Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Case for Epilogues

At the last writer’s conference I attended there seemed to be a theme that kept popping up in workshops…Prologues and Epilogues. They were out of fashion. The theory being that a Prologue was what happened before the story started and an Epilogue was something that happened after the story ended so they weren’t needed. As romance writers, we’re trained and encouraged and berated to start with the action. Throw your reader into it. And stop when the romance is resolved.

As I writer, I love Prologues. I often start my books with them because I want to warn the reader about something, or give them a hint about a future event, or just make them curious. It’s not exactly throwing the reader into the action but I like to give a hint about the sharks circling before they make that leap.

As a reader, I love Epilogues. I love that last visit with the couple, a glance into their life—after the story—to prove that they are living their happily ever after. It’s like dropping in on an old friend and finding out that yes, things really did work out.

I have a couple of favorite Epilogues. So favorite in fact that I recently dug through my keeper shelf to find a book because I wanted to re-read the Epilogue. A line from it was stuck in my brain and I wanted to experience it again.

My favorite Epilogue…To Love A Dark Lord by Anne Stuart. She writes such great dark heroes that having that Epilogue is comforting. It tells me that he did settle down. And that all the things he warned her about at the end of the book have come true. This was the book I went looking for last week. I skimmed the book, to reacquaint myself with the characters, then skipped to the Epilogue. I’ve read it twice more since then.

My other favorite Epilogue is in Lover Awakened…the scene in the gym just tugs on my heart that I go back and re-read it whenever I need a lift. Zsadist is so damaged that you need that glimpse into his life after the "story" ends.

I think this is why series books a so popular. It’s a final check in with the characters. You get to visit old friends.

So don’t be afraid to give your readers one last glimpse so they put away the book with a satisfied “ahhhh.”


Lynn Lovegreen said...

I agree--it's nice to see a snapshot of the "happily ever after." And I love to see old friends, er, characters, that I care about. Here's another vote for epilogues!

Lynn LaFleur said...

I agree with you, Tielle. I think prologues and epilogues are here to stay. Sometimes they're perfect to get the story going or wrap it up. In fact, in my last book my editor *asked* me to write an epilogue because there were some loose ends that needed to be addressed.

So no, I don't think they'll ever be out of fashion. And that's okay with me.


Boone Brux said...

I love prologues and epilogues. I want to know about the circling sharks before hand. J.K. Rowlings epilogued the hell out of her last book. We found out how everyone fared, thankfully!


Cait Miller said...

I love prologues and epilogues. I use prologues as a hook to show the readers a little of my hand. Epilogues work well for an ongoing series to tease the next story and to show a little more of the HEA. This works for me as a reader and a writer. I'd be devastated if they went out of fashion :D

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan, but--the subjective applies, if they are done well. I want short and to the point, too long and they should just be part of the body of the story.
Thanks for a good post, I think good writing done well is never out of fashion.