One question looms over my head, and it’s one I’ve been avoiding: do I end my novel neatly at the final chapter, or do I add an epilogue?
My gut reaction is the former, leaving enough lingering question to keep the reader guessing what may happen and give them the freedom to decide. Truth be told, I’m not a big epilogue fan. I find that ninety percent of them are weak, giving me too much information in too short a passage but, most annoyingly, they tend to answer all the questions I would rather contemplate myself.
A classic example is Ken Follett’s Whiteout; a thriller I thoroughly recommend. That is, except for the epilogue. Nothing is left to the imagination; it tells you exactly what happened in the year between the final chapter and the epilogue, answering all those big questions. I felt robbed. ROBBED!
Two of my favourite novels, Our Endless Numbered Days, The Quality of Silence have no epilogue, and what a treat! I loved that there were so many questions over which I could day dream. It was like a gift, being entrusted with the future of characters that had been so painstakingly created by the author. I’ve done my part, Fuller and Lupton seem to say, now you decide how they get home, how they fix themselves, how they live out the rest of their lives. Would these novels have been so good if all those questions had been answered? Absolutely not.
But then, just as I’ve made up my mind not to include one, I am reminded of Sharon Bolton’s Little Black Lies. You read the word Epilogue, you think the book is over saved for a few happy-ever-after confirmations and then BAM it smacks you in the face with the best plot twist EVER. It is, simply, pure genius, reminding me how effective an epilogue can be in the right situation.
I fear I shall be contemplating for some time. Ultimately I want my story to linger with the reader, to have some answers that only they can provide. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll follow in Bolton’s footsteps and leave a few surprises at the end.
You, my friends, will have to wait and see!