I’m looking for the name of a certain way of structuring a story. It often takes the form of “prologue – story – epilogue” where the prologue is a conversation which sets up the story and sometimes there is an epilogue which continues the conversation from the prologue and wraps it up.
It was used a great deal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and Somerset Maugham used it frequently in his short stories. James Hilton also used it to structure his novel Lost Horizon.
In general two or more people who may or may not know each other end up at the same table at a bar, café or their club and begin reminiscing, discussing current events or catching each other up. At some point a character, location or some similar element they have in common is introduced into the conversation and one of them tells a related story.
The closest name for this style I can find is “anecdotal story” but those are usually short, often very short as in fables or parables. I’m wondering if the form has another name when it is used in a longer story, such as the novel Lost Horizon.
If you want an example you can see it shaping up in the very first few paragraphs of Lost Horizon.
I’m retired and have been writing stories for a few years now and plan on writing a series of hard science fiction stories based on this format. I can do so intuitively but if it is a defined literary form I would like to research it a bit more.