I’ve read a few books lately featuring epilogues. Each time, I’ve made a cringey face. I’ve seen a few prologues, too, but they don’t bother me as much. In my opinion, sometimes a prologue can be put to good use…as long as it is warranted. If you can add the action to chapter one, even better.
But epilogues are tricky characters. They leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. Why?
There is a school of thought in writing that declares epilogues unnecessary. I am in total agreement. It’s a rare occasion when I discover an epilogue that enhances the story. In fact, I tend to skim them.
Now I realize a lot of writers use them. What I would ask those writers is whether or not the reader actually needs to read them.
This is my reasoning. In romance at least, epilogues tend to be used to show the reader the couple is happy at the end of the story. I don’t need to see they are happy. I already know it. When they conquered the bad guy and their own feelings and emerged victorious, pledging their love to one another, they looked pretty happy. If a romance ends with a commitment of love, that is good enough for me.
And I’ll tell you why. I’m going to supply my own epilogue anyway!! That’s the best part of reading romance, in my opinion. When the book is over, I’m going to dream about the happy couple and their further adventures, the ones that don’t make it into print. I don’t need the author to tell me they went off and had six babies, decorated the nursery pale yellow and adopted a dog from the local animal shelter. I don’t care about all those things.
Personally, I don’t even like long, drawn-out endings to stories. I just want to know justice prevailed and to see the lovers reunited after their struggles. I don’t care about the cherry on top. I want to eat the sundae and experience the delight of the sinful ice cream and whipped cream. I don’t care about maraschino cherries. I usually give them to my husband. I hate those suckers.
But what if, as an author, you really feel a need to tell the reader what happened five years down the road? I would say if it was that important, it should have been included in the final chapter.
Some authors use epilogues to create further tension for the next book in the series. I suppose this can be effective but there is an art to doing it well. Sometimes it works and sometimes, it doesn’t. If one is writing a series, it tends to work better. However, if the story ends with book one, is an epilogue really necessary?
As for me, I guess I just like nice, tidy endings with my romances. That’s why I read romance.
What are your thoughts on the epilogue?