a good epilogue; if I’ve loved the characters, I’m all for getting that extra little bit of HEA out of it! Roll on, dude! πŸ˜€

    • The dude waves madly back, Susanne! I think with both prologues and epilogues, it really does depend on the story. But used right, I think they’re both great. As you say, a prologue has that wonderful advantage of immediacy. But it needs to be something really germane to later events in the book.

  • Cheryl Leigh says:

    Loving the red cover, Anna!

    I don’t mind prologues, but I frequently don’t find them memorable. Perhaps those are the ones that have little to do with the actual story. On the other hand, I’m not fond of epilogues. I prefer everything to be tied up by the end of the book and to leave anything else to my imagination. πŸ™‚

    • Cheryl, I love that red cover too. Interesting take on epilogues – I thought today everybody would be howling for epilogues at all costs but it seems we’ve all got a different take on it. Vive la difference as they say at my local coffee shop. The first time I used an epilogue, with Reckless, there were SOOOO many things I had to sort out that I really needed a chapter some time after the getting together bit. To me, that’s definitely an epilogue. If I say any more, I’ll give away too much of the story! With Duke, it wasn’t so much that there was plot to solve, but that I wanted to show that the characters had come to terms with the huge upheaval in their lives that the events bring. Kind of the calm after the storm! With Rake, there was a major plot point to do with the hero but not so much the heroine that needed sorting out. Again, an epilogue seemed the best way to do it rather than jamming up the “I love you, let’s get married” bit.

  • Christine Ernest says:

    Hi Anna,
    Give me an epilogue any time. There is nothing worse than a story just ending…bang, gone, and you are left feeling slightly robbed!
    As for prologues, love them and thoroughly agree about the prologue in A Countess Below Stairs….it sets the story and the tone up beautifully. Eva Ibbotson has such a beautiful voice. I have read and loved all of her books…even the kid’s ones, lol

    • Christine, so lovely that you’re a fan of Eva I. She’s someone I recommend all over the place – in fact I’m blogging at Ramblings from this Chick this very month about how much I love A Countess Below Stairs. That prologue has this wonderful lump in the throat quality that always gets me – and it sets the tone for the rest of the story utterly beautifully. A masterpiece, I think. And also it sets out a whole stack of plot bits and pieces that become important later in a fairly quick and easy way. Interesting take on epilogues – I really like them too and as I said, I’ve definitely been trained into writing them! πŸ™‚

  • Mary Preston says:

    I’m pro prologues. I find they can give you some background that helps to set up the story.

    Not a fan of epilogues. I’d much rather a final & satisfactory ending to the story, within the story itself.

    • Mary, this is so surprising. Didn’t think anybody would be against epilogues – as I said, there’s a very vocal proportion of the romance reading community who insist upon them. As I said, my feelings about them are that if they suit the story, fine, if they don’t, then don’t use them. But that’s my feeling about most things. Yes, I love a good juicy prologue too!

  • Annie West says:

    Hi Anna,
    I have to say I’m not a fan of epilogues. If they’re done well, then great, but for me, it’s important that the story concludes at just the right moment. So many prologues I read are like so many other prologues I read and don’t really add much. I’ve written a few, when for some reason I felt the story need that little glimpse into the future, but generally I like to feel the story is strong enough for me to trust that the future is in good hands because the couple got their happy ever after.

    Now I think about it, I don’t mind prologues at all. As you say, they’re often much better than a huge chunk of backstory.

    Great topic for a post, dear!

    • Annie, lovely to see you here. Looking forward to your visit next month when you’ll talk to us about your new novella BACK IN THE ITALIAN’S BED. Tsssss! Hot!

      So many choices to make when you write a book, aren’t there? No wonder I spend my life so confused! πŸ™‚

      I had been thinking about prologues and epilogues for a while and then this discussion on the reader loop really got me interested. Especially as just lately I seem to have written more books with prologues than not.

  • Annick Weilche says:

    Thanks Anna. I changed my WIP to insert a prologue a few weeks ago and my cp’s feedback was that it enhances the story.

    • Interesting, Annick. Glad the new structure is working for you. I have to say, when they’re done well, a great prologue can really start a book with a bang! I think something I will say about prologues is that I think they’re better short. But then on the other hand, that Lord of Scoundrels one is really long and it works. Hmm, maybe I don’t think that after all! Oh, I’m still confused!

  • Anita H. says:

    Hi Anna! I have to say I’m a fan of epilogues. I guess I”m like most that want that little extra glimpse of our hero and heroine and their HEA. Prologues though are hit and miss. I can’t say I love them but I certainly don’t hate them. I just probably wouldn’t miss them when they aren’t there.

    • Anita, I’m finding this discussion so interesting. I really think, like most things, it comes down to the particular story. Sometimes it can be so intriguing when the writer just drops in hints of backstory – although I’m not a great fan of great slabs of what happened in the past interpolated into the current events. I suppose then, I’d definitely say a prologue was needed!

  • Anna Sugden says:

    LOL I took that same Jenny Crusie workshop. Funnily enough, I don’t like Welcome to Temptation, but love all of her other books – especially Bet Me!

    As you know, I’m a big fan of Romantic Suspense, where prologues work well. They truly set up the tone of the story. I tend to prefer that in tense, pacy stories to lots of narrative. All my own RS – which I hope to publish someday – have prologues which I love! πŸ™‚

    One of my favourite scenes that I’ve written is the prologue to A Perfect Distraction – the car accident scene. Every editor told me to take it out, but I loved how it showed Jake in ‘before’ character and of course it showed Adam. Maybe I’ll post it as a deleted scene some day. πŸ™‚

    I find that with both epilogues and prologues, it depends on the book. I love them when they really add something to the story. In historicals, for example, they work better than in contemps or RS. But sometimes, especially with epilogues, I find they don’t add anything. Worse, I hate it when they become a lazy way to show a HEA and wrap up threads. I’ve read a couple of books like that lately and it’s so frustrating. Both were excellent books, but the ending was rushed and the epilogue read like a tag-on to round out the story.

    • Anna, how funny. I’ve read Welcome to Temptation over and over. Think it’s great – love the hero! Love bet Me too although I’ve only read that once. Must pull it out again.

      I agree with you about prologues in romantic suspense. Some of the best ones I’ve read have been in the villain’s point of view or with the villain proving just how villainous he can be. Sets the stakes high from the get-go.

      I look forward to reading your romantic suspense books. I remember you telling me about them and they sound fabulous. That’s actually a genre that I think is so hard to write effectively. And I definitely think you should put that deleted scene up on your website. Readers love those.

      Interesting about the poor epilogues you’ve read lately. I also hate rushed endings. I had a lovely comment from my English editor about Duke that she loved that I took my time with the final reconciliation scene. Gave me a glow that lasted all day.

    • Cassondra says:

      Anna Sugden, I’m with you. WTT is my least favorite Crusie book.

      I love love LOVE Bet Me And my absolute favorite is Faking IT.

      I was a raving mad Crusie fan for a while. Hmmm…I may have to get those books out again. She does characters like nobody else.

      • Cassondra, I read the one about the ghosts last year which was generally not well received. Thought it was fantastic. I think she’s such a fabulous writer technically! I must dig out those old ones and re-read.

    • Cassondra says:

      Anna S said:

      But sometimes, especially with epilogues, I find they don’t add anything. Worse, I hate it when they become a lazy way to show a HEA and wrap up threads. I’ve read a couple of books like that lately and it’s so frustrating. Both were excellent books, but the ending was rushed and the epilogue read like a tag-on to round out the story.

      Oh oh OH! YES! *hanky wave* You said it better than I could’ve

  • SecretNinja says:

    Hi Anna!! Personally, I think prologues and epilogues definitely help the story a lot. Sometimes I just find it too hard to jump into a story without getting to know a little more of the characters and I know I’m in the same boat as others who like to see more of the HEA. I guess as a reader, I just like knowing more about the characters and any chance to know more about the past or future just helps me relate to them and therefore care about them more!

    Ada

    • Ada, what a great answer – and the unspoken part of what you said is that both epilogues and prologues have to reveal something about the characters, they can’t just be there for the sake of extra pages! Thanks for swinging by.

      • SecretNinja says:

        Absolutely right, no point in writing a prologue/epilogue if it doesn’t add anything of value to the story. Nothing I hate more is finding a book that’s uber long but realizing that a good portion of it really should have been cut because they do nothing but just drag the story on.

  • annette tilch says:

    I sometimes find prologues useful to provide an interesting start from the past that males the story more interesting or helps with plot twists but I absolutely love love love epilogues!!!! Need that piece of the story about how their future went, how many kids, how the siblings or friends did that figured greatly. Especially when we loved the characters and the story.

    • Annette, I think you’re so right. And I think particularly with romance where we want to know where the relationship goes once the couple get together that’s so important. Mind you, I also think that’s one of the reasons people love series – they get to revisit beloved characters.

  • Lucy says:

    Hi Anna,

    You do have the most divine cover for What a Duke Dares!!!

    I find that most books that have prologues and epilogues assist with establishing one or both of the characters and I do enjoy epilogues that give me a glimpse into the future of the characters.

    I finished reading Lorraine Heath’s When the Duke Was Wicked last night and it had a short prologue that conveyed so much about the hero in one page that was necessary to establish the story to the lovely epilogue that was only two pages long but answered a very necessary question from the story as well as tying the relationship up well.

    Just my thoughts!

    • Lucy, we love Lorraine here in the lair. She’s such a lovely lady – and such a great writer too. How wonderful that you enjoyed her latest book so much, prologue and epilogue included. Sounds like she definitely stuck to the short is better rule! Thanks for saying you love the cover. I think it’s just gorgeous!

  • Efthalia says:

    Hi ya Anna,

    I agree with a lot of what is said here. For me personally, I love both prologues and epilogues.

    I know the industry keeps saying that we don’t need them but I don’t agree. Sometimes the story calls for it and we have to oblige.

    Big smiles,
    Effie

    • Effie, I so agree with you – it really depends on the story. If your story can have as much or more impact without an epilogue or a prologue, can those bits. But that’s the truth about ANYTHING in a book. If it’s not doing the work, it doesn’t belong there.

  • Bonnie says:

    I’m a fan of prologues if they fit, and I absolutely adore epilogues. I recently read Lorraine Heath’s “When the Duke was Wicked,” and I think that was about the most perfect epilogue I’ve ever read. Can’t explain without giving spoilers, but this final wrap up assured us of a wonderful happy ever after.

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    I love prologues and epilogues, the first because it introduces you to the story, the latter because it gives the reader that last little bit of information letting them know the characters they’ve agonized over the entire book really do get their happily ever after. The Driven trilogy had two epilogues, both of which were great at tying up loose ends and giving the readers all they wanted in the finish. Even then I was craving another story about them. Sometimes the little details a reader is dying to know can be told in the epilogue. Did the couple eventually marry? Did they have children? What about any secondary characters? Will they get their own story later? I read one book recently where the author actually set up her next book in the epilogue. It was like writing those characters’ prologue in the epilogue. Made me really excited about digging into their lives as well.

    • Debbie, what a great taken on prologues and epilogues. I 100% agree with you. I’ve read books where they set up the next story in the epilogue – sometimes it’s worked for me and sometimes it hasn’t. I suppose like most things, it depends on how well it’s done. There was an early Madeline Hunter, one of her medievals, that did that and it was brilliant. Must go through the bookcases and find out which book of hers that was.

  • Teresa Hughes says:

    I love epilogue a! After falling in love with characters you want to know what happens after the guy gets the girl. It helps complete the movie the book started in your mind.

    • Teresa, what a great way to put it. Actually after the anti-epiloguers and the pro-epiloguers going neck and neck, I think the pro-eps are winning by miles now!

  • gamistress66 says:

    i enjoy a good prologue or epilogue as long it relates the rest of the story (particularly with the prologue, the epilogue can set up the next in the series & I’m ok w/ that). read one book that had an interesting prologue, but nothing that occurred in it seemed to have anything to do w/ the rest of the story. kept waiting for the tie in, but it never occurred so I ended up slightly distracted (& annoyed) the entire time I read it. shelly laurenston’s big bad beast has one of my fave prologues — shows the h/h briefly “meeting” as kids when the adults they are with meet to discuss business outside a flea market. it’s a fun intro to the h/h & while it is never clear that either remember that meeting later, it does help set & explain some of the dymanics of their adult relationship

    • Gamistress, that’s happened to me with prologues too and it drives me crazy! I definitely think they have to relate to the rest of the story – preferably set up the plot which I hope is the case with all the prologues I’ve done. I also hate it when the prologue has a completely different tone to the rest of the book. I’ll have to check out Big, Bad Beast!

  • Patty L. says:

    I love both! I want to know what brought the hero or heroine to this particular moment andore importantly I need to know they will live happily ever after. I find most historicals have the best prologues. Since I am not a history buff the prologue always helps the the setting.

    • Patty, that’s a really good point about setting. It does help to give context to the story, doesn’t it? In Days of Rakes and Roses, one of the reasons I wrote that prologue was that so people would understand what was at stake for the heroine and how her girlhood colored the rest of her life. Much harder (and more awkward) to do as internal monologue later when you’re trying to concentrate on the action.

  • sandyg265 says:

    I like both as long as they make sense with the story.

  • Susan Sey says:

    Good morning, Anna! I have to say, I’ll read *anything* as long as the author makes it work. I’m not a stickler for rules, I just want a good story, well told. You do that, & you’ve got me for life. πŸ™‚

    That said, I worship Jennifer Crusie like my own personal deity. I’ve given away my copy of WELCOME TO TEMPTATION so many times, I’m not even sure I own it anymore & it’s my favorite romance novel ever. I have avoided writing prologue for years, just as a personal tribute to her.

    I think novellas are a nice way to squeak past the rules, though. Just like you said, it allows you to put the inciting incident on the page in real time & that’s always more powerful than flashbacks. And it allows you just a little more room to really get to know your characters. Which is always fun, right?

    Congrats on the new release, by the way! Can’t wait until it’s out on the shelves for all of us!

    • Thanks so much, Susan! August seems so far away – I’ll have to while away the time doing more giveaways!

      Oh, I so agree with you. I think we need to know the rules so we can break them in a judicious (or wild!) manner. For a long time, I stuck to the no prologue/epilogue idea but then I started thinking of all the books I loved where both had been used to wonderful effect. I also thought of books where I wanted one or both and didn’t get them. I actually would have loved an epilogue for A Countess Below Stairs just because the characters while happy together have a lot of life stuff happening at the end and I’d love to know how that worked out. And also, I’m just greedy for more of a book I love.

  • Linda says:

    I don’t think a well written story needs either ; they’re called Chapter 1 & the last chapter!

    • Interesting, Linda. I find chapter one and then a long gap of time before chapter two and then the second last chapter and then a long gap of time before the last chapter a little irritating, but that could just be because I’ve been trained into prologues and epilogues. Thanks for swinging by.

  • Brenda Rumsey says:

    I do love reading both prologs and epilogs, whether the story need it or not. It’s that little extra that gives you a glimpse into the characters life before and after the action. And congrats on the book that comes out in August. I would love to read it early, as it’s so hard to wait…smile.

    • Brenda, thanks for saying you’re looking forward to reading Duke in all his prologued and epilogued glory. In both cases, there’s a big time gap between them and the body of the story which takes place over a few weeks. Actually I think that might be something to me that cries out for a prologue/epilogue (you guys are getting me thinking, thinking, thinking). When there’s a time gap.

  • Cassondra says:

    Anna, I think I was in that same workshop—or the same workshop in another city, perhaps, if she gave it more than once. This one was a two hour workshop with Ms. Crusie at M&M one year way back. And I distinctly remember the no prologues or epilogues thing.

    I admit that I took that only somewhat to heart. I agree that you need to tighten the story down to its bones and tell only what needs told to make it work.

    But some stories need it, and the story I was shopping at that time had a prologue that could not be avoided. Without that inciting incident, the story, three years later, wouldn’t have been clear.

    I don’t care for epilogues as much if they’re just another look at the couple, but if there are threads that need tied, then I like to see those tied up.

    The story needs what the story needs. Of course I can say that with more confidence now than I could back then.

    • Cassondra, I think it was a different workshop – unless you were in Sydney and hiding from me back in 2007! This was a whole day workshop and it was absolutely brilliant. She’s brilliant at structure.

      I think one of the great things about doing a lot of workshops in your early days is that you find out a lot of ways to write a book. Then as you get more experience, you can work out what works for you and what doesn’t. As you say, it takes a bit of confidence and a lot of writing under your belt to get to that point!

  • catslady says:

    I’m horrible at remember particular names but I’m all for epilogues and prologues. I’ll take as much information that the author wants to give me and I trust them to decide whether they think they are adding to the story!

    • Catslady, that’s a great take on it! There are definitely authors I’d trust to lead me through fire so if they want to add FIVE prologues, more power to them, I say!

  • Wonderful post, Anna! And what a gorgeous cover, wow! Yours are always stunning but this one is so rich and luscious, I can’t believe I have to wait until August to see it up close and personal in my own hot little hands. You’re such a tease. πŸ˜‰

    I really think I’m the world’s best audience. I love both elements and the more, the better. Epilogues are especially satisfying for me. It’s because the characters in books have become my new best friends and I want to know how they’re doing after the story ends. (Yes, I’m an odd, lonely girl. LOL)

    One of my favorite epilogues is in one of my all-time favorite books, AIN’T SHE SWEET, by SEP. It’s so sweet, very short, and so cleverly written to be an extension of the story itself. If that doesn’t make sense, you’ll understand completely when you read the book. And everyone simply must read the book!

    For prologues, well, I love them, too, and I find they’re especially necessary when the inciting incident of the hero or heroine’s life happened so long ago that while it doesn’t really fit within the story itself, it’s vital to the development of that character. But it’s got to be done well. I suppose that’s the most important element in all things. πŸ™‚

    • Kate, thank you for adoring my preshusssss, uh, my new cover! Isn’t that red just luscious? I’ve been so lucky in the cover stakes but I think these from Grand Central have really been out of the box. August isn’t that far away…

      Such interesting thoughts about prologues and epilogues. I 100% agree with you about the time thing. If a first chapter is set years before the rest of the book, I always feel a bit narked because there’s this unwritten deal that (particularly in a romance) it’s all going to follow on somehow, whereas when it’s separated out with a prologue, I understand that there’s been water under the bridge since. Or perhaps a major change of setting – that can work too. On the other hand, I’ve judged contest entries where there’s a prologue and really it’s not doing its work. It’s giving fairly basic information that could be fed in more effectively as backstory. And sometimes a prologue just gives the game away when a more measured release of information would work best to keep the reader turning the pages. Ah, decisions, decisions!

  • froot loop says:

    I love them both. Prologues can set the tone for the whole book and epilogues expand on the happily ever afterglow.

  • I’m not a huge fan of prologues in general — they tend to delay even more delayed action in some genres, like science fiction — but I can see how they’d be useful in a romance where the genre sort of expects the H/h to meet in Chapter 1. Worse is erotic romance where H/h are expected to hook up in Chapter 1. A setup of *some sort* is nice there. Looking forward to WHAT A DUKE DARES!

    • Hi Vivien! Thanks so much for swinging by – and I enjoyed our Twitter chat about illicit thrills (ooh!). I’ve definitely read prologues that could have been cut. On the other hand, I’ve read prologues that worked brilliantly to set up future action and reveal character so that we hit chapter one running, if you know what I mean. I was thinking about the hero and heroine meeting – and you know, when it’s a kind of reunion story which is the case with WHAT A DUKE DARES and DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES, the hero and heroine are together in the prologue so we see what broke them apart. When the hero and heroine don’t know each other before the book starts, which is the case with A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS and the new one I’m writing, it’s the inciting incident for what leads the hero and heroine to meet in chapter one that’s in the prologue. Hmm, seeing all sorts of patterns I hadn’t realized were there, thanks to this discussion.

  • Nicole Laverdure says:

    Hi Anna! I like prologue if it’s important to understand the rest of the story, that I agree, also it needs to be well written without giving too much clues…I don’t mind if there is an epilogue, but sometimes it’s a must, especially in a series. I love your books, they are so much fun to read! Looking forward to read What a Duke dares! beautiful choice of book cover!

    • Nicole, I adore that cover. Grand Central have some fabulous designers working for them. Thanks for saying you’ve enjoyed all the books and that you’re looking forward to duke.

      I think the consensus with most people here is that if the prologue and epilogue work for the story, go ahead and do them!

  • I LOVE prologues. And while I’m a huge fan of Jenny Crusie (she lives not far from me), I think prologues just work naturally in historicals. Epilogues just confirm the HEA, at least they do in my books. They take the grin a little wider :-).

    Love the cover, Anna!

    • Actually, Donna, I hadn’t thought about the fact that I’m writing in a different genre with different requirements in many ways from Jenny C who I think is so brilliant. Good point. I love your phrase about taking the grin wider. SOOOOO true!

  • jenn L. says:

    I actually really like prologue so as long as they serve a purpose whether it’s to set up the suspense of a story or create a little backstory for chapter one. I do think a prologue should not be more than a page or two tops.

    Now epilogues are one of my favorites. It sometimes gives me the added glimpse of what my heroine and hero are doing. It also answers questions on what marriage is like, children they might have and sometimes it gives you a glimpse of what other secondary characters are up too. Sometimes those secondary characters turn out to be the lead heros/heroines in future books.

    • Jenn, interesting. I agree about short – although having said that I think most of my prologues have been a few pages longer than that by the time I cover the scene. I really try to end the prologues on a major hook, though, so the reader WANTS to turn to chapter one and see what happened next (well, years later in some cases!). Another epilogue lover? Yay!

  • bn100 says:

    like them, but not when a main character dies in the epilogue

    Kristen Ashley writes good epilogues

  • pophyn says:

    I like both prologues when they make sense and aren’t just chapter 1 renamed. They’re a fine way to impart background material and length doesn’t matter to me as long as the prologue is interesting.
    Epilogues…interesting question. I like epilogues, but I’m also fine when the book ends well enough on its own. The ending of the piece (last chapter or epilogue) should satisfy. I love to finish up with an “aaah” (and wanting to start the next book!).

    • Pophyn, I know well this ‘aaaaah’ of which you speak. Don’t like it when aaaaah turns to GRRRRR! That’s happened to me a few times – I think a great romance needs a great, satisfying ending whether in an epilogue or in a last chapter. I hear you on prologues NOT being chapter one renamed. When I first started writing them, I did call them chapter 1, but it just didn’t work as there was such a time gap before the rest of the story (which generally happened within quite a tight timeframe) took place.

  • Kim says:

    Hi, Anna – I like prologues and epilogues.

    Prologues can be instrumental in setting up the story arc or a character’s motivation. For example, in The Luckiest Lady in London, author Sherry Thomas shows us the hero’s dysfunctional upbringing. The prologue gives the reader a cliff notes version of how the hero’s childhood damaged his adult relationships with women. The hero wouldn’t be sympathetic without it.

    An epilogue is needed where there’s a lot to work through betweeen the hero and heroine and the reader wants assurance that there was a HEA. This worked wonderfully in What I Did For a Duke by Julie Anne Long. The duke wasn’t able to sleep through the night during the entire book, because of something tragic in his past. The epilogue shows the reader that the duke finally finds peace and happiness during the midnight hour. Without the epilogue, that little bit of poignancy would be lost.

    • Kim, what a great response. I think the prologue to Lord of Scoundrels works for exactly the same reason that you point out in the Sherry Thomas book. It puts us on the side of someone whose actions might otherwise be a little hard to understand. And I love Julie Anne Long’s books. That’s wonderful when an epilogue shows that a long-term emotional issue has been solved through the love relationship, isn’t it? That’s what the epilogue in A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS does (I hope!). But it was something that just didn’t fit into the resolution of the love story with Genevieve and Richard. It needed space on its own to breathe in order to have its proper impact.

  • Shannon says:

    I used to like prologues and epilogues. Now I’m more agnostic. I think they were wonderful when they were rare and carefully crafted to get past an editor who didn’t think they were necessary.

    But lately, I find many epilogues to be formulaic. There’s the four months later, she’s pregnant. There’s the dramatic birth scene with the happy transformed papa (often a rake). Less often but also repeated a lot is the playing on the lawn with a passel of kiddies and cousins and unicorns.

    The most recent incarnation of epilogues that I am growing to HATE is the hook for book 2, 3, or 16. If I’m reading number 9, I’m probably going to buy 10 and I really do not want to have to wait six months or year to find out what happens. Did I mention above that hook epilogues are the worst?

    • Shannon, your response gave me a smile. I know exactly what you mean about the unicorns, etc. I really think an epilogue needs to serve some plot point – clear up some lurking uncertainty, for example, if the heroine was pregnant in the last chapter, did she have the baby and was it a boy or a girl? And yeah, I occasionally get a bit narked about those epilogues that are really just an ad for a future book. There needs to be some plot reason for it in the current book for me to get the most out of it. Yeah, I think you did mention that hook epilogues are the worst! LOL!

  • Anna, I’m okay with or without a prologue. If the prologue is backstory, I need it to be short and to the point. I rarely write prologues but was interested to notice that one of my historical mss. started doing better on the contest circuit after I added one–which was backstory.

    I love epilogues, especially if they’re a little window into the couple’s HEA. And if they also happen to wrap up subplots outside the romance.

    • Hi Nancy! This is turnout out to be such an interesting discussion. I think a prologue is a great way of quickly and easily conveying backstory. I hate it when I get hit with an info dump all in long paragraphs of narrative when a short prologue would have done the job much more effectively. Yeah, I think most of us are suckers for epilogues. One of the interesting things about today, though, is that there is a substantial minority who don’t like them. Who knew? Well, I do now!

  • Rhonda Kirby says:

    I love your books. As far as prologue it really depends on the characters story. Keeping my fingers crossed for the ARC.

  • Anna, great blog! Can I just say that red cover is absolutely stunning? One of the best you’ve ever had, and that’s saying something. I love that LORD OF SCOUNDRELS prologue, too.

    I’m completely with you on prologues and epilogues. I tend to think epilogues are superfluous but there is no doubt romance readers love them. And I’ve found they’re a great way to show the hero and heroine interacting with the series characters and the larger world of the story after they’ve resolved their differences. THE GREATEST LOVER EVER has an epilogue that resolves the ongoing tension between the heroine and the hero’s family.

    I’m also a fan of the prologue that flashes forward and gives you a pivotal, exciting scene from the body of the book that makes you curious. It’s a staple of thrillers and it also seems to make a lot of sense in time-slip stories where people in the present already know a pivotal incident occurred in the past.

    • Christina, so glad you love that new cover. Isn’t it stunning? I’ve been so lucky with these Sons of Sin books.

      Actually it’s interesting – I’ve been done epilogues for nearly all the Sons of Sin books and prologues for most ofthem. It could be something to do with dealing with the wider world of the series. I hadn’t thought about that.

      Oh, interesting about the pivotal scene thing. I’ve seen that done really well!

  • Sheryl says:

    I don’t mind a prologue, but I love an epilogue so I can see what my characters are up to.

    • Sheryl, I think that seems to be what most people are saying today. Although I’ve been surprised that there have been a few votes against epilogues!

  • i’m a huge fan of epilogues. I love o see the Hero and heroine a few months or years later, preferably with babies. πŸ™‚ yes I’m a sap. Prologues never bother me either. I think I’m bothered by allthe “rules” that are inplace that people are afraid of breaking. Like a romance needs to be written as a formula. No prologues, H/h must meet in first 25 pages, first kiss by page 50. I think it should all flow organically

    • Nancy, I often find myself asking – who put these rules together? My first kisses are usually well after 50 pages. Usually around the 100 page mark, especially if the couple don’t know each other. Although it depends on the book. In My Reckless Surrender, they were doing a lot more than kissing by that stage! πŸ™‚ I find the characters dictate what they do in a lot of cases. If they’re not ready for smooches, they’re just not ready!

  • Becke says:

    Anna,
    Your covers are marvelous! Those vibrant colors lure me every time. Congratulations. I’m sure this story will be as awesome as your past work.

    Epi and Prol? This is the question.
    I also think Jennie Cruisie is awesome and have attended a one-day workshop. I like her as a woman as much as her work. Quite the feminist. Woohoo!

    For me, there are no rules. If you write a good story and make me care about the characters, I’ll like your epi or your prologue. I’ve found writing is like medicine-too many exceptions to have hard and fast rules. Just give me a fantastic story and I’m in for the duration.
    b

    • Becke, that cover’s exceptional, isn’t it? I was jumping around like a loon with joy when I first saw it. And this book’s fairly sexy so the red really suits. Thanks so much for saying you’ve loved the other books!

      I think you’re so right – everything should be dictated by the needs of the story. It’s how you can get that across best that really counts.

  • Hey Anna! Can’t wait to read What A Duke Dares!

    I have a confession to make. As many books as I read in a year, year after year, I’ve never ventured into the world of Jennifer Cruise. *ducks from flying tomatoes* Maybe one of these days I will.

    As for prologues, if they enhance the story, then they should be there. I wrote one for HUNTED. I wanted to show my heroine standing up to the cult leader who’d tortured her when she lived in his group as a kid. It forshadowed the entire book. Yep. Necessary.

    Epilogues…I just plain love them. Like Donna’s comment, too…it makes my grin a little wider.

    • Suz, thanks for saying you’re looking forward to Duke. August will be here before we know it!

      Loved Donna’s comment about the wider grin! You’re so right about epilogues. And I think, as you say, when a prologue reveals character or plot in some way that is much more immediate than backstory, I say go for the prologue. Viva la prologue!!!!

  • Caren Crane says:

    Anna, I LOVE both prologues and epilogues. With a prologue, I feel I’m getting the insider’s scoop on the real story. Often, this is something one or both of the protagonists don’t know. Lucky us!

    With the epilogue, I love seeing the happy couple living the future I envisioned for them – or something better! I recently read a review for my debut release Kick Start and the reader wanted an epilogue! She said she wished she could see Linda and Jack a couple of years down the road. She would have seen them with a toddler, in addition to Linda’s three already-born kids. πŸ˜€

    I was glad to know readers like epilogues as much as I do. Heck, I stuck one at the end of the novella I have coming out next week! Is that overkill?

    • Hey, Karen, I gave my novella a prologue, so we’re think as bad as each other! You know, you’re so right about these little extras making us feel like we’ve got the ‘real’ story. What a great insight. It was actually reviews and emails from readers that made me aware how much romance readers treasure an epilogue. Those first few books, I had so many people asking for epilogues!

  • Maureen says:

    I like reading both prologues and epilogues. They often add something extra to a story. The best prologue is definitely Lord of Scoundrels. The hero would have been just a big jerk without it.

    • Maureen, I think Lord of Scoundrels is a lesson in how to do a great prologue. She sets up the rest of the story so well and you’re so in sympathy with Lord Dain after reading that.

  • Cassie P says:

    I like prologues Anna but they do have to be there for a reason. Loretta Chase is a wonderful prologue writer and if LOS isn’t enough proof read the prologue for The Last Hellion. Studying her prologues is an excellent way of seeing how to do one right.

    I have one in my current WIP and all feedback so far has been very positive. Like Chase my hero is complex and sometimes a prologue goes a long way to explaining why that character is the way they are.

    • Hi Cassie. I’d forgotten the prologue from the Last Hellion. Actually Captives of the Night, another favorite of mine by Loretta Chase, has a great prologue as well that comes into play in the rest of the story. Glad the structure is working out on your latest.

  • Thanks, everyone, for a great day’s blogging. Such a lot of interesting comments and really thoughtful posts. Wonderful!

    Don’t forget to check back tomorrow night to see who won the ARC of WHAT A DUKE DARES!