Below is information about epilogues with references. I took this to my writer’s group as part of the “program” we have within our meetings. It’s really fun to research these things, bring a topic to the group (or listen to someone else’s perspective) and discuss. It’s one of the things I really like about our group.
One thing you’ll note from the examples is the (maybe) after the Harry Potter epilogue. We can take so many examples from Harry Potter, if only because we’ve all read it. The only one of the below books I had not read was Bel Canto, though someone else had. That helped. The reason I changed it from a Not Working epilogue as the site stated to a Maybe was because it did work for me. And the epilogue worked for others in different ways which we could tie to either love conquering all or a good versus evil theme or to forgiveness between Harry and Snape.
If only every discussion could be so lively!
Function of Epilogue
- To satisfy the readers’ curiosity by telling them about the fate of the characters after the climax
- To cover loose ends of the story
- To hint at a sequel or next installment of the story
How-to for an epilogue:
- Decide point of view and keep consistent with novel
- Decide where to pick up the story – next day, a few months on, decades later. Can focus on one character or a number of them.
- Plot out scenario- not every story needs more closure.
- Avoid “happily ever after” trap if it detracts from main conflict of the story.
- Consider different structure for epilogue like a speech or poem.
- Epilogue may hint at unresolved conflict or new twist for characters in future story.
- Keep it brief.
- Format as separate section.
Examples: (Does it work or not?)
Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood) – Epilogue shows a historical conference dissecting the novel’s account of events rather than showing the character’s fate. (yes)
Animal Farm (Orwell) – Epilogue shows pigs and man have evolved to not be distinguished from one another. (yes)
Bel Canto (Patchett) – After a hostage situation that goes on for months, the epilogue addresses two characters who got married after the incident and several years in the future. (no)
Harry Potter (Rowling) – 4100 pages of good versus evil or is it a story of love? Epilogue shows main character 19 years later with his own children (and those of his friends) going off to Hogwarts. (maybe)