The evil epilogue.

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?

 

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6 thoughts on “The evil epilogue.

  1. I guess it depends in the epilogue. I read them because I have a burning need to read everything that has been written for the book, but like you, I don’t need to know if they are happily married with a bazillion kids. I don’t feel that married and kids are the only way to have a happily ever after. 🙂
    Now I do write epilogues myself, but they don’t have anything do to with the couple. I like to add a little more information regarding other characters. As you said, tension for the next book. I keep el them short though, only half a page so no one feels like they’ve wasted their time reading it.

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    • Thanks for your comment, Veronica. Everyone has their own methods. My issue is the useless info tacked on at the end. As you said, short and sweet is best. 🙂

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  2. I agree to an extant. Have red a couple that were good . However there re a few authors I have noticed who do drag the ending out so I usually just skim through it .

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    • Yes, I do hate an ending that drags on forever. I always think, “Make your point and be done with it.” LOL Thanks for commenting, Fran.

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  3. I don’t mind them usually. If I’ve liked the book up to that point, I’m usually happy to have just a little more time with the characters before it’s all done (assuming it’s not a series that I’ll see them again anyway most likely). I like when they aren’t really essential to the story, but do serve to tie off a few remaining loose ends. Not major ones, just little ones that it wouldn’t really matter if they were left loose but it’s still nice to see all the details attended to sometimes. I also find them interesting when they serve to help set the scene for the next book in a series – add a new loose thread to the weave as it were, but a more major one that will pull you into the next book. I’d agree there’s an art to them however they’re used though, and some do end up feeling like it’s just dragging things out unnecessarily.

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    • Thanks Michelle. Loose ends are always nice to tie up, as you say. For some reason, the ones I read recently were all about adding the unncecessary detail. After reading a couple, I felt the need to rant. LOL.

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