It's been a long journey, but you've finally finished your story. The characters have come to life on the page, and you've brought them to a satisfying conclusion. But it's not over yet – you still need to write an epilogue! This final chapter can be tricky, but it's important for tying up loose ends and giving readers closure.
In this article, we'll discuss what an epilogue is and how to write one that will give your audience a sense of closure.
What is an Epilogue?
An epilogue is a short scene or section that comes after the story's climax and resolution. It's used to show the fates of the characters after the events of the story and can be used to resolve any lingering plot threads.
The origins of the Epilogue
The word epilogue comes from the Greek word "epilogos" meaning "conclusion words". It usually arrives at the end in literary works so it is also the opposite of the prologue that usually occurs in the beginning.
In Greek poetry, the epilogue was often sung by the chorus as a way to finish the story. In later works, such as Shakespeare's plays, the epilogue was spoken by one of the characters on stage.
Nowadays, an epilogue is simply the final scene or final scenes of the main narrative that helps to wrap things up. It can be used to answer questions that were left unanswered or to give readers a glimpse into the future of the story and its main characters.
Why Write an Epilogue?
Epilogues can take many different forms, but they all have one thing in common: they provide closure for the reader.
An epilogue serves to:
- Resolve any loose plot threads
- Give readers a glimpse into the future of the story and its characters
- Answer questions that were left unanswered during the course of the story
While an epilogue is not required, it can be a useful tool for tying up loose ends and providing closure for your reader.
What's the difference between Epilogue and Afterword?
An epilogue is a short scene or section that comes after the climax and resolution of the story, while an afterword is a brief summary or commentary at the end of a book.
An epilogue can be used to show what happened to the characters after the events of the story, and can be used to resolve any lingering plot threads. An afterword is typically written by the author and gives insight into their thoughts on the book, its themes, and its reception.
How to Write an Epilogue
Now that we know what an epilogue is and why you might want to write one, let's take a look at how to go about it. Here are seven tips on how to write an epilogue that will leave your readers satisfied:
1. Decide if you need an epilogue
Not every story needs one, so ask yourself if there's anything left unresolved that could be addressed in a final chapter. If not, you might be better off ending your story without an epilogue.
Remember that an epilogue is not a necessary component of every story – only include one if it serves a purpose.
2. Keep it short
An epilogue should be brief - think of it as a coda to the story, not a new beginning.
If you find yourself writing more than a few pages, it might be better to save it for a sequel or spin-off.
3. Don't introduce new plotlines
An epilogue is not the time to start introducing new characters or subplots. Stick to wrapping up loose ends from the main story.
If you have ideas for new stories, save them for another time. Keep the focus on resolving the existing plot threads so that your readers can have closure.
4. Give readers closure.
An epilogue is all about providing closure for your reader, so make sure that's what you're doing. Answer any lingering questions, resolve any plot threads, and give us a glimpse into the future of your characters.
Don't leave us hanging!
A good epilogue ties all the loose ends and gives your audience the satisfaction of a well-told story.
5. Keep the same tone and style.
An epilogue should match the tone and style of the rest of your story. If your story is lighthearted, don't suddenly introduce dark themes in the epilogue.
And if you've been using first-person point of view throughout the story, don't switch to third-person in the epilogue.
Consistency is key.
6. Don't make it too sugary-sweet.
An epilogue should have a sense of closure, but that doesn't mean it has to be saccharine-sweet. Not every character needs to ride off into the sunset, and not every loose end needs to be neatly tied up.
A little bit of ambiguity can actually be a good thing. It allows readers to use their imaginations and come up with their own endings.
7. Think carefully about the last sentence or conclusion word
The last sentence of your epilogue is important. It's your chance to leave a lasting impression on the reader, so make it count.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid using clichés, such as "happily ever after." Instead, opt for something more original that encapsulates the themes of your story.
Examples of Epilogues
Here are some famous epilogue examples and how they are used to wrap up their stories and add closure.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The epilogue to the last Harry Potter book takes place 19 years after the story's climax. In it, we see Harry, Ron, and Hermione all grown up and sending their own children off to Hogwarts.
The epilogue is used to give us a glimpse into the future of the characters and to resolve any lingering plot threads. For example, we learn that Ron and Hermione are married with two children, Draco and Harry's relationship is not great but amicable, and Harry's scar has not affected him after all that time. We also learn how where many of the secondary characters end up career-wise.
The story ends at the same place where Harry first became a part of the wizarding world and is a nice bookend to the Harry Potter series.
Final words: "The scar had not pained Harry for 19 years. All was well."
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
The epilogue to The Hunger Games is used to show what happened to the characters after the events of the story. We learn that Katniss and Peeta are married with two children, that Gale has moved away, and that Haymitch is still working as a mentor.
We learn that the Hunger Games have been abolished and that Katniss's emotional scars from the trauma of the story still linger.
Final words: "There are much worse games to play."
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The epilogue to The Return of the King takes place years after the climax of the story. In it, we see Frodo, Gandalf, Bilbo, and the elves take a ship from the Grey Havens into the Undying Lands.
The epilogue gives us a sense of closure as this is the last goodbye of the four hobbits and Frodo gives Sam the Red Book to continue the story even after it's over. After years of the war being over, the hobbits finally feel they can move on.
Final words: "He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said."
An epilogue can be a great way to add closure to your story and give readers a glimpse into the future of your characters. Just remember to keep it consistent with the tone and style of your story, don't make it too sugary-sweet, and don't try to resolve every plot thread.