1. Cheyenne
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    Cheyenne Member

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    Epilogues

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Cheyenne, Mar 20, 2015.

    Okay, quick question/discussion.

    Should an epilogue be only one scene, or could it be multiple scenes?

    Wracking my memory, I can only think of single-scene epilogues I've seen, but has anyone seen one where they used multiple scenes?

    Did it work well? Would it be too jarring? Did it/Will it drag on the book too long?
     
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  2. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Crime and Punishment had a long ass epilogue. I think it was unnecessary, and the book would probably have been better without it.
     
  3. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't think of many off the bat - and there's a part of me that thinks a multi-scene epilogue isn't an epilogue.

    Granted, I sort of have two prologues and that's worked ok with readers (I start with a short fake news article that appears on the page before the actual prologue). I have a potential epilogue written for my WIP (might just end up in the main book) that goes back an forth between two places where the same mysterious even is occurring simultaneously, but the whole thing isn't all that long - and I'm still not sure it will work.
     
  4. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've always considered prologues and epilogues to be pretty much the same thing, except that they are found at different locations in a book and have different purposes. With that thought in mind I see no problem with having a multi-scene epilogue, considering that one of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books begins with a 90-page prologue.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've used an epilogue in each of my three fantasy novels. They're single scene.

    Unless you have multiple POV characters with 'individually wrapping up' needed beyond the resolution of the climax/main conflict, then I am not sure of the need for more than once scene.

    Knowing what is 'standard' before varying from it (like with respect to epilogues) makes sense. Yet, in the end, it depends on your purpose, and in truth there isn't a 'right' or a 'wrong' answer for this. Each work/story is different and each writer's style is different.

    The only one I can think of that is long and multiple scenes is at the end of the Lord of the Rings---after the Ring is destroyed, with the scouring of the Shire, the crowning of Aragorn, Frodo departing and such. Although I am not sure many identify that portion of the trilogy as an epilogue, or content constituting an epilogue.
     
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  6. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I use epilogues!

    I class it as an extra chapter, a sort of, 'six month later, loose ends tied, final word from the MC's and the cliffhanger that's not quite a cliffhanger but leaves the reader thinking "Oh, what happens next?"

    It's a great place to tie any loose ends up that you couldn't tie up in the main part of the book.

    Another deciding factor is your timeline. The main part of my story ended at a point but there was a further ending/tied ends which happened six month later. As there was a time shift of six months (because nothing else happened in that six month) I decided to do the last chapter as an epilogue to emphasize the passage of time.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2015
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  7. Caeben
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    Caeben Member

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    It can be multiple scenes so long as they are actually setting something up for the next work. I wouldn't go too overboard with the word count.

    @Komposten If you think that's long, I consider the first 200 pages of Steven Erikson's House of Chains to be a prologue / cold open that brings the reader up to speed on what a single character was doing in the previous three books. Way. Too. Long.
     
  8. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Its been a while, was the epilogue the half-arsed and tacked on attempt to show some rehabilitation? If so I agree that it was not only unnecessary but also detrimental to the rest of the novel.
     
  9. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, that was the one.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'd be willing to bet, if the book has been an entertaining read, that nobody skips the Epilogue!

    Like the Prologue, an Epilogue should be something that happens outwith the main story's timeline, but it's something the reader needs to know ...or in the case of an Epilogue, will want to know about the characters and/or the situation. All the main story arcs should probably be tied up before the Epilogue, however. The use of the word "Epilogue" signals to the reader that this is something 'else,' that will be of interest, and will offer insight into some aspect of the story you just told. It shouldn't really be used to tie up any essential story threads.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2015
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Another good question, @Cheyenne . If you are referring to bringing subplots to a conclusion, it's usually the thing to tie up subplots before you reach the conclusion of the main plot, if you can. So, in theory, you probably won't need multiple Epilogues. An Epilogue normally offers a final message, or insight, for the story as a whole. However, don't be afraid to break rules, if it's what your story calls for. I never say never, in cases like this.

    If the rest of your story is good enough, I very much doubt a reader, agent or publisher is going to reject you because you ended with more than one Epilogue.
     
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  12. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was trying to think of multi-scene epilogues, and the only example I can think of is a film, namely the last Lord of the Rings movie. I seem to remember that the other cinema goers and I had rationed out food and devised a rudimentary system of government by the time that epilogue finished.
     
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  13. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I guess, you could end with two epilogues if you want to close the story for two different characters who do not, at that point, have any interaction with each other.

    Hmmm, what I mean, is, I'm working on something in which I'm thinking about having two prologues because I want to show the reader something about two different characters before I start the story, one character is classes as the 'baddie' and one is classed as the 'goodie'. They both need to be in the prologue but they never actually meet or come face to face during the story at any time - although their actions impact each other massively. At the moment, it's one prologue but split in half.

    Like @jannert said, don't be afraid to break the rules if it's what your story calls for. If you do have beta or test readers, make sure you ask them afterwards, if they read the pro/epilogues and what their thoughts on them were.

    Good Luck x
     
  14. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    The epilogues I have read, and not skipped like so many others, have been only one scene. Always something that is relevant to the story which the writer deems important for the reader to know. Sometimes a round up of the plot, if used in a series.

    Though, I am of the mind set that the epiogue is not needed and should be chapter one of the narractive. But I am not one to dictate to others.

    The epilogue is a writing style some writers embrace while others detest. Go with what feels right for you. I have heard it is important to learn the writing rules before you can break them. So go with whatever feels right for you.

    Many writers lose confidence in their work. They have a idea they want to try out, like multiply scenes in a epilogue and are unsure, whether to go for it. I say, write it. Be a maverick and start a new trend.
     
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  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It's interesting that the LOTR movies AND books didn't have Epilogues. These various subplot conclusions were presented as part of the main story. But they sure felt like Epilogues, didn't they?

    Of course the books came with various Appendices, and some of them read a lot like an Epilogue. For example, Tolkien followed each of his main character to their deaths, telling us what they did with their lives after the story ended.

    I think Tolkien spent a lot of time constructing his world of Middle Earth before he ever started writing the story of the rings. Maybe he had trouble separating out what was necessary to the tale and what was actually backstory. I didn't have a problem when I read the books, because I loved them from the first couple of sentences. However, looking on them now from the viewpoint of somebody who has studied the structure of novels, I can see where he could have used a bit of that study himself.

    In many places, the movie got it right, in my opinion. The movie left out Tom Bombadil. The movie also killed off Saruman (although that scene got cut from the cinema release ...thank goodness for DVD) and thus spared us the Scouring of the Shire. While that was fun to read, it was almost like starting a new story, and it was a bit out of place. Again, in my opinion.

    I liked the fact that the movie only hinted at the theme, there near the end ...that people who go off and do good deeds are sometimes never recognised in their own homes and towns. The hints came when the hobbits returned, and they got the same disapproving looks from certain individuals as they got when they left. And when they were in the pub, nobody was paying much attention to them. They'd just come from a ceremony where the King had knelt before them, as tribute to their efforts. And here they were, sitting in the pub, while everybody around them was totally unaware, not only of what these four hobbits had done, but how close to danger their own lives had come. Typical?
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2015
  16. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the case of the film I would struggle to call half of these endings sub-plot conclusions, it played out more like a "where are they now" and quite a tedious one.

    I was very young when I read the books. I have an over-riding memory of being incredibly disappointed that Bombadil did not reappear.

    I agree that Saruman's death worked better for the purposes of a movie and find it inexplicable that it was cut.
     
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  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I can't say I was disappointed when Bombadil didn't return, but I remember being surprised. I guess even then my instincts told me that if a character or episode takes up a fair amount of story time, that this character or episode should have some impact on the story. In this case, with the exception of rescuing the hobbits from the tree roots and rescuing the hobbit from the barrow wights, where the hobbits got their weapons, he had none. And the tree roots incident was better portrayed in the film, with the ent as rescuer. And they got their weapons elsewhere as well. So Tom Bombadil didn't really impact on the plot the way I expected him to.

    Tolkien largely pantsed the story. In fact, he said later on that the onset of WW2 really threw him, and he had no idea what to do next in his story. (I think he'd got the hobbits to Rivendell by that point, but no further.) So he just wrote. Sometimes that shows a bit. I don't think the fault was in his writing, but in his editing. A good editor would have spotted these flaws.

    However, damn. I wish I could write a book as flawed as that trilogy, and have the kind of long-lasting impact it has done. And provide as much reading pleasure as it has done, for so many people. Even now, years after it was written, and years after the author died, it has been voted the most popular book on the planet. And I can't argue with that. I loved it. Still do.
     
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  18. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I have read some books where the prologue is used to inform the reader of the factual or scientific facts behind the fiction of the story. This led to me, on more than one occasion, to miss out reading the prologue completely because, if I'm reading fiction which throws science at me and I want to know more, I will google the 'facts' myself in my own time.

    That being said, I have always read the epilogues of books, mainly because I've gotten so into the book itself, that by the end, I don't want it to end!

    So I think, whichever way you decide to go, at least write it. If you write it, you have options, if you don't, you will always be thinking, 'what if?'
     
  19. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I've always thought that if an author needs to tell me stuff before the story starts, or has to tell me something more about what I just read, he/she isn't going to tell/hasn't told the story right. I never read prologues or epilogues.
     
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  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Okay. Here's a question for you. How would you handle this scenario? You have a minor POV character (three appearances during the novel) who doesn't actually KNOW the two main protagonists, although his actions influence what happens to them. After many chapters of rising tension, there is an action climax, a winding down, and the story of the two protagonists comes to a conclusion on a specific day. The end.

    However, the fate of the minor POV character is still dangling a the time of the story's main conclusion. It hinges on the outcome of a trial that hasn't even started when the two protagonists resolve their conflicts and the main story comes to an end. His fate is just a matter of curiosity to the reader. The two protagonists don't know him. His fate is not part of the main story arc, and doesn't actually impact on the story arc itself. Since you hate epilogues, how would you deal with this tidbit of information? Just leave him dangling somewhere forever? I don't see how you could possibly work it into the main part of the story, because of the timing.

    I wrote this as a short epilogue, which most people have said they liked. I would be loathe to stand on my head trying to do it some other way, just so people who ignore epilogues out of principle will get a shot at this information before they close the book. I feel ...well, hell mend 'em. If they don't want to know, fine.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2015
  21. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    Every work of fiction I've ever read contains minor characters whose fate is never fully explained. I would find a way to work his/her story into the body of the work, if I thought most readers really cared. Otherwise, I'd let it go, or bring him/her back in the sequel, if any.

    I don't hate epilogues; I just don't read 'em. I want a novel to be complete in itself. As I suggested, prologues and epilogues show me that the author didn't work hard enough to tell the story.
     
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  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Epilogues are a time-honored way to finish telling a story, and has nothing to do with how much work the author put into telling it. It's just a signal to the reader that the events within the epilogue occur outwith the story's timeline, that's all. Of course you're free to think as you like, but epilogues do exist, and well-respected and award-winning authors use them all the time. If you prefer to skip them, that's your business—and your loss.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2015
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  23. Cheyenne
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    Well... this has turned into a debate, hasn't it?

    Only one scene I'm considering actually ties things together. The other I'm considering opens up the main conflict of book 2. If that helps.
     
  24. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I would say, write them and see how they fit in. You don't have to get it right the first time.
     
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  25. Cheyenne
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    @cutecat22 True enough. And that was my plan. I just like to have multiple opinions. :\
     
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