Six Reasons For Using An Epilogue

Author:
Publish date:

You need a clear reason for writing an epilogue, and it cannot be used to simply tie up loose ends, which you should do during your falling action. Without a proper purpose for including one, an epilogue might come across as anti-climatic deadweight, inadvertently signaling to your reader that you’re afraid your ending is so weak that he won’t be able extrapolate meaning from it without help. To avoid such potential problems, make sure your epilogue is enhancing your story in one or more of the following ways.

elements of fiction | between the lines
  • Wrapping up story events after a traumatic or violent climax. This is an especially important technique when the ending is abrupt or surprising, as when a major character dies, or when the fate of the characters is not clearly depicted. If your ending raises more questions than it answers, you will need to rewrite it or create an epilogue to resolve this problem.
  • Highlighting consequences and results of story events. Perhaps you’ve written a comeuppance story, or the ending features a major revelation. The epilogue will serve to assure the reader that justice has been dispensed.
  • Providing important information that wasn’t covered in the climax or denouement. If a character was ailing in the story, you might want to explain his fate. Or, if a character becomes pregnant, the epilogue can explain the birth of the child. This can work especially well if the father dies or the child has special significance to the story.
  • Suggesting the future for the protagonist and other characters. This is an important consideration in series fiction or if you’re planning a sequel. An epilogue might also be appropriate if a character undergoes severe physical, emotional, or psychological trauma, to assure the readers of his full or partial recovery.
  • Making the story seem realistic. For example, if you’ve killed off a character, the epilogue can be written by another character to explain how things went down. Or, if you’re writing a story and the ending was literally explosive, the epilogue assures readers that the protagonist has survived.
  • Providing data on your large cast of characters, especially if you’ve written a sweeping historical or epic. Often, with a large cast, it’s difficult to suggest the fate of every character. In Vanity Fair, William Thackeray wrote an epilogue titled “Which Contains Births, Marriages, and Deaths.” While this may seem old-fashioned to some readers, in a highly complex novel you can sometimes justify following the cast into the future.

Buy Between the Lines now & learn more about writing fiction!

Writer's Digest March/April 2021 Cover featuring Carmen Maria Machado

Writer's Digest March/April 2021 Issue Reveal

The March/April 2021 issue of Writer's Digest is showing up in mailboxes and will soon be available at retailers. Get a sneak peek of the new columns we're introducing with the expanded page count!

How to Co-Author a Book: Building Continuity and Avoiding Pitfalls

How to Co-Author a Book: Building Continuity and Avoiding Pitfalls

Co-authors Simon Turney and Gordon Doherty share their top 5 tips for collaborating with another author on a project.

Bonnie Marcus: On Being Vulnerable in Nonfiction

Bonnie Marcus: On Being Vulnerable in Nonfiction

Award-winning entrepreneur and executive coach Bonnie Marcus shares what it was like to write her prescriptive nonfiction book Not Done Yet.

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes and Dialogue

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes and Dialogue

In this article, author and trained fighter Carla Hoch answers a writer's question about how to handle dialogue during a fight scene, including pros and cons to having dialogue at all.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Trying to Write for Everyone

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Trying to Write for Everyone

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is trying to write for everyone.

Poetic Forms

Ekprhasis (or Ekphrastic Poetry): Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at ekphrasis (or ekphrastic poetry) and the art of writing poems about other pieces of art.

5 Tips for Evoking Emotion in Writing

5 Tips for Evoking Emotion in Writing

Bestselling author Rebecca Yarros coaches writers on how to create believable emotion in this article.

40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers: Writing Ideas for Bending Your Stories in New Directions, by Robert Lee Brewer

Announcing 40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers!

Learn more about 40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers: Writing Ideas for Bending Stories in New Directions, by Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer. Discover fun and interesting ways to move your stories from beginning to end.

The Story That Drove Me to Write

The Story That Drove Me to Write

Award-winning author Stephanie Kane shares the book that launched her career and provides insights for how you can pursue your story.