For some writers, the end of their story isn't the last chapter. Instead, the curtain falls with an epilogue.
Epilogues are a bonus final look at your characters. You might give readers a glimpse into what the future holds for them, a chance to reflect on the themes and experiences throughout the story, or even just tie up any lingering loose ends.
As with including a prologue at the beginning of your book, there are a few pros and cons that come with epilogues.
Pro - A Neat And Tidy Bow
Among the more popular reasons authors may include an epilogue is the opportunity to tie up any loose ends.
While most if not all of your story's biggest questions should be answered by the last page, there is always the possibility of outliers that cannot be covered during the conclusion.
Epilogues let you tie everything up with a pretty little bow. It's a chance to go over the minor subplots needing additional closure and details readers might need in order to feel satisfied.
Con - The Chopping Block
As discussed in the post on the pros and cons of prologues, one of the reasons you may not want to include an epilogue in your story is the space they can take up.
Although it might be nice to feature a scene about your love interests on their honeymoon in Greece, it probably wouldn't have the same contribution to the story as any found within the main plot.
Because of this, epilogues tend to find themselves on the chopping block when it's time for a writer to trim their wordcount.
Pro - Where Are They Now?
Epilogues are something you'll find in each of my historical romances, and one of my primary reasons for this is the "where are they now?" aspect.
I take the fast-forward approach and give readers a glimpse into my protagonists' life together down the road, but slow things down with a simple, everyday moment. This can be anywhere from a few months or even years after the final chapter.
In a romance novel, the last chapter may see the love interests getting engaged or married. Although that does signify the end of that part of their story, it's really only the beginning, one of the first steps towards forever.
An epilogue lets readers see what Happily Ever After looks like for them after "I Do."
This aspect of epilogues doesn't just apply to the love interests at the center of my romances, but secondary characters. It's simply a brief mention, but it offers additional closure and wraps up subplots they and the protagonists are connected to that may not be addressed within the main conclusion.
Con - Doing Away With Ambiguity
Some readers love being able to see what the future holds for the characters of your story, especially if it's the final installment of a series they've been following for a long time.
Others, though, might feel the epilogue is too set-in-stone. Even though the reader is not holding the pen or in charge of the character's fates, they might entertain themselves with imagining what comes next while awaiting the next installment. It's why many readers prefer a little ambiguity in their endings.
Epilogues typically come with a sense of finality to them.
As such, they can feel limiting to readers who like to come up with their own version of what the future holds.
Pro - Looking Ahead
The epilogue signifies the end of things, but it can also be the start of something new.
This is something you'll see happen fairly often in genres like romance, where the epilogue might introduce or allude to the next book in the series.
It's common for romance series to follow a group of siblings or friends, with each person getting their turn as the protagonist while being a secondary character for the rest. Here, the epilogue of the novel following Joe's story might show Harry flirting with one of the bridesmaids at Joe's wedding, and then the next book might be about Harry and this bridesmaid's relationship.
Even though epilogues are very much the falling of the curtain, they can also be used to set a new stage.
Epilogues can be a fun bit of bonus content for readers and offer additional closure for your story and its characters, wrapping up all those lingering loose ends with the potential to introduce a hint at the future. But they can also be unnecessary extensions.
With these pros and cons in mind, how do you decide if writing an epilogue for your WIP is the right move for you?
We'll be diving into that in next week's post.