Posted in On Writing, Writing Rants

Why I Hate Epilogues

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.

and there were no more conflicts and no more stories.
and there were no more conflicts and no more stories.

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.

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Author:

The AP Roberts is an extremely rare creature and there is only one known AP Roberts in the world. Usually off in its own little world, the AP returns to reality when it gets lonely. This elusive creature is rather difficult to catch on film, however will pose for drawings. The AP, though wild by nature, can be tamed and makes a wonderful pet. It should also be known that while the AP gets along with most creatures it has an intense fear of insects and large canines. The AP lives on a diet of mainly vegetables and candy but is not known to refuse food that is made and offered through kindness. The drink of choice for the AP is tea though it is known to drink water and juice. There is still much to be learned of the AP however, most agree that the writings of the AP are truly something to behold. Hopefully, one day the AP will find a good Agent creature who will introduce the AP's writings to a good publisher creature and the world will be able to read the AP's works.

9 thoughts on “Why I Hate Epilogues

  1. I’ve never written an epilogue before, but I’ve never written anything so epic that it especially needed one, either. I like to end my stories with a few questions unanswered for the reader to think about on their own.

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    1. I’ve read a few shorter stories (under 10,000 words) that had epilogues. So I’m sure if you really wanted one, you could have one. Of course, that may require answering those reader questions.

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  2. Never written one in any of my NaNos, on account of hitting the 50K mark and then running out of steam every stupid year, but with each attempt I’ve always had an epilogue in mind, not to wrap up every single loose end I could see coming, but just ones I couldn’t see any merit in leaving open.

    I’m pretty sure I could do a whopping great truckload of wrong with an epilogue, though. I’ve grown up with TV and pre-PS2 era gaming more than I have a good book. For the most part, I’ve taken in media with endings that are almost always happy and bereft of any amiguity (“Good job, you saved the princess, now get hitched already and make babies before the inevitable sequel!”). Miserable endings tend make me cranky or give me the creeps, especially ones that occur despite the hero’s best efforts, and that’s bound to have an effect on what I write. I find difficulty in putting even the slightest dampener on a victory. 😐

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    1. That’s a good point. I suppose that most epilogues are due to the writer wanting a happy ending. And it does make sense that part of that is caused by all the media that has perfect, happy endings.

      I completely understand about NaNo. The same thing happens to me. So much effort goes into the 50k that you have nothing left in you after you reach it.

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  3. I am not sure what I think of them to be honest, It has been a while since I’ve read a book and I cannot even remember if there was an epilogue in the last one that I read. So ill go with the neatly non committed option of “it depends” 🙂

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    1. Ah, the non-committal response. I can appreciate that.

      I’ve found that it is mainly online stories that have epilogues. Published books usually don’t have epilogues unless it is at the end of a series.

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      1. If memory serves some Tom Clancy books I read in the past had epilogues with other characters, if i recall I enjoyed them, but I am talking years ago.

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        1. I’ve never read any Tom Clancy so you may be right. Which is funny because I’m not at home and as I say I’ve never read Tom Clancy, I notice one of his books on the shelf.

          At over 1000 pages, it could probably pull off a well written epilogue but there is not one in this book. Yes I did pick it up and look.

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          1. :), let me have a look now they are a few foot from me….

            hmmm I must have been mistaken, in the 4 or 5 books I looked at no epilogue, I know it was a military story, must have been from someone else.

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