Monday, November 3, 2014

Does my novel need an epilogue?


If you're participating in the 100 words for 100 days writing challenge, this is day 50! You're half way there! It's also the third day of NaNoWriMo, an event that I've never participated in, but I love hearing about the progress of those who are in the thick of it.

One other thing before I shift into talking about epilogues. Last Tuesday I posted a critique group match up of sorts. 100+ of you have signed up to participate! I had no idea what to expect, but I'm blown away by that number. If you haven't signed up yet and you want to, I would recommend doing it soon. I've started organizing the groups and will send emails to everyone by the end of the week.

On to epilogues!



In fiction, epilogues are a snap shot of how everything has worked out for the characters after the story climax. It's a technique I apparently really like because I use it in three of my five published novels.

Why might you choose to use an epilogue instead of another chapter? 

There are several reasons that come to mind:

  • You want to give your readers a glimpse of how things are working out for your character post story climax. This is pretty common in romance novels when you want to show a scene from the wedding day or something. In a situation where you're jumping in time a bit (which can be weeks or even years, like in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows or The Time Traveler's Wife) I like the use of an epilogue because it signals to the reader that this scene is "apart" from the rest of the book. That we've jumped in time. In this situation, writers almost always note the jump in time with something like, "Two months later" just to help ground the reader.
  • To establish a certain mood. In my novel The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, chapter 34 is a scene between Ellie and her parents resolving a misunderstanding. I like the scene. It could've been a fine last one. But the mood of it just didn't sit right with me. Instead, I wanted to end with a clearer sense of the consequences of choices Ellie and others had made in the climax of the book. (I'm trying to be vague to not spoil anything. The ebook, by the way, is a steal at .99 for your Kindle.) To show those consequences, I needed to fast forward a bit in time. The epilogue takes places two months later and shows not just consequences, but also Ellie's growing confidence.
  • It's too short for its own chapter. Most epilogues are single scenes and shorter. That can make for an awkward chapter if all your others are longer.
Epilogues should help tie up loose ends, and perhaps, in a series, give a suggestion of what's to come. I did that with The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet with my last line"Though, if I somehow find myself back on their radar, I guess that could be okay too. I have a sequel to write." This gives my readers a suggestion about what Ellie might be up against in book two, and the story they just finished has showed why she'll be more capable of handling it.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments section, and I'll do my best to answer them!

Do you use epilogues in your books?

27 comments:

  1. Yup- I do epilogues! In my last novel I had my epilogue talking about 'what would happen' to the couple who married at the end of the book. I told my readers where they would live, how many children they would have and so on. I always want to know those kind of things after I finish a book. I'm very curious. It's nice to know what the author imagines to happen after the book ends... because even though it's a happy ending there's always questions. :-)

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    1. Oh I love those kinds of epilogues. When the author says what happened to all the major characters afterward. I'm totally detail obsessed and I love knowing that kinda stuff.

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    2. Same here! I wish every book had one! I wish, wish, wish Jane Austen wrote one for Pride and Prejudice. :-) Then we'd know who would be the future heir of Pemberly, haha. :-)

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    3. Oh, Naomi. I love that idea. If only...

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  2. I've never written a full first draft...so unfortunately, I've never got to write an epilogue even if I wanted. But this post should be super useful when I do! In my novel, the Assassin's Mercy, something I wrote four chapters of little less than a year ago and am rewriting with plot twists and new character, I've planned an ending in which my main character faces his fears and defeats his enemy, while uncovering a deadly secret about his past and the world. I still haven't come up with the deadly secret yet, but I have something in mind, and I think I might need an epilogue. Dorlin defeats the Emperor and goes on a new mission to learn the truth about his past and his connection to the rising tide of evil. Ooh, just came up with that. :-) Do you think an epilogue is appropriate?
    Oh, and I never got to enter in the 100 for 100, partly because I hadn't discovered the site back then, *frowns sadly* and also because I couldn't even if I had. Are you going to have a new one soon, after the current one is over?
    Thanks a lot for the post! :)

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    1. We usually do one in the spring as well :)

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    2. Cool, thanks! :) :)

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  3. I've only used an epilogue in one of my novels, but I love reading them! I'm strongly considering an epilogue in my current WIP.

    Regarding the critique groups--yay!! I can't wait to get started!

    This is completely off-topic, however, I thought I'd ask. I'm looking at purchasing a laptop in the near future so my writing space can be more mobile than it is at the moment. Do you have any recommendations, Mrs. Morrill? I'd appreciate any suggestions you have. Thank you!

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    1. I'm on my first laptop so I don't know how much help I can be. I have a 15-inch Dell that I really love. She's about two years old and still works great. Still has decent battery life too.

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    2. Hmm...it seems to have deleted my comment. I just said, "Thank you for your advice!" :)

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  4. I've only ever finished one book (which was less than 20,000 words and totally sucked - I knew literally nothing about writing at the time). It did not have an Epilogue, but the last chapter should actually have been an Epilogue since it was only one paragraph. :P (this website is so awesome, btw)
    I do adore reading Epilogues though.

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  5. So far, all of my published books have had epilogues (as well as prologues) but I have unpublished works that don't have them. With my series, the epilogues are a bit of a teaser for the next book, and with my standalone, it just felt natural, with the way I had written the book, to have a bit of an update at the end of them. It really depends on the book. I usually want a standalone to have an epilogue, or the last book of the series. I'm just don't want to let the book go just yet, and the epilogue is the proper good-bye.

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    1. I know what you mean, Kendra! An epilogue is a good way to give a proper goodbye. :)

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    2. What an excellent phrase, Kendra. You're right, that's exactly what a good one feels like.

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  6. I haven't used it so far, and somehow, I'm not a big fan of it. I mean: Everything is developing so fast then, that it's almost a pity for the carefully lines set up in the book. At the other hand, I can imagine that you want to know how the characters are after the story has taken place.

    And yay for the critique groups! I'm curious!

    arendedewit.blogspot.com

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    1. I really think it just depends on the book and it's pacing. I agree that it would feel out of place in some, but with other stories, they would seem incomplete if it had been left out.

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  7. I write epilogues... but I've only ever finished one story :P I find epilogues very useful when something needs to happen that couldn't be put in a chapter for certain reasons. For example, in the epilogue of my finished book I introduced characters from another place that would appear in the next book.

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    1. Interesting! I can see how that could work well for a series.

      Stephenie Meyer does something similar in Twilight. She's not totally introducing Jacob since the reader met him early on, but she highlights that he'll have a bigger role in future books by bringing him back.

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  8. Not very into epilogues but I don't mind them. Definitely worked for Deathly Hallows. I intend to have epilogues in a two book series I have since put on hiatus. But most of the time I do without.

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  9. Hi! I filled out one of the critique forms this morning and put 2-3 writers in a group. But then I thought that I won't have a lot of to keep up with a whole group because of NaNoWriMo and other book I'm writing with my friend. Using the same email, I filled out another one, the same, expect a just put one writing partner. I'm sorry for the confusion. Thank you so much for doing this! I've always wanted a program where I could find a critique partner!
    In Christ,
    Sarah

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  10. I have never done an epilogue, but for my NaNoWriMo book, I will be doing one.
    Yay!! Day 50!!! I'm LOVING the 100/4/100!!! So much fun! :) and NaNo is going great! I have a little under four thousand words, and I need to go write some lol :)

    On a side note, today Leah Good's book, Counted Worthy released!! :D you can search it on Amazon and read the back cover. It sounds like an amazing debut!

    TW Wright
    ravensandwriting.blogspot.com

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  11. I'm not always a big fan of epilogues, as sometimes it completely distorts the idea of how in my mind the future would be. (Really I'm still not over some things of the Mockingjay epiloge). But I do really like it in series when it has this little flash forward to what you can expect in the next book. That's also the only way so far how I have used epilogues myself.

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  12. My first novel had an epilogue. It was okay in theory ( a jump from after-the-climax to the MC's older sister's wedding a month or so later), but in practice it was the dumping ground for hasty resolutions to abandoned subplots, with lines of dialogues like "Say, did you know such and such is doing such and such, which will do such and such for such and such purpose? Isn't that cool?" It's almost cute to read. XD

    My NaNo novel will have an epilogue. I'll see how that goes. (At least I planned this time so I know how it ends...that should help matters.)

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  13. I do like epilogues. Same reasons as most of the people have posted. A glimpse into the life after the story. (Especially when someone just decided to get married...eeeep!) I try not to use them alllll the time though. I save them for when they seem like the perfect added touch. :)

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  14. I'm planning on doing an epilogue for the second book in a two book series, but I'll have to finish writing and see where my characters take me to be sure. It's hard to tell before the words in the page. I considered using both a prologue and an epilogue in the book I'm wrapping up now, but they didn't add much to the story.

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