I was following a comment thread on a blog post on Dear Author this weekend when someone entered the conversation and noted that they think epilogues are “literary lazy”. I thought this was an interesting viewpoint. I’ve seen past conversations focused on epilogues, and I’m fascinated by the number of people who actively dislike them (prologues are another story and I’ll be asking you about those next week!). I’m not sure what might lead someone to think of an epilogue as “literary lazy”. Maybe the belief that the story should be done in the main story, not have something tacked on?
For myself, if I enjoy a book, I sometimes enjoy seeing an epilogue of the characters months or years into the future, to get a glimpse of their ongoing relationship. I know many people hate the “baby” epilogues that are sometimes common in romances. Those epilogues that show the hero and heroine with their requisite 2.5 children, picnicking on the lawn and glowing happily. I admit, I don’t hate those but I don’t particularly find them necessary either, unless there’s some major callback to the main story.
The one epilogue I’m not a fan of, and don’t really understand, is the one that’s…not actually an epilogue at all. I read a book in the past year, where the main conflict did not get resolved in the main chapters. Instead, what I would consider the last chapter of the story, where all of the plot threads, and conflict, and HEA are resolved was titled “epilogue”. I admit, that bothered me (clearly, if I’m still thinking about it a year later). The definition of an epilogue is “an extra part ended at the end of a novel…” and I can’t conceive of a story where the entire resolution is thought of as an “extra part”
I’m also not a fan of epilogues that set up a cliffhanger. You’ve gotten your story resolution, though you know there may be plot threads unresolved for future books in a series, and then comes the epilogue and suddenly…the author kills off a main character without warning or otherwise creates what is a cliffhanger situation. To me, that feels a bit like reader manipulation rather than depending on the quality of storytelling to compel readers to continue reading the series/future books.
But still, despite my dislike of certain epilogue scenarios, I don’t hate epilogues as a general rule, and as I said a few paragraphs up, sometimes I enjoy the opportunity to see what’s happening in the characters’ future (I’m also a fan of series that usually switch protagonists from book to book revisiting the original main couple/protagonists and using them again as the main protagonists in a later book)
So you tell us…love them, hate them or indifferent? How do you feel about epilogues? Are there certain ones you love and certain kinds you hate?
(and next Monday, yes, we’ll talk about prologues!)