The other title of this post is: Shooting Myself In The Foot because there is a distinct possibility that one day I will write an epilogue. And, to be honest, I don’t necessarily hate all epilogues, just most of them.
Confused yet? Let me explain. As a writer and as a reader I hate stories where every single loose end is tied up neatly at the end of the story. As a reader epilogues kill my curiosity and leave me feeling bored. As a writer, I want the option to write more stories with that world and those characters.
Epilogues are used to tie up loose ends. But most writers go overboard and tie up loose ends that readers didn’t know existed. These epilogues leave nothing to the imagination. They’re the difference between someone who is naked and someone who is covered up to their neck in a blanket. The person who is naked leaves nothing to the imagination but the person under the blanket could be naked, clothed, amputated, tattooed, you name it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all epilogues are full of boring information that I couldn’t care less about. In fact, some are even well done but they are the exception not the rule. If you think you’ve written an epilogue that is the exception, please read the following paragraphs and take notes.
I hate epilogues that focus on completely different characters than the main story. These types of epilogues very rarely mention the main characters in any way. As a reader, I care about the main characters not the characters that I’ve never read about.
Another type of epilogue I hate is the one that focuses on how the characters lived happily ever after. I honestly do not care how many children Bob had after defeating the corrupted emperor. Perfection and happily ever after are boring when written down.
But not all epilogues are boring. Some epilogues are full of action and adventure. These epilogues are usually the length of at least one chapter. They don’t necessarily tie up loose ends but rather continue on a different story arc. In my opinion, these epilogues should be their own story rather than an add on of another story. Epilogues shouldn’t have their own plot line and shouldn’t be more than a few pages at most.
You’re probably thinking that I’m going through a lot of things epilogues shouldn’t be. So, I’ll write a bit about what epilogues should be.
An epilogue should be the equivalent of a hot bath after a long day of work. The reader should have gone through so many emotions in reading the main story that the epilogue gives them a chance to think about what they read.
If your story world was destroyed or changed, then use the epilogue to give a brief glimpse of the future. And I do mean brief. Dedicate 75 words to telling the reader about the new government. Use 50 words to tell the reader what role your main character has. Add another 50 words about how the story just read is being taught in this future world and there you have your epilogue.
The readers should always be left asking question and wanting more. There should always be something that you can write about. If the story itself is finished, then leave the reader questioning the future of the characters. If your characters had to die to complete the story, then readers should wonder about the world.
With every loose end tied up, a little bit of curiosity is killed. With every extra, boring detail some of that sense of wonderment vanishes. And, lets face it, wonderment and curiosity are the two things that keep readers reading and writers writing.
So, that is why I hate epilogues. Not because they have no purpose, but rather that they kill my curiosity and destroy my sense of wonder.
What is your take on epilogues? Do you love them or hate them? Is there a type of epilogue you believe can do no wrong? Let me know.