Epilogues are no different than prologues, just at the end. They need to serve a purpose outside the main story otherwise they might as well be the final chapter. Like my prologues, I don’t write epilogues for the sake of it.
I recently read a super long epilogue that should have been the final chapter. It followed directly on from the previous scene with all the usual characters. So why did the author feel like it needed to be an epilogue? To be fair, there was something new for the MC, but it didn’t mean anything new for the story since the reader already knew of its general existence.
One of the best reasons for an epilogue is when we see the MC months or years after the main story. They’re settled in a new life, good or bad, and maybe have some thoughts on how they feel about what happened to them. This works best with a few pages, a sneak peek rather than a lengthy chapter.
Flipping to a random POV is also a good one if it’s done well. It gives the reader a new perspective on the MC and what they’ve been through. They might even know a little secret to entertain readers, something the MC couldn’t figure out in the main story.
I like teaser epilogues in sagas and series. Books in a series still need to be independent stories but leave enough open so the reader wants more. Whatever you tease the reader with, make sure you drop it into early chapters of the next book.
If the final chapter ends abruptly but isn’t a cliffhanger (I hate cliffhangers), an epilogue might work to show the characters a few days later. This needs to be short and sweet so it doesn’t look more like a final chapter.
Your final chapter should tie up your story in a neat little bow. Your epilogue should either tie it tighter in a standalone or loosen it in a series.
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