An epilogue – the final section of a story – brings closure and ties in loose ends. It can be an essential part of a narrative, helping to connect different elements of a story and give the reader some sense of resolution. But is an epilogue needed? There are pros and cons of including an epilogue in your story, and you’ll need to consider whether it’s right for your story.
Pros of an epilogue
- Closure: An epilogue can provide closure, and resolution to a tale. This can be especially important in a longer story, where the reader has invested more time following the narrative and its characters.
- Future insight: An epilogue can give the reader a glimpse into the future, showing what happens to the characters after the main events have taken place. As well as closure, this can provide a deeper understanding of the characters and their experiences.
- Aesthetic appeal: An epilogue can be a beautiful and moving way to end a story. It can provide a sense of nostalgia and evoke emotions, helping the story and its characters be remembered long into the future.
Cons of an epilogue
- Unnecessary information: Wrongly applied an epilogue may introduce information that seems unnecessary or irrelevant to the main story. This can reduce the impact of the narrative and detract from the reader’s experience.
- Predictable: An epilogue can be predictable and formulaic, which gives a stereotypical ending to a story. This could be disappointing for readers who expect a more original and creative conclusion.
- Detachment from the main story: An epilogue can sometimes feel detached from the main story, as if it is separate and unrelated. This can be distracting and detract from the overall flow and cohesiveness of the narrative. It could appear to be a clumsy trail for a follow-on story to come.
Here are some examples of stories with well-crafted epilogues and what they add to the book:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – here the epilogue provides a glimpse into the future of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, showing how the author sees their relationship would develop.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – this epilogue gives a view of where Scout, the narrator, gets to beyond the story, this adds interest and serves as a strong conclusion.
The Handmaiden’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – includes a commentary from the far future within an epilogue which discloses the nature of the medium used in of the rest of the book. This ending brings details of enormous impact about the protagonist (no spoilers, but a great example if you are considering a high-impact closing section to your story).
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – this epilogue unites different elements of the story and gives the reader an idea of what the characters go on to do after their main adventure.
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald – here the epilogue again shows the future of the characters and allows the readers to gain a deeper understanding of the story’s themes, including wealth, love and decadence.
Whether you include an epilogue in your story depends on your narrative. It can provide closure, more information on the characters and evoke emotions in the reader, but it can also be unnecessary, predictable and detached from the main story – lots to consider. Whatever you decide about using an epilogue, a well-balanced story will have a beginning, a middle and an end.
Illustration courtesy of sketchrobin.com
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