Last week, I wrote about the prologue (a section of prose that sets the scene for the rest of your novel). Today, I wanted to discuss the epilogue.
An epilogue is a section at the end of the book that wraps up the story.
This is not to say you can’t just end your book with the final chapter. However, sometimes, and I often see this in romance novels, the epilogue shows a snippet of what happened to the characters at a later point in their lives, whether it is several months, a year or perhaps even a number of years later.
Epilogues are NOT final chapters. They are meant to cap off the story, giving it the final piece of finality. Here are some reasons for an epilogue.
- Provide closure – this is where you can add some details that might have diluted the climax if they had been included in the body of the novel. This might be especially true if a major character dies or when the fate of the characters is not clearly depicted.
- Gives us the happily ever after – This is where you find out what happened to the main characters sometime down the road. This is where you might read of the wedding or the birth of a baby in a romance novel. Or you find out what happened to Harry Potter and his friends nineteen years down the road.
- Set up a sequel – If your story is over, but you can’t just let go of these characters, perhaps you will write another book. You can close the first book out in the final chapter and then use the epilogue to pique reader’s interest in the next episode.
Should you write an epilogue? Only you, the author, can decide that. But generally, the answer is no book needs an epilogue. If it is crucial to the story, it is in the actual story.
Now just because you have a prologue (or don’t have a prologue), you don’t have to have an epilogue. As I mentioned last week, every book in my trilogy has a prologue but only the last one has an epilogue. It lets the readers know what happened to the main characters. And actually, I get a lot of fans writing me wanting to know more about what happens after the epilogue. (Hmmm…perhaps I will write a sequel trilogy.)
Just as with the prologue, seriously consider whether an epilogue will help or hinder your story. What is it that will make the readers (and you) feel the story is complete?