Posted in NaNoWriMo, Story Structure, Writing

How To Determine If Your Novel Needs An Epilogue [NaNoWriMo 2017]

Epilogues can be just as tricky as prologues can be. Why? Because you may not always need one.

Epilogues are used as an afterthought. They’re used to show the readers what happened to the characters after the big showdown and everything is resolved.

So, do you need one?

Epilogues in novels

Do you have something new to say?

If there isn’t anything left to the story, but there’s some room for a little aftermath, you can get away with an epilogue. Sometimes it’s nice to show off what happens to the characters after the main event of the story. Of course, it can also work so that readers infer what happens after themselves, but if it’s important and you feel it’s a canon thing that needs to be said, go for it.

For example, show the “happily ever after” of your characters or explain what happened to the world.

Set up the sequel.

If your novel has the potential to have books come after it and you plan on doing more, feel free to set up a cliff-hanger or set up a small plot point so that your readers can tell that a sequel will be coming.

Should there be a twist?

Yes and no. If there is going to be a sequel, you can get away with throwing in a small twist to get your characters thinking.

However, you need to stay true to everything that happened in the novel before. Don’t change any characters or major events that happened. That will only frustrate your readers.

Do you need an epilogue if you have a prologue?

No. While they sound like they go hand in hand, they do serve different purposes as similar as they are. Still, whatever you needed to tell in the prologue has nothing to do with the epilogue because time has passed and your characters have grown and changed. The before should be vastly different from the after so you’ll have to decide whether you need an epilogue or not no matter if you have a prologue or not.

I do think epilogues are great. I always enjoy reading the aftermath of the characters and events that took place. Still, they only work if there is something new to say or add to the feelings the readers already felt.

Then again, some things are best left unsaid.

Do you typically add epilogues to your stories? Do you like them or not? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

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Author:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

8 thoughts on “How To Determine If Your Novel Needs An Epilogue [NaNoWriMo 2017]

  1. I completely stay away from prologues and epilogues and a part of me still writes the first chapter like a prologue which is annoying haha. My NaNoNovel has a first chapter/prologue thing and it works. I’m hoping to wrap everything up without needing an epilogue… xD

    1. They’re not bad, but I can agree that it would be better to have it all in the main story rather than a “before” or “after” thought. I think you’ll be able to do it. 😉

  2. I haven’t ever used a prolouge in any of my books, but I do like the epilogue for giving the reader some extra insight into what happens to my characters after the excitement is over,with maybe a hint of something more to come later. My Witch City Mystery books for Kensington are a series though and I like the readers to know there’s more to come. (No cliff hangers–just feel good stuff,) I didn’t use epilogues in an of the stand-alone books I wrote for middle grade readers, and probably wouldn’t in a stand-alone mystery.

    1. I know what you mean. When it comes to standalone books sometimes epilogues can be a good thing, but I feel like they’d make a better impact when you’ve really known the characters for a while and went on a long journey with them like in a series. Of course, standalones do the same job, but series are much longer and stay with readers for years as each book comes out.

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