Okay, so if you haven’t yet read excellent Meg’s post about prologues you should go do that at once. Go ahead. Scroll down the page a little. I’ll wait….
Fabulous isn’t it? And, if you read the comments, you’ll see I really love prologues too…didn’t read that far? Well, too late now. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Let’s continue.
The reason I mentioned Meg’s post first thing like this is because it inspired today’s post, which is all about epilogues. Unlike prologues, which I'm almost universally in favor of, my relationship with epilogues is definitely more of a love/hate thing—both as a writer and a reader.
Sure it’s neat, at times, to get a final glimpse of characters you’ve come to know and love over the course of a book or a series. It’s tempting for everyone to tie off those annoying loose ends. It’s satisfying to know that everything eventually ends up just the way you knew (or hoped) it would.
But what if it doesn’t? What if reader and writer are not in sync and the epilogue doesn’t take the reader where he or she wanted to go? A bad epilogue can absolutely ruin an otherwise good book. So isn’t it better to leave the possibilities open? Memorable characters, the kind we all want to write and we all love to read about, bring out proprietary feelings in everyone who gets to know them. Messing with that is a dangerous thing. Or it spawns fanfic—which could be a good thing.
Personally, I find fanfiction to be both liberating and empowering. In fact, my daughter lives for the day there’s an Oberon fanfic forum. She plans on appointing herself Keeper of the Canon, since she basically grew up with the series while it was being written and is one of the world's leading experts on the subject. I’ve yet to break it to her how highly unlikely I think the possibility is that there will ever be an Oberon fanfic forum, so...shhh. Let's keep that to ourselves.
But there are other reasons to write an epilogue as well. Sometimes, the end of a story leaves unanswered questions about minor characters. Sometimes, if the book is one of a series, it’s necessary to provide hints about events that will take place in upcoming books but which have little to do with the current story. That was the case when I wrote the epilogue for Visions Before Midnight (Oberon: book 7). I had no plans to write an epilogue. I liked the ending I’d crafted for the h/h and I’d purposely squared away most of the supporting characters ahead of time so I could end things the way they were “supposed” to end.
The first draft was done and already in the hands of my CPs when I remembered that, in a last minute change to the story, the villain had unexpectedly returned to the scene and abducted one of my favorite minor characters. When the book ends, readers are left with no idea what has become of her.
An epilogue was therefore required. I couldn’t slip in the grim reality before the originally scheduled ending without seriously diminishing the HEA. And, in any case, her story had very little to do with the h/h.
I’m still mixed about it—even though I’m unexpectedly fond of that very last line. I’ve posted it on my blog, if you’d like to read it, and see what you think. It can be found at:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.
So what are your feelings on epilogues? Do you like things tied up with a pretty bow? Or left to your own imagination?