Epilogues - article

An epilogue is defined by Merriam Webster as a concluding section that rounds out the design of a literary work; in simple terms, the concluding section of a story. Some books refer to it as an “Afterword”, but the gist is the same. It’s a way to tie up loose ends, or to inform the reader of the ultimate fate of a character or characters.

But why would an author wait until the epilogue to conclude the story? Why not wrap up the story within the story itself? This makes the reading experience far more satisfactory, and speaks volumes about your talents as a writer and a storyteller.

Granted, sometimes an epilogue can be appropriate, even preferable. Those instances are rare. But when you, as an author, feel that an epilogue is necessary, there are some simple rules you should follow:

  • Keep the epilogue “short and sweet.” If it’s not worth including in the body of the story, it’s not worth a great deal of words.
  • Address smaller issues, not critical plot elements. For example, things that happen long after the story has concluded.
  • Consider using the narration style and speaking directly to the reader. 
  • Be concise, to the point. Don’t ramble. Rambling on and on is always bad, but ever so much more obvious when it’s in an epilogue.
  • Ideally, the epilogue should include something humorous or surprising. It may not have been considered worthy of including in the main body of the book, but adds to the readers’ enjoyment of the overall work.
  • If you’re planning a sequel, the epilogue can be a good way to open the readers’ eyes to this possibility. For example, if the main character of your book dies at the end of the story, the epilogue might be a good stage upon which to introduce the future protagonist.

For the most part, though, including an epilogue in your book is not recommended. The best books include the beginning, middle and end within the body of the story.

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