by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine
When the closing scene did eventually rise up, I thought, "Ah, you got me again." But, as always, I was glad to see it.
Whether we're kept in suspense waiting for it or not, the epilogue is reassuring in its familiarity, and a chance to give the audience time to recover from a big finish before they jump out of their seats and head to the car. More importantly, from a storytelling standpoint, it's their chance to assess what they've just experienced and learn what it means to the characters and the world they live in.
Getting fancy, the epilogue is known in some circles as the denouement, meaning "the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot." It's all about cause and effect. When something happens, we are inherently curious to know the result.
The epilogue is exactly where you'll see the other end of the character arc our hero's been through. With that in mind, you're doing yourself a favor if you anticipate what an ideal epilogue for your story would be, and put the means in place as you write everything that precedes.
Some authors dismiss the epilogue as being too cliché. However, bringing a story to an abrupt ending without providing the aftermath is like taking the reader on a journey and not giving them a ride back.
As Dune author Frank Herbert said, “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” Providing a closer that leaves readers with a satisfying sense of the aftermath is the secret to making ends meet.