What’s an Epilogue and Do I Need One?

Filed in Writing Tips by on July 1, 2021 0 Comments

If you read a lot of novels, you’ve seen that some authors will use an epilogue at the end of their books. So, how do you know if you need to include an ...

If you read a lot of novels, you’ve seen that some authors will use an epilogue at the end of their books. Not to be confused with an afterword, an epilogue is meant for fiction stories and is used to show what became of your characters at a future time. The sole purpose is to tie up loose ends from your story — or potentially set the readers up to expect a sequel.

An epilogue has to be strong if it’s going to make it through a round of professional editing. If it’s not, you may get a note back from your editor that it needs to be incorporated into the actual ending of your novel.

That’s the tricky part about epilogues — it can’t be used to hide the fact that your book’s ending is somewhat lackluster. So, how do you know if you need to include one at the end of your novel? Here are three questions to help you decide.

Do You Need an Epilogue? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

1. Are there any lingering questions readers may have about your protagonist that need to be answered after the ending?

If you need to show readers what happens to your protagonist a year or more into the future after the ending, then you should include the epilogue. This can be a useful way to answer any last questions. Did the protagonist actually get married after her boyfriend proposed? If so, maybe you flash forward to the wedding day. Did your protagonist go on to win a Medal of Honor after distinguishing himself by an act of valor at the end of your historical fiction novel? Definitely use an epilogue to share the awards ceremony.

2. Are you trying to overcompensate for a weak ending?

Making it to the end of your story is an arduous writing skill, so it’s best to focus and make your ending as strong as you possibly can. Don’t skirt by the ending just to add an epilogue on top of it. If your ending is strong enough, you’ll rarely need one.

3. Are you trying to set up for a sequel?

If your goal of the epilogue is to create a space to imply a sequel is coming, then definitely include the epilogue. Avoid using any cliffhangers in your epilogue though. Use the epilogue to develop a lead-in story arc for a new character in your next book. This will hint to readers that your next book will follow someone else.

Does your ending need a stronger finish? Try finishing your novel with tips from our editorial team.

Tags: , , , , , , ,


About the Author ()

Erika Bennett is the Content Manager for Xulon Press. She has worked in the publishing industry for more than a decade and her passion is to make sure great books find their way into readers' hands. You can also find her writing on XulonPress.Substack.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *