The word epilogue is derived from the Greek epilogos, it means concluding word. An epilogue is the final say of a story. It’s like the last course after a satisfyingly delicious meal, the pièce de resistance, following the end of some novels and some works of nonfiction. It’s the opposite of the prologue, which is the first course, the appetizer that whets the readers appetite before the first chapter.
The epilogue is an extension of the main story that comes after the final chapter; a standalone piece of writing that brings closure and wraps up loose ends. The epilogue can provide a glimpse into the future, years after the story ends.
If a novel is part of a planned series, the epilogue is a cool way to clue readers in about what the future holds for the characters they’ve come to love or despise. It’s a great avenue for dropping in hints about what’s on the horizon or spicing things up with a twist so appealing it makes readers hunger for the next book.
Sometimes a book’s final chapter can feel blah, leaving much to be desired. Did you ever hit the last page of a novel, waiting for a bang-up ending, but it falls flat, like it lost its moxie? The reader needs something more, something resolute. A well-written epilogue can serve as that missing piece, the je ne sais quoi that ties everything together in a way the final chapter sometimes cannot accomplish.
When a novel is a page-turner, readers don’t want the story to end, especially if it’s the last in an incredible series. They get to know and care about the characters the author created and are curious about what happens to them.
The epilogue in J.K. Rowling’s, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is a terrific example that checks all the boxes. It offers the reader a peek into the future of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, nineteen years later. Harry marries Ginny, Ron marries Hermione, and fans of the books watch as the characters arrive at Platform 9 ¾ with their children. The Deathly Hallows epilogue also drops in hints about the fate of other characters, such as Teddy Lupin, Neville Longbottom, and Draco Malfoy. It’s a satisfying ending to the seven books in the series.
Consistency is key. Epilogues should reflect the same point of view as the story. If a book is written in first person, the epilogue must reflect that.
Keep it short and simple. Don’t ramble on and make things complicated or ambiguous. The goal is to satisfy the reader, not create confusion.
Epilogues, yay or nay-nay? An epilogue is not meant to function in lieu of a robust and fitting final chapter. It’s intended to supplement the final chapter with details connecting to the main story, or add new information that helps deliver a brilliant resolution or different perspective. My advice is, if you write a kick-ass ending that’s gratifying you probably won’t need an epilogue unless you’re using it to talk up the next in the series, but that too can be achieved with an ending that hints at what’s coming around the corner.
Comes after the final chapter
Is an extension of the story
POV is consistent with the story
Keep it clear and short
Set it in the future
Ties up loose ends
Provides a strong resolution
Sets up the next installment
Final wrap on a series