Monday, May 31, 2010

The Epilogue is the Thing

Who doesn't love a good epilogue?

Well, honestly, there are a few readers who have told me they hate epilogues on principle, but most (including me) love an epilogue that gives a glimpse of the HEA lived out.

That's the reason I wrote the free online Epilogue for "The Italian's Suitable Wife" & its companion book, "The Playboy's Seduction". I felt like readers deserved a glimpse of the characters I had in my head as their lives played out on my internal movie screen. :)

Wikipedia defines the Epilogue as this:
An epilogue, or epilog, is a piece of writing at the end of a work of literature or drama, usually used to bring closure to the work. The writer or the person may deliver a speech, speaking directly to the reader, when bringing the piece to a close, or the narration may continue normally to a closing scene.

And Merriam-Webster's has this entry for the Epilogue:
Etymology: Middle English epiloge, from Middle French epilogue, from Latin epilogus, from Greek epilogos, from epilegein to say in addition, from epi- + legein to say — more at legend
Date: 15th century
1 : a concluding section that rounds out the design of a literary work
2 a : a speech often in verse addressed to the audience by an actor at the end of a play; also : the actor speaking such an epilogue b : the final scene of a play that comments on or summarizes the main action
3 : the concluding section of a musical composition : coda

Epilogues aren't always about the character's lives months, or even years later. Sometimes, they're merely days or even immediately following the close of the literary work. Epilogues can wrap up story questions that remain unanswered once the main story arc is finished. I've done this satisfactorily a couple of times and a bit abruptly once. It's a dicey proposition and as I learn and grow as a writer, I realize what makes the best kind of epilogue and it's not always what I want it to be.

I don't mind growing in this way. If I stop learning and improving, I'm not giving the best I can to my readers and I know that. But I also think that just as with the Prologue, the Epilogue can be a tacked on tid-bit that wouldn't really be necessary if the author (me included) took their time improving the bits that came before (rather than after - as with the unecessary prologue).

Epilogues can also ruin a book. I've read more than one that I wanted to just bean the author for writing. Some have frustrated me so much, the author got put on my "be wary of" list immediately. I found that extremely disappointing - to have a book so engaging be absolutely ruined by a lousy epilogue.

My least favorite of these horrific episodes is George Bernard Shaw's Epilogue written for Pygmalion, so that no romantic should be in any way deceived into the thinking the end of the play led to any sort of happy ending. Oh, if he were still alive and near to hand, he'd get such an earful and probably a right boot to his backside. (Can you tell I've been re-reading Pygmalion? LOL)

But he wasn't the first and certainly not the last author to flip the hope of a happy ending, or make the one written seem trivial and wholly unbelievable. I remember reading an epilogue for a romance that left me wanting to rewrite the whole book, which right up to that point I had thoroughly enjoyed. Aargh...the pain of it!

I'm much more enamored of the author who writes an epilogue tying up loose ends and showing the HEA lived out in such a way that leaves me sighing happily and with a smile on my face.

It's your turn: do you have a favorite epilogue? An author who writes them consistently and you just love him/her for it? What about an epilogue that actually went as far as to save a book - or absolutely ruin it...?

I can't post my epilogues this week as that might be too much "Ending Spoilers" for any one blog to perpetrate, but if you'd like to read the special Epilogue I wrote for "The Italian's Suitable Wife" & "The Playboy's Seduction", you can find it here.


Valerie said...

Sometimes, an epilogue is not an epilogue but instead an explanation of events etc that happened at the end of the book and tying up plot strings. I don't particularly care for those kind. LOL And I loathe HEA flip epilogues...or one's setting up the next book which come off like cliffhangers. If I like the first book, I'm going to buy the second. I don't need a tv gag to push it at me, although it might influence me to not buy the book.
As for epi's that I love, those that give a peek into the characters future happiness. :) One of my favorite epilogue(s) are Julia Quinn's. Especially around her Bridgerton series. Anthony and Kate's epilogue is one of my favorites. Julia enjoys epilogues so much many of her books have 2nd epilogues, which is cute because you keep getting a little slice of the future with several of her characters. As her series are all linked, it makes sense.

Lucy Monroe said... cool on Julia's books. Cliffhangers are not my favorite either, but I don't mind some foreshadowing of what's to come in the next book. I mean, I watch through the last set of commercials to see what's in next week's episode for my favorite programs. ;-)

Valerie said...

Oh yes, commercials. I do like some of those. LOL The ones that irritate me are when its a preview for a book that won't be released for a year and a half. It's like the movie previews for summer 2012. I enjoy the preview up to the point that they tell me I have to wait 2 years to see the movie! 2 years!!! :)

Judy said...

If I've read an epilogue I haven't liked, I don't remember. Really. It means it was totally forgettable. And I probably didn't buy the author again. I've read books that finally unite the couple on the last page, with no epilogue. I feel like the author was sick of the couple and wanted it done. "See, they're together. Done." I feel like I've invested more emotions into a story than the writer. If they don't care, why should I?

I love Diane Gaston's epilogues, and Anne Gracie. Abby Gaines actually posts epilogues and extra scenes that had to be cut, on her website. LOVE IT! She did that with her first or second book because her editor wouldn't let her include the epilogue. Now, she does it regularly. I always feel like there's that little bit extra, like snitching one more piece of chocolate. :-)

Judy F said...

I like epilogues esp ones that bring family or characters from other books back. Karen Rose did one recently for her book Silent Scream but it was on line. OMG it had me is tears but happy tears. She brought all the characters together for a wedding. sigh

Lucy Monroe said...

Yes, I think epilogues that give us a glimpse into the future lives of the characters are especially satisfying - to write and to read, really. :)

erahime said...

I love epilogues. I will admit that I've read some epilogues that left me unsatisfied with how it ended. But in general, an epilogue is a great way to end a story.

lidia said...

I love epilogues!

Don't know that I have a favorite -- but I remember one written by Carol Marinelli where the H and h were talking about the possibility of adopting a child. One line stood out: "It isn't like choosing a pet,' Levander insisted." It was a very poignant time in their lives but I also had to laugh at the analogy.

Lucy Monroe said...

It's funny how an epilogue can make a book memorable...or not. How just a few pages can make or break a story that built to its resolution over hundreds of pages and tens of thousands of words.

One thing your comments remind me of is how powerful a tool an epilogue really is. :)

shomeli dey said...

hahaha! you are indeed correct. even i hated the long, verbose, meandering epilogue of Pygmalion alot but i just, JUST might forgive Bernard Shaw because the poor man just couldn't deal with playwrights butchering his material and giving it a non-canon romantic spin. fan-fiction was not a thing back-then i guess*wink* plus neither did he had websites like we all enjoy in this century.
i would really ove it if you ever gave a hint on an epilogue HEA for the shy bride though. from all the harlequin writers there are, your books are the most happiest and realistic than the typical angst filled series we are getting. adore the shy bride story a lot and hence, thought if i may request.