A well-known writer and editor I sometimes have the opportunity to visit with challenged me on my view of epilogues.  Her recent novel takes place during the Holocaust.  The characters go through horrific, soul-wrenching experiences.  She ended the story where it was appropriate for the narrative but felt it left the reader drained and in a dark place.  She decided to use an epilogue to show the surviving characters years later, scarred but dealing with the world.  Without negating what came before it, it gave the reader permission to take a cleansing breath.

I agree with her decision.  An epilogue should be a firm hand that helps you shakily climb off the roller coaster.  It is satisfying when it 1) continues a theme from the story, 2) gives a much-needed emotional release, and/or 3) provides information that adds to an understanding of the characters and the narrative.  It should always be for the reader and not the writer.

Hmm, or should it?  One more post on this topic, then I’ll move on to something else.

Next:  Nineteen years later

Next Novel Epilogue

There are two versions of the Next Novel Epilogue.  One is a set up for a sequel that will be written (or might already be finished).  I don’t mind these because they help you decide if you want to read more about those characters and that world.

The second version is annoying.  Having already written a complete novel, the writer has an idea for a sequel but 1) knows it is a snack and not a meal, or 2) doesn’t have the time and energy to devote to it.  Instead of stashing away the brief notes for another day, the writer turns them into an epilogue.  Having already experienced the crashing storm of the novel’s concluding chapters, the reader is now caught in the drizzle of an unsatisfying outline of the characters’ next adventure.

Coming up: Epilogues That Satisfy