Tips for Writing a Good Epilogue
Not all writers use Epilogues, but many do.
Effectively written ones can certainly satisfy the reader and tie up your story.
On the same note, a poorly written one can have the opposite effect.
So should you write an Epilogue?
Today we’ll dive into what is an Epilogue, when to add one, and how to write a good one.
While a Prologue comes at the beginning of your novel, and Epilogue is at the end. It”s the “concluding word” of your novel and it offers a complete resolution.
Most often, the Epilogue is set in the future. It is like a “where are they now” glimpse of your primary characters.
But how can you know if your novel needs one?
Many editors state that stories with powerful endings don’t need an Epilogue.
Still, an Epilogue can be a good thing when done right. Under some circumstances, the Epilogue will complete your story and delivery ultimate satisfaction to the reader.
Examples of Famous Epilogues
Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)
Orwell tells readers about the Manor Farm many years in the future. He reveals the fate of the characters from the revolution. One of the most famous lines from this Epilogue is “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (2007)
J.K. Rowling created one of the most popular modern Epilogues in this novel. She delivers the satisfaction readers have been stretching through the series for. The scene is set 19 years in the future, where readers get to see adult life for Harry Potter and his adult life. Many readers found the Epilogue highly rewarding, as it offered reassurance and a positive wrap-up
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
The Epilogue from this book is set 200 years in the future. In it, a historian found Offred’s story through a collection of oral tapes. He transcribed them into “The Handmaid’s Tale” and suggests he is not sure of the validity of the story. This is a bomb for invested readers who became invested in the story. Some complained about the ending, but the author argues that it reflects how peoples’ stories may be erased from the official record.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Colling (2009)
The Epilogue for this story tells readers about how Katniss, the heroine of the novel, is doing. It is years in the future when Katniss has her own children. This part reveals that the experience has been trying and Katniss is struggling to cope and pass her legacy.
Epilogue vs Afterword
Some people confuse the Afterword and Epilogue, but they are not the same.
The Afterword is about how your novel came to fruition. It often promotes the author and other books.
The Epilogue ties up loose ends and provides an ultimate ending.
The purpose is key for an Epilogue.
You either want to show the reader where your main character ended up after the story, or it should pave the way for a future novel/series.
However, the Epilogue should not restate your theme or emphasize the moral of the story. That must have been accomplished via the story itself.
Additionally, readers should leave the Epilogue satisfied. They should not be confused as to what happened or what is going on.
To recap, the Epilogue should not:
- Leave the reader confused.
- Create a frustrating cliffhanger.
- Follow a weak ending.
- Be too extensive.
Should You Use an Epilogue?
Opinions vary, but the overarching answer is that you should not force an Epilogue. If you said it all in your ending, then leave it that way. Carefully evaluate the purpose and pros and cons of an Epilogue for your story before writing one.
Steps for Writing an Epilogue
Now it’s time to dive into the nitty-gritty of writing an Epilogue. Here are some simple steps to follow:
The Epilogue should be set in the future. Let some time pass between the end of your story. The amount of time depends on your particular story. For example, it could be as short as a few days or weeks, or as far as a hundred years in the future. The main key is that your readers find out what happened to the main characters.
Set Up a Sequel
If you plan to write a future narrative, set it up here. Reveal only enough information to hint that more is coming.
Tell About Your Hero
Reader’s want to know about your protagonist. Reveal what happened to him in the future.
Reveal New Information
Add a new perspective to your story. By revealing new perspectives, you can shed light on your climax. This can deepen the conclusion and get readers to think about it again.
How long should the Epilogue be?
This depends on what you have to say. The length will vary, but keep it short and concise. Don’t drag it out or overshare.
How can I start an Epilogue?
Start in the future. Think about what became of your main characters. Answer any lingering questions the reader may have.
Do I need an Epilogue?
Your novel should not need an Epilogue to be complete, still, some may benefit from it.
Now time for the ultimate question. Should you write an Epilogue?
The truth is that most books don’t need an Epilogue.
If your novel has a strong ending, then it should not need one. However, it can help in some situations.
The beauty is that you as an author can decide. Each novel and story is different. Use your best judgment to determine the right decision for your novel.
If you need more guidance or writing tips, check out our blog.
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