Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Epilogues - Love 'em or Hate 'em?

Endings tend to happen one of two ways. The plot builds up to a climax and then poof! It's over. Or, the plot builds up to a climax and poof! It's over, but then you get to see the aftermath. Whether or not it is labeled as such, I think of such aftermaths as epilogues.

And I just love epilogues. I read stories for the characters, not the plots, and if I'm enjoying a story--especially a standalone where I'll never encounter the characters again--I want to see a bit of how the characters are doing after the climax, both physically and emotionally.

Sometimes, the author fools you and when you think the epilogue is going on a bit too long before you realize that it's not an epilogue after all--it's the buildup to another climax. This happened to me with The Red Wolf Conspiracy. I had mixed feelings--I thought the story was over--but it was mostly a positive reading experience.

Other times I think argh! Need. Epilogue. Now! This happened with Grimspace. Sometimes, when the novel ends abruptly, the publisher adds the first chapter of the next book. This is always appreciated.

I've been taking a genre break, reading the excellent Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson, and they all have satisfying epilogues. So did The Trouble with Demons by Lisa Shearin.

Do you enjoy reading epilogue chapters? Or are they just a waste of paper?

19 comments:

Kimber An said...

If I've enjoyed the book, I love the epilogue. In a Romance novel, I love finding out how many babies the couple had and what kind of daddy the hero turned out to be, for example.

T.D. Newton said...

I wrote a nice comment and Blogger lost it!

I love Epilogues, that's pretty much what it said.

Melissa said...

I'm usually a big fan of epliogues--one of my favorites was actually the one in the last Harry Potter book. I love to know what happens to the characters when the story is over...

One thing I don't like--prologues that basically recap the previous book in a series. Waste of words, IMO. Just read the first book! :-)

Seth said...

As I see it, the point of epiogues is to deliver a sort of emotional punchline, a scene or two not directly related to the novel's plot but which resolves the emotional arc of a character's development. When used in this way, I usually enjoy epilogues. The good ones are short and get to the point quickly.

S.M.D. said...

Epilogues don't bother me unless they are particularly lame. It's prologues I hate, because prologues are the most pointless things that writers can add to their fiction.

Pissenlit said...

Depends on the epilogue. I pretty much agree with what Seth said. Though to be honest, I don't think I've ever hated an epilogue, per se...but I have come across ones I thought that weren't very good.

Tia Nevitt said...

I find myself agreeing with all of you. And SMD, prologues are worthy of a whole different blog post!

Maria said...

I like'm!

The Mad Hatter said...

I like Epilogue. They usually give you a better sense of closure.

http://booktionary.blogspot.com

Memory said...

Love 'em. I'm like you: I read for character, and I like the chance to wind down and say goodbye.

Angiegirl said...

I tend to like epilogues just fine. If it's well written, it's well written. And I often don't understand people's blind hatred of epilogues. That was probably my favorite part of The Trouble with Demons! The only time I find myself thinking an epilogue was perhaps unnecessary is when the ending was so pitch perfect that anything else kind of mars the awesome. But that is rare. :)

Chicory said...

I like epilogues, but I also like when things aren't TOO neatly tied, to give the story a `life' feel -something I can keep thinking about. My favorite epilogue is the one in Watership Down. Sad and sweet, and leaves you thoughtful.

A. Grey said...

Usually I love an epilogue. There are times when I don't think it's needed, or when it ends things even more abruptly than the book. I've read a few where the epilogue started fine, and then ended with the hero of the book dying of old age. I mean, I'm glad to know they didn't die in a tragic latrine accident, but I don't want the last image in my head of them to be as wrinkled old has-beens either.
Like Memory, I read for characters and I like it when the epilogue follows them as well as the focus of the plot.
As a rule, I must say that I HATE prologues. There are exceptions, but usually, I find them annoying, especially when you're introduced to characters that have nothing to do directly with the story, or they're just pages and pages of explination and history. By the time I get to the meat of the book, I've lost interest or I'm so confused I'm irritated and dificult to impress with all the good points I might otherwise enjoy.

Raven said...

I never really thought about whether I like epilogues or not. If they're there, I read them. Like some of you above, I read for character, and I do like knowing what happens to the characters after the grand battle or whatever. I guess as long as I get that information, I don't really care whether it comes in the last chapter or in an epilogue.

Tia Nevitt said...

Angiegirl, I agree with you about The Trouble with Demons; I really liked that epilogue. It set things up nicely.

And I definitely don't need the hero's life story!

As for prologues, since they usually serve as a frame for the story, I read and enjoy them. However, I HAVE read prologues that were little more than recitations of backstory, and those were totally unnecessary. A case in point, SEEKERS OF THE CHALICE. Too much history.

The best prologue I've read recently was from a small press novel--Griffin's Daughter. It was pulse-pounding excitement all the way through, then launched you 1000 years into the meat of the story. DEFINITELY set the story up so I wanted to read more.

David said...

I don't mind epilogues, but I'm surprised that someone liked the epilogue in the last Harry Potter--I felt that one was week--almost fanfic in quality/scope.

darkened_jade said...

I really don't like epilogues - that said, they are sometimes necessary in order to resolve a few minor issues that were forgotten in the excitement of the climax. They are fine as long as they serve a purpose. An epilogue just to have an epilogue however, or to lead into another book that I may or may not ever buy, are really tiresome and ultimately can turn me off re-reading a book.

Merc said...

If I've gotten to the end of a book, I'll definitely read the epilogue! I usually like them for wrap up and aftermath.

Unlike prologue, by the time I get to an epilogue I'm INVESTED in what's happened (well, in theory) so I want to know how it all ends. ;)

~Merc

Rabid Fox said...

If I've read an epic of a substantial stand-alone novel, and the last chapter leaves me with hanging questions, I'm all in favor of an epilogue. In a series of books, I can do without them ... unless they're particularly enticing.