Are Epilogues Necessary?

There once was a time in which I wouldn’t even read epilogues. I think it was probably high school. And then one day I decided to continue reading after the last chapter. I have no idea why I never read them in the first place or why I suddenly started reading them later on.

But when I really think about them, are they really necessary? I would guess that more than 90 percent of the books I read have no epilogue at all. Because generally speaking, in crime fiction the case has been solved. And if it’s a case that’ll span multiple books, then there’s still no reason to have an epilogue. I’ve seen authors include the opening chapters of their next books more often than I’ve seen epilogues.

I mean, tell me what an epilogue accomplishes that can’t be accomplished with the final chapter. I guess if it’s something like J.K. Rowling did, then it’s not so bad. But most books or series don’t need that additional information. Or do they?

Do you think epilogues are necessary?


On this day in 2014 I published Ten Most Haunting Male Literary Characters.

 

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40 thoughts on “Are Epilogues Necessary?

  1. It all depends on the book, really. Not all books have to fit the same structural mold, so while an epilogue to follow up on events outside of the main narrative might not make sense for some books, it can be a nice addition to a different book. I’ll always read them; if they’re there, then it’s there to be read. But I’ve never gotten to the end of a book and threw it down with a shocked, “WHAT? NO EPILOGUE???” before, either.

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  2. I’m kind of meh about epilogues…I mean, they’re there if they’re there, and they’re not if they’re not. (Same with prologues, if I want to be completely honest.) I’m putting an epilogue in my novella, but it’s not as if the story needs it; I’m just writing it for fun.
    The only time I hated an epilogue was when the author finished the “last chapter” on a cliff hangar and then proceeded to resolve everything in the epilogue….like…what in the world?! Ô.o

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    • I think we’re the same. Like I said, I’ll read them if they’re there. But I’m not looking forward to them of anything. And I’ll never understand an author using an epilogue in place of a real final chapter.

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  3. I’m an epilogue junkie, but I don’t like prologues. However, epilogues aren’t good for every kind of story. With a long series you may not need it, unless, like Harry Potter, they’re still pretty young when the series is over. People often want to know what happens after the teenagers grow up. There have been a few books that ended without epilogues that clearly needed one. Or at least another chapter. And yeah, I wanted to chuck the book across the room. I understand that people like to make their own conclusions, but I always want to know the author’s intent with the characters. Even if I won’t like it in the end.

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  4. I read one book where the author had a narrator, an older man, telling a younger man the story as told between the first and last chapters. He used the prologues and epilogues as banter between the narrator and his eager listener. Later in the series we learned who the narrator was and why those talks were important. That was the only series that I read where I thought it was useful, but I can see it being useful in other places.

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  5. I think sometimes they add a little something extra to the book, however not every book needs it.

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  6. I agree with most comments here. I have used epilogues before, but only to convey something that doesn’t make sense as part of the narrative structure for the rest of the book. For example, in one book, I used a first person perspective, but needed to wrap up a final story thread outside of that first-person narrative, so I used the epilogue to switch to a third-person perspective in order to add one more layer of closure.

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  7. They most certainly are! But it varies from genre to genre.

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  8. Whenever a book that I read has an epilogue, I feel it completed the book. Gave us a sense of relief.
    And also, I just hope epilogues keep fan fiction away.

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  9. I read mostly historical romances where the book ends when the couple reaches the understanding / resolves the issue that leads the their HEA so epilogues serve as a way to show us a glimpse of that HEA in action, but without the need for an entire full chapter.

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