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?