Prologues and epilogues


Afterword (see epilogue). An afterword is a literary device that is often found at the end of a piece of literature. It generally covers the story of how the book came into being, or of how the idea for the book was developed. Alternatively, it may be written by someone other than the author of the book to provide enriching comment, such as discussing the work’s historical or cultural context (especially if the work is being reissued many years after its original publication).


Appendix (noun) from appendere (to hang upon). A collection of supplementary material, usually at the end of a book.


An epigraph is a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document or component; it may serve as a preface, summary, counter-example, or to link the work to a wider literary canon (even fictional ones).


Epilogue (noun) from epilogos (conclusion of a speech), epi + logos (word, speech). It is a piece of writing at the end of a work of literature, usually used to bring closure to the work – the opposite of a prologue. As such it is a concluding section at the end of a literary work, often dealing with the future of its characters. [When the author steps in and speaks indirectly to the reader that is more properly considered an afterword.]


Episodes (being chapters): (noun) from epi (epeisodios – coming in; eisodos – entering; eis – into) and hodos (way, journey). An incident or event that is part of a progression or a larger sequence; one of a series of related events in the course of a continuous account; a portion of a narrative that relates an event or a series of connected events and forms a coherent story in itself; an incident; a separate part of a serialised work, such as a novel or play.


A foreword is a (usually short) piece of writing sometimes placed at the beginning of a book or other piece of literature. It is a preface, especially by a writer other than the author; an endorsement by another. It is 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. Later editions of a book sometimes have a new foreword prepended (appearing before an older foreword if there was one), which might explain in what respects that edition differs from previous ones.


The incipit of a text, such as a poem, song, or book, is the first few words of its opening line. For example, Agnus Dei. The practice of referring to texts by their initial words is commonplace.


A postface is a brief article or explanatory information placed at the end of a book. Postfaces are quite often used in books so that the non-pertinent information will appear at the end of the literary work, and not confuse the reader. It is the opposite of a preface.


Postlude (noun) from post + prelude. A concluding piece; a final chapter or phrase. Seems to refer mostly to musical works.


Postscript (noun) PS from postscriptum, from post (after) and scribere (to write). A message appended at the end of a letter after the writer’s signature; additional information appended to the manuscript, as of a book or an article.


Preface (noun) comes from the Latin meaning either “spoken before” (prae and fatia) or “made before” (prae + factum). It is a preliminary statement or essay introducing a book that explains its scope, intention, or background and is usually written by the author. It is usually signed (and the date and place of writing often follow the typeset signature).


A Prelude (meaning to play beforehand) serves as an introduction or precedes an event; introductory performance, preceding a more important one.


Prologue (noun) from pro (before) logos (speech). It is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details, often some earlier story that ties into the main one, and other miscellaneous information; used to capture interest; an introductory event; preamble; it explains what happens before the main action.

The Ancient Greek prólogos, included the modern meaning of prologue, was of wider significance, more like the meaning of a preface. Thus an introduction or a preface, especially a poem recited to introduce a play; an introduction (especially poem, or novel), or introductory chapter; or called a preface usually for non-fictional work.

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By Nigel Benetton, science fiction author of Red Moon Burning and The Wild Sands of Rotar

Last updated: Friday, 24th April 2020