The question of whether or not readers want an epilogue came up in one of the panels at the BSB festival in Nottingham. It seems some do and some don’t. All my books, bar one, have epilogues. (The exception is Running From Love)
While I seem to be keen on writing epilogues, one thing I don’t do is write ‘The End’. I suppose this is because although I’ve reached the end of writing that particular story, unless all the characters have died, it’s not really the end. After all, a lot of fan fiction is born out of readers wanting to carry the stories on, giving their favourite characters extended lives.
When I finished my first book, Starting Over, and it was accepted for publication, I had no idea that it would be book one of a trilogy. But when I began thinking about what I would write next, several of the characters just seemed to keep interrupting my thoughts and wanted their stories expanded.
So, why write an epilogue? Why not just a final chapter? When I submitted Changing Perspectives to my publisher, there was no epilogue. However, although they liked the story, beta readers felt it ended too abruptly. I didn’t initially think an epilogue was necessary as that was the way I wanted to finish the book. However, as it went through the editing process, my editor persuaded me to add the ‘six months later’. And after I wrote it, I thought it did work.
The example that generally gets brought up in discussions about endings is the fairy tale one of ‘they lived happily ever after’. But once you’ve reached a stage in your life of experiencing relationships, you can’t help wondering how long that lasted. Prince Charming may well turn out to be a cad, and Cinderella a pain in the butt. So, maybe we should write epilogues that reflect the reality of finding out how the perfect HEA turns sour when it comes down to who does the shopping and the laundry and takes the bins out. But then, really, who wants to read about that?
It’s like complaining that no one in a 75,000-word story has ever gone to the toilet or brushed their teeth in the morning. Most authors and readers just want to get on with the story. You don’t want to get bogged down in the minutiae of every bodily function. It’s not very romantic. (Although describing someone’s morning ablutions might be easier than writing good sex scenes…hmm…there’s a thought!)