Monthly Archives: April 2020

What is an Epilogue?

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This article was written by Jerry Jenkins and sent to me today. I thought I would pass it on. Enjoy.

Full disclosure: I’m not a huge fan of Epilogues. That’s not to say they’re all bad.

In fact, I’ve ended several of my novels with Epilogues.

Done right, they can be a powerful way to leave your reader satisfied.

But beware! Approach your Epilogue wrong and you can ruin the end of your story.

So, let’s talk about what they are, whether you need one, and, if so, how to write one.

What Is an Epilogue?

As you might imagine, an Epilogue is the opposite of a Prologue, so it comes at the end of your novel as opposed to the beginning.

The word comes from the Greek epilogos, or “concluding word.”

It’s intended to provide closure and resolution, and it’s often set in the future to explainwhat becomes of your principal characters.

The questions are whether or why a novel needs an Epilogue. 

I agree with many editors who insist that a story with a strong ending shouldn’t need an Epilogue. 

Still, as I’ve said, not all Epilogues are bad. Done properly — and under the right circumstances — they complete your story and tie up loose ends.

So how do you determine whether your novel needs an Epilogue?

First, don’t mistake an Epilogue for an Afterword.

  • An Epilogue ties up loose ends from the story.
  • An Afterword focuses on how your novel came to be — largely to promote you and any of your other books. 

The most important aspect of a good Epilogueis its purpose.

It should either show the reader what happens to your main character after the story ends (for instance, jumping ahead a few years and showing your character with a spouse and a child) or it should pave the way for a sequel or even a series.

One thing an Epilogue should never do is reiterate your theme or remind your reader the moral of your story.

If you didn’t accomplish that in the story itself, an Epilogue will not fix it.

Most importantly, after reading your Epilogue, your reader should leave satisfied, never confused. 

What an Epilogue Should Never Do

  • Leave the reader wondering what it meant.
  • Compensate for a weak ending. 
  • Be long or complicated. 
  • Serve as a cliffhanger. You can hint at a sequel, but a cliffhanger will only frustrate your reader.

When To Use an Epilogue (and when not to)

As celebrated editor Allister Thompson puts it, “If there’s nothing else to say, don’t be tempted to say it!”

Effective Epilogues 

Look up these Epilogues online and compare them. 

1: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

This Epilogue shows how you can use one to release tension. Moby Dick closes at such a frenetic pace, the Epilogue serves to reassure the reader that Ishmael survives the shipwreck and is rescued.

2: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This Epilogue is set 200 years after the story and focuses on a historian who reveals he found Offred’s story and transcribed the tapes.

3: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

This Epilogue provides a glimpse of Harry and his friends 19-years in the future. 

4: Animal Farm by George Orwell

This Epilogue covers Manor Farm many years into the future. It tells the fates of the main characters.

How To Write an Epilogue in 3 Steps

What Is an Epilogue

Step 1: Set Your Epilogue in The Future

Provide space between the end of your novel and the Epilogue. 

How long depends on your story. It may be a few days or hundreds of years into the future. The key is what you want readers to know about what’s become of your characters.

Step 2: Set Up a Future Narrative

An Epilogue can set the scene for a sequel. Tell just enough to make clear that more is coming.

Step 3: Don’t Forget Your Hero

If you’ve written a great protagonist, your readers will want to know what happens to him next.

Epilogue FAQs

1: How do I start an Epilogue?

The best place to start is the future:

  • What’s become of your main character?
  • Answer any other questions your reader might have

2: How long is an Epilogue?

As long as it needs to be, but the shorter the better.

Get to the point and wrap it up.

So Should You Write an Epilogue?

Most books DO NOT need an Epilogue.

Write a strong ending and you shouldn’t need one. But as I’ve said, at times an Epilogue can work. It’s your call, and that’s part of what makes you an author.

Twenty is My Name

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Twenty is My Name

“I told you nothing is coming out my mouth, Lucas.” The Captain of Interpol sat down at his desk, swiveling around to face Lucas, the reporter for the Stockholm Gazette.

“Captain, you must tell me who is twenty. He is world-famous, and he doesn’t work for you and Interpol. I think the man could get away with murder as popular as he is now.”

“No one is above the law, not even Twenty,” the Captain said.

“Come on, give me something to put in my story. I’ll be sure Interpol gets all the credit.” Lucas pulled his note pad out of his pocket along with a pen and posed himself ready to write down what the Captain said.

“I don’t know anything more than you do. I got my knowledge from the Commissioner. You are wasting your time. You’ll have to find yourself another source.”

“There is another question for you, Captain, and it has nothing to do with Twenty. Answer it for me, and I’ll go away. Lucas had his pen ready to write.

The Captain straightened out in his chair and put both hands together on top of his desk. “Okay, ask your question and then get out.”

Lucas smiled as he looked at the Captain. “You are a lead Captain at this joint. Why did they put you in this shitty office?”

Looking around the room, the Captain chuckled. “This room is not bad; I’ve had worse. It’s everything I need: my desk, computer, printer and a couple of bookshelves. There is even artwork on the wall. That tapestry came out of my ancestral castle in Scotland. Just because it doesn’t look like it came of HQ Magazine doesn’t mean it isn’t a great office. Now, if there is nothing else, I want to get to work.”

“You didn’t answer my question completely,” Lucas stated.

“What did I leave out?”

“Why were you put in here when I know the other offices are professionally decorated.” Lucas swung his arm around in a circle indicating the entire office.

“They put me in here because I asked them to. It’s what I wanted. Now get the hell out of here and let me work.” The Captain smiled as Lucas stood.

“I know this is not your style, so something else is behind you having this office.”

“Lucas Arnold, if you do not leave this second, I will make you pay.”

“Now, now, dad, don’t get your Jockeys all twisted. I’m going. Thanks for letting me talk to you,” Lucas said. He opened the door and stepped out. He was sure to close it behind himself.

The Captain wanted to be sure Lucas left the building before he spoke. “All right, Twenty, you can come out now.”

The tapestry fluttered and then pushed out into the room. A man with jet black hair and baby blue eyes stepped out from behind. He had females panting after him as if they were in heat. “That secret room is a godsend for people like me who wants to keep hidden.”

“That’s all well and good, Twenty, but what do you have to report?” The Captain asked.

“The only thing I found out for certain is the Russian Prime Minister flew to the Seychelles to meet with the Vice President of America once a month for the past six months. Something big is in the works, but I don’t know what yet,” Twenty said.

“You have to go to the Seychelles and stay till you find out what is going on,” the Captain said.

“Are you sure you want me to stay. I think I should follow the Prime Minister. Especially since I’m already established in Russia.”

“You can follow him if you want, but you be on that island whenever there is a meeting. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, loud and clear. I’m to play the part of a spy instead of an assassin. Maybe you can change my nickname from Twenty to Killer.”

“That will never happen, Twenty. Your job is whatever I tell you to do. You’ve assassinated twenty world leaders over the years without any questions. You’re excellent on the job, and there won’t be any changes to your name.”

“Well, Twenty is a great number. I’ll leave now and get back to my dull life of bookkeeper for Putin.”

“Goodbye, Twenty, and please leave by the same route you came in.”

The tapestry fluttered, and Twenty was gone.