Hello, readers! I had a great holiday season. Thanks for not asking. ;) In all seriousness, I feel pretty good and am ready for a new year with our blog posts. So here we go.
Epilogues: love them or hate them. Simple, right? I don’t think so. Most people, if asked, would probably reply with something that had a “but…” attached to it. Well in my experience, I’ve realized that epilogues have a tough job. They sit at the very end of a book, at which point a reader is often feeling some sort of extreme emotion. And they have to do a few things (ideally). That’s hard. So maybe we should give epilogues and writers who choose to add them a little slack. More likely than not, they’ve got some purpose. Even if it’s teeny tiny and you don’t understand it.
Okay, so here are two basic goals of an epilogue:
1) Foreshadow events, or add indefinite mystery, in a brief extension of the conclusion. (Essentially stands as a stepping stone between a book 1 and a book 2. But if there won’t be a sequel, it can help to make the reader guess what happens next.)
2) Wrap up an entire series; highlight important lessons or central ideas and characters for the last time. (Arguably a writer’s last chance to address the reader in a meaningful way; applies especially to multiple-book series.)
So the question is: how does one write an epilogue? What makes it effective? Boring? Weird? I suppose the effectiveness of an epilogue, as are many things in the world of literature, is a matter of perspective and personal experiences that influence such perspective. What may seem like a good epilogue to one person could be seen as a total failure by another.
It’s important to keep in mind that when writing a story, you can never truly please everyone. So don’t try. Write what you love, what works for your characters and world. Encourage people to give their feedback, but don’t give them all the control. The writer is, after all, the master of its pen, is it not?
A few things to look for (or consider writing) in an epilogue are as follows: important information or event(s), absence of an old character or presence of a new one, passage of time, new setting…and I think I’ll stop there. An epilogue is usually quite short, maybe a chapter or less, depending. So if the climax has happened, the falling action and finally some kind of conclusion…as a writer, I might want to tease the reader with a peek at a new character. Say, a short conversation or some other encounter. But make it exciting, suspenseful, even a little bizarre. If it’s too boring or slow, then the reader might wonder why the epilogue is there in the first place.
If characters A and B fell in love, slayed a dragon and then went to a new city, we don’t need to know in an epilogue that they ate dinner and bought a blanket. That's neither thrilling nor does it tell us much about what might happen in the future. Show us rather, that their new lodging was set on fire or that they became separated by a rough crowd. See a difference? Or if it's the end of a series, of a fourth book perhaps, include something bittersweet. A reflection on everything that happened over the course of the series, but still a hope for the future.