Sunday, September 8, 2013

Epilogues: Epi-log Off Already!

I'm not actually opposed to epilogues; I really just wanted to use that title. But I do know that there are a lot of people who cringe whenever they see an epilogue lurking in the back of a book, reading to spin the plot out s little bit longer, which is usually the last thing a book needs.

Knowing where to end a book is a beautiful talent that so many authors have. Sometimes it's nice to end things at the point where the main conflict is resolved, but not every tiny thread is all tied up. A place that will make you continue to think and wonder about these characters and the world you've left behind, but that still satisfies you emotionally. There are books where we only get treated to a small portion of a character's life, and that's all we need or want.

But I recently read a book (that I loved, by the way) that could have used an epilogue. Just a tiny baby one that lets me know what happens. Just a little one that shows me the main couple finally being coupley after four hundred pages of waiting for them to get it on.

Apparently never, Phoebe. Apparently, because it's implied, we're not going to be treated to some voyeurism while we watch our ship make out. Because sometimes authors end books (*cough cough Requiem*) WAY too prematurely, and you're left without really knowing what happens to the characters or the world you've been swiftly kicked out of. I like a gentle, loving exit from a fictional world, a fond farewell, a slow and tender handheld walk to the door (particularly in a series, in which I have invested ENORMOUS amounts of energy). I do not like it when a cane comes out from stage right and hooks me off before I'm ready (mixed metaphors FTW).

There's a word for those events that occur after a climax: denouement. According to Wikipedia, a denouement...

"comprises events from the end of the falling action to the actual ending scene of the drama or narrative. Conflicts are resolved, creating normality for the characters and a sense of catharsis, or release of tension and anxiety, for the reader."

If you don't get that sense of catharsis from the plot itself... well, I'd recommend the author write a bit more stuff in the denouement, actually, and avoid an epilogue entirely, but if they're opposed, they should throw in a quick epilogue that does give you that sense of release. Do whatever it takes to give your readers that release and sense of resolve.

Sometimes, though, epilogues are over-kill.

I'm divided on the most famous of YA epilogues, and the one you're probably all thinking of: the one at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, with its nineteen year jump and unparallelled schmaltziness. Was it oozing in saccharine? Yes. Was it technically necessary? Well, no. The plot was most assuredly resolved in the preceding chapters. Did I actually like it? I did. Don't tell. When I spend a decade of my life obsessing over a world as dense as HP, I feel I've earned a little canon fan-fiction, and J.K. was kind of enough to give me the answers.

But Harry Potter was basically the only series I'd allow that from. Most books that toss on lengthy epilogues (Twilight, to name one) do so after the denoument and catharsis and all that. The tension is completely gone, so there's no reason to continue reading. We read to find out endings, to release tension, and let go. Once we've let go, we don't want to book to cling to us. It's deadly to have a great ending and then just... not... end...

 They should just stop, already.

No, seriously, book. It's time to go. We've eaten all the dessert. Drunk all the tea and coffee. It's getting late. The dinner party is over. Go home. No, stop talking, please, the story is OVER. Stop. STO--

So what do you think about epilogues? Fanfiction for authors, or a treat for readers? Which epilogues have you loved or hated?


  1. If an epilogue is done well, then yes I like them, but if it's not done well, like it's been tacked on as an afterthought,then no I don't need it. I still get emotional reading the Epilogue for HP7, but I am so relieved that JKR gave it to us.

    I just finished a book with an epilogue and although I didn't mention it in the review, I think the book would have been just fine without it. Leaving threads open and not tied up in a little bow is just fine.

  2. I love a good epilogue. If it's written beautifully, you know? It has the ability to make you happy.

    Though I've noticed that most epilogues are littered with cliches. Sometimes it works, HP being an example. And PERFECT CHEMISTRY is another one. The young adult cheesy romance lover buried deep within me before my reviewing days squeed at the epilogue. And now they're pretty much inescapable in regards to Simone Elkeles. She puts them at the end of all her books, promising a happily ever after. Once was enough. Not every book in that trilogy. And then her new upcoming trilogy. Just stawp!

  3. I appreciate epilogues if they have something new to contribute to the story/highlight the development of the characters. They don't have to be necessary to tie up loose ends, but they do need to serve a purpose of some sort.

    Interestingly, one of my favourite romance authors, Julia Quinn, wrote an entire book of second epilogues to her Bridgerton Family novels. For some, they were necessary; others seemed like they were rushed and forced just to fit the theme. It's a good example of how well and how badly the epilogue can work for certain stories.

  4. I generally really like epilogues. I love getting the extra information about what's happening to the characters. My two favourites are definitely the HP epilogue and the Clockwork Princess epilogue. I needed both of those because I HAD to know more about these characters and what their lives had been like after all those years.
    Requiem NEEDED an epilogue! I felt so lost after finishing that one. I hate that we don't know what happened to the characters or how the romance-y stuff turned out! I would have loved to find out what happened to their world a few years after the ending.

    I can't remember if I've ever read any epilogues I've hated. I'll probably remember a few later.

  5. Epilogues can be interesting and complete a story, but some authors just don't know when to use them or when to stay away from them. I really liked the one from HP. It was cheesy and not necessarily, but it made me smile and happy <3


  6. When done right, I love them. Like you mentioned, I love when an epilogue is there and I can see how a couple is together after all that angst. Usually, a book ends after the people find each other and all that, but I (and I might be the only one, who knows) really like it and want to see an epilogue afterwards that show how they are together. Are they as cute as I imagined/wanted? The Hunger Games was so frustrating, but that was because of the deaths. BUT (I might be by myself) I personally loved that she added an epilogue. Without it, I never would have really known that they married (it's implied, but the epilogue lays it out for us), that they have 2 kids, how they're doing, and all that jazz. I like peeking into the future!

    Btw, what was the book that you recently read that had the great epilogue?

  7. I think the epilogue has become too overdone. I have a love/hate relationship with the HP. I agree with your thoughts overall, but wish it had maybe not been so detailed.

    So based on your recent Twitter activity, I'm thinking the book that could have used an epilogue was ACROSS A STAR SWEPT SEA? If so, I agree. I so wanted something more. I loved those two so much and we did not get nearly enough action.

  8. I don't really mind an epilogue so long as it adds something meaningful to the story. If it's there just for the sake of being there, then I can definitely do without. Like you mentioned, the HP epilogue was well done because we spent SO much time with these characters and they went through SO much, that you sort of feel like Rowling owed it to you to let you know that in the future (the end), everything did turn out okay. Same goes for The Hunger Games. It was well done and wrapped up everything so nicely. While occassionally I do enjoy being able to create my own sort of future for charcters, in series like THG & HP, I was so emotionally invested that it was nice to have that extra little bit.

  9. I honestly think that epilogues need to be viewed on a case-by-case basis. I also liked the Harry Potter epilogue - I agree with the potential criticism you pointed out, but Harry Potter is a special example, I think. JKR stated many times that she wouldn't be coming back to this world (though maybe she'll change her mind?), so if that's true then we readers who spent close to ten years waiting for the resolution wanted something a little more. So much of those books were taken over the concept of Harry's destiny and all, so it was nice to get a glimpse of a finally-normal life of his, you know?
    Other authors like Cassandra Clare don't really need epilogues, like the one at the end of Clockwork Princess, simply because she does continue with that world and so the information revealed through it may have been better utilized as hints here and there in other installments.
    I do mostly agree with what you're saying. If everything has been doom and gloom until the end, then an epilogue assuring me that things do more than hint at getting better - that things actually do get better eventually - is nice to have.

  10. It's a fine line, really. Some books NEED an epilogue. Some don't. Some don't need one and get one (*coughs* harrypotter7reallywasthatnecessary *coughs*) and some NEED one and just don't freaking get one. UGH. It's messy. A lot of times prologue and epilogues get tacked on and the epilogue goes waaaaaay past the ending (rather like your never-ending dinner party metaphor) and that ends up souring how I feel about the book.

  11. I used to read a lot of historical romance novels and it seemed like they always had epilogues, so I got used to them. Now it seems like most of the books I read don't have them, and I think I like that. Sometimes, though, I want just a little more, especially if the epilogue is set a few years into the future so that I can see how the characters' lives have turned out.

  12. Sometimes a book needs an epilogue, and sometimes it doesn't. HP7 didn't really need one... but it was nice to have. Mockingjay, on the other hand, needed the epilogue.

    It all depends on the book.

  13. I really like how you explained the difference between a book that needs an epilogue and one that doesn't! Like you, I just want to feel satisfied and like I haven't been abruptly kicked out when I finish a book :)

  14. This title is the best.

    Also, I'm not opposed to epilogues either, only to awful ones. Which should die.


    HP7 is unparalleled schmalziness this true.

    Twilight's prologues are even worse. I hate that technique of taking a couple paragraphs from the dramatic ending and pasting them at the front. NO NO NO. Lazy. Sheer laziness. WRITE SOMETHING NEW DAMMIT.

    I really like the epilogues in contemps generally. I want to find out which of my ships sailed if it's not going to have a sequel.


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