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To epilogue or not to epilogue?

An epilogue is a section at the end of a novel that provides closure to the story beyond the main narrative. Its purpose is to tie up loose ends, offer insight into what happens to the characters after the main events of the story, or provide a glimpse into the future.

First, let’s look at how an epilogue is different from a conclusion.
 
Epilogue: An epilogue is a section at the end of a novel that provides additional information or closure beyond the main narrative. Epilogues are separate from the main story and offer a kind of "afterword" to the conclusion.
 
Conclusion: A conclusion, on the other hand, is the final part of the main narrative that brings the story to a close. It wraps up the main plot points, resolves conflicts, and provides a sense of finality to the story. Conclusions are integral to the main story itself and are essential for giving readers a satisfying ending.
 
Okay, now, it’s important to note there is, of course, some controversy surrounding the use of an epilogue.
 
One point of contention is whether an epilogue is necessary or if it really adds value to the story. Some readers and writers argue that an epilogue can feel forced or unnecessary, detracting from the impact of the main narrative. They believe that a well-crafted ending in the main story should suffice without the need for an additional epilogue.

(For me, I have observed a couple of my clients skip the hard word of completing their story by simply tacking on an epilogue. I sense they just want to finish the book! Boy, I understand that myself. But, if the epilogue skips the opportunity to share a character's emotion, for example...and is a list of events, I encourage them to avoid falling into that easy way out and finish writing their story.)

On the other hand, some readers and writers appreciate epilogues for providing closure, tying up loose ends, or offering a glimpse into the characters' futures. They argue that when done well, an epilogue can enhance the overall reading experience and leave readers with a sense of completion.

I agree with that, too.
 
These best-selling novels below include epilogues which definitely illustrates the validly of epilogues.
 
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling
"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins
"Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
 
Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference - no surprise there!
From the readers' perspective, some enjoy epilogues as a way to neatly end a story, while others feel they can be superfluous or disrupt the flow of the main plot.
 
It's important for you as a writer to consider the purpose and impact of an epilogue in your novel to determine if it is the right choice for your story.
 
With that in mind, here are some do's and don'ts:
 
Do's:
 
Provide closure: Wrap up any loose ends in a satisfying way.

Offer insight: Give readers a peek into the characters' futures or provide additional context.

Maintain the tone: Keep the tone and style consistent with the rest of the novel.

Keep it concise: Epilogues are usually shorter than the main story, so be succinct.

Add value: Make sure the epilogue adds something meaningful to the overall story.
 
Don'ts:
 
Introduce major new plot points: The epilogue should not introduce significant new conflicts or storylines.

Leave major questions unanswered: Avoid creating new mysteries or unresolved issues in the epilogue.

Change the tone drastically: The epilogue should feel like a natural extension of the main story.

Rush the conclusion: Take the time to provide a satisfying and thoughtful ending.

Make it unnecessary: Ensure that the epilogue adds value and enhances the reader's understanding or emotional connection to the story.

An epilogue should provide a sense of closure and leave readers with a satisfying ending and a look to the future.

What do you think? To add or not to add an epilogue? Have you read a memorable epilogue? Tell us about it.

Happy writing!

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