Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The End: Epilogue

I know you’ve heard the saying that the first sentence (paragraph or page) sells your first book and the last page sells the next book. That’s always in my mind when I’m writing or reading. I love finishing a great read, closing the book and sitting there in awe, thinking about the characters. Doesn’t happen too often but it does happen.

Yesterday I finished my novella. I didn’t feel the same euphoria I felt when I finished my first novel and I wondered about that. Still haven’t figured out why. When I went to bed last night, my characters were still throwing dialogue at me--as they’ve done through the entire story. They talk to me continuously. They even pointed out some problem areas that I'll fix today.

But, back to my ending. I have an epilogue. This story seemed to call for one. 

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An epilogue or epilog is a piece of writing at the end of a work of literature or drama, usually used to bring closure to the work.

An epilogue is a final chapter at the end of a story that often serves to reveal the fates of the characters. Some epilogues may feature scenes only tangentially related to the subject of the story. They can be used to hint at a sequel or wrap up all the loose ends. They can occur at a significant period of time after the main plot has ended.  

An epilogue can continue in the same narrative style and perspective as the preceding story, although the form of an epilogue can occasionally be drastically different from the overall story.  
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My epilogue takes place a few weeks after my story ends, a wrap-up, a hint of things to come, a happily ever after. I like it, but I feel some doubt. I’ve read that we shouldn’t use the epilogue as the actual end of a story, and I’m wondering if I’ve done that.

My question is: when do epilogues NOT work? Do you like them? Do they feel like a cheat to you? When are they most effective?  Give me your best advice and thoughts regarding epilogues.

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm kind of a sucker for prologues and epilogs. I don't know. they give a sense of continuation to me.

Pat Carroll Marcantel said...

Go for it, Jess. You'll know soon enough after you send it out. I prefer epilogs over prologs--don't know why. Does a prolog call for an epilog? And vice-versa?

Linda Todd said...

I have an epilog but no prolog. It just seemed like I needed something to tie up loose ends.

Michael Manning said...

I haven't read many books with a section devoted to an Epilogue--at least that's how I've seen it spelled in television series'. I like to have loose ends tied up myself.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Charles - I agree. They make me feel as though the characters are living on.

Pat - I believe years ago, I read that we shouldn't have an epilog without a prologue. Times have changed. I researched it and we can have one without the other.

Linda - If I'm not mistaken, Mary Higgins Clark wrapped up one of her books with an epilog in which she told exactly what had happened to her characters in chronological order. I remember finding it very annoying but MHC can get away with all kinds of wonderful annoying things.:)

Michael - thanks for popping in. I've seen epilogue and epilog and you're right, not too many books with sections devoted to it. Loved your site: especially 50 things about you. :)

Pauline said...

Jessica, both my narrative non fiction books (to be launched next year) have a prologue and an epilogue...they just seemed to need them. Buth I worry that people might skip the prologue! lol
www.paulineconolly.com

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Isn't it terrible that readers often do skip prologues? My daughter used to when she was younger. I told her there was valuable info in the prologue that she wouldn't get in the story itself; now she LOVES prologues and wouldn't dare skip one. :) Yay me for teaching my daughter right! LOL