08 July 2015

To Epilogue or Not to Epilogue?

I've never written an epilogue before. I've never even considered one, actually, until very recently. When the third book idea for my series hit me, I thought an epilogue could be a nice way to wrap things up once the story is over. But I worry that it could also be too over the top. So when should you include an epilogue? Do we ever really need them?

There are several reasons to include an epilogue. It can provide some added closure. We can find out what has happened to the characters several years or just a few weeks after the story's conclusion. It can be an interesting glimpse into the future to see if things have worked out and how the main story has affected the characters as they continue on with their lives.

An epilogue is a tricky thing to figure it out, because if you think about it, no story really needs an epilogue. That's how it should work. Your story should be complete without the epilogue, and adding one on should just be an added bonus for the reader. But the book itself should be able to stand alone without it. So while you definitely don't need one, it could still be fun to include one.

There are a few reasons why I'm thinking about an epilogue for the third book. First of all, it's the last book in the series. I wouldn't include an epilogue in the first two books (although setting up a sequel can be another reason to have an epilogue), but since I don't plan on continuing with these characters, it seems like a nice way to wrap things up.

It also has a lot to do with the plot of the book. While everything is wrapped up and decisions are made by the end of the last chapter, I feel like there are still some questions that may be asked. The story mainly revolves around a love triangle. The readers would probably want to know if the MC stayed with the person he chose. Another huge part of the story is that my characters are sort of making their last shot at being successful with their band, and by the end of the book they've signed a record deal and things are just starting to get going. So that leaves more questions--did it all work out? Are they famous rock stars now? You can certainly provide closure within a story but there could always be questions that your readers may ask about the characters' futures.

My only hesitation with writing an epilogue is that I think it may be too much of a happy ending. It kind of just screams, "Look at how successful everyone is!!!" I worry that it may be too sappy and while just being generally irritating, doesn't fit very well with the mood of the books themselves. Then again, my narrator isn't all that emotional of a person so he may be able to handle all the happiness without shoving it in the reader's face. I'm still on the fence about it. I'll probably write and rewrite it a million times until I think it's right.

While not every story needs an epilogue, it can be a fun way to wrap things up. A story should be able to stand on its own without it, but an epilogue should still provide information that is interesting and believable, and fits the mood of the story.

Have you ever included an epilogue in your book? 


  1. I've never written one, but I wouldn't mind a happy ending epilogue.

  2. In Effigy's original draft, there was an epilogue. It didn't make any sense to have it there, which is why it was deleted. But I think, depending on how the series plays out, that there could be one when the series is all said and done.

    I read a book a while back where there was this epilogue that detailed what every. single. character. was doing after the story had ended. I mean, every single character, even the minor ones who had been mentioned for one half of one short sentence. Like, one of those minor characters was listed as having come out to his parents.And it's like, "Oh, I didn't realize that in those five words where he was mentioned that that was a struggle for him." So, an epilogue in that case was not necessary in the least.

    And most recently, I read a novel which I thought could have benefited from an epilogue. The characters literally ride off into the sunset, giving the illusion of happily ever after, but the events which lead up to this sunset ride, suggest there's still trouble that needs to be dealt with. I would have liked an epilogue with a minor time jump that would have told us whether those issues had been resolved.

    So, I think it really depends on the story. You could always include it in the manuscript and have your CPs and/or beta readers help you decided whether it stays with the novel or becomes and fun bonus feature on your website.

    This has been a really long comment...sorry about that. Apparently, I'm passionate about epilogues.

  3. My first year of blogging I had a post with this same title. :P Great minds....

    You're right that a story should be complete without an epilogue, but sometimes it's nice to skip ahead some years to peak in on your characters and show your readers that they are truly happy. I did that for 30 Seconds. The end was the end for all the action and suspense, but the epilogue ended the whole story by showing their love and happiness. :)

  4. I've never written an epilogue, but I've considered it for my third book - not a far in the future one, but a "year later" kind of epilogue. I've mostly decided against it, partly because I'm thinking of re-opening up that world in another trilogy with a different MC.

    I think the epilogue for Stand By Me, the movie version, was an interesting epilogue because it wasn't a "everyone's happy" epilogue. It was actually kind of brutal. At the same time, I like happy epilogues, too.

    Sorry, not much help today.

  5. I've never included an epilogue, though that's not to say that I never will; I might, if it works for the story. And if it works for your story, then you should do it! I've read several novels with epilogues, and it was good to find out what happened to the characters after the conflict was resolved.

  6. I love a good epilogue, it's fun to get a glimpse to the characters lives after the book. It makes them feel more real.

  7. Hmm. I do sometimes love an epilogue (hello, Harry Potter,) so I was going to say go for it - but when you said it wouldn't match the tone of the books, that really changed my mind. I do love a happy ending, but some books shouldn't have them, or at least, they should have them with some snark/uncertainty/whatever it is your tone includes.

  8. I haven't written an epilogue before, but I wouldn't say no if the story was right. I think it just depends on what genre/book you're writing - I've read quite a few chick-lit books with epilogues that worked, but I personally didn't really like the epilogue at the end of Harry Potter (though I was crying with laughter when I saw it in the cinema...sorry, I just wasn't convinced they were all in their 30s!). If you think your story will benefit from it, then go for it :)! I find epilogues always do the opposite to what they're intended for when I read them - they make me want to read on even more, instead of providing closure! But that's just me and my weird ways :)

  9. I have an epilogue in Snapshots and I think it works well enough. My suggestion, write it and send it to a few people to read and have them tell you if they think it's needed or not. If they say no, you can always add it as a bonus on the blog or readers.

  10. I like epilogues! But I also like prologues too.

    I have an epilogue in Thanmir War. The first scene is to indicate this ain't over yet, and the second is to bring things full circle with Derek's love of coffee. No, neither are needed, but I thought they added a little level of anticipation or smiles. Of course, looking at one of the reviews I got, someone took the second scene in a way I didn't anticipate, and not positively... Whoops.

  11. Once in a while I like them. They let me have the last crack at wrapping up my story, and when I'm reading I like to savor those last moment, especially in a book I hate to leave.

  12. Never included an epilogue in any of my stories. Did a prologue once. On a personal note, I would prefer to see one final chapter that wraps everything up as opposed to seeing an epilogue. For me, an epilogue leaves me disappointed, in that what I thought was a satisfying ending in the final chapter, turns out not to be, as the writer decided to put a little bit more in because they couldn't bare the thought of stopping at the final chapter.

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