Have you ever found yourself loving a book and thinking the last chapter ends with a bang, only to find out that there's still an epilogue to read? And then you read the epilogue and that high-impact ending is no more? I know I have. So I'd like to talk about epilogues today. Especially what I like to call the "cookie-cutter epilogue".
The cookie-cutter epilogue is commonly seen in the final installment of a trilogy or series as means to wrap everything up. It usually jumps ahead by __x__ amount of time and dive into the lives of our beloved characters in the near future, skipping ahead to move past the problems the characters still have to face after they've finally won whatever battle they've been fighting for so long.
I suppose epilogues are a nice way to say that all is well with the characters, but sometimes I find that they take away from the story, and I know I'm not the only one.
To elaborate on my previous point, epilogues far too often wrap up with the main character happily married with child and everything being rebuilt, yada yada happily ever after. The end. Don't get me wrong, I'm usually glad that my favorite characters are safe and sound, but so many stories seems to end in the same exact way. It gets so bland.
I personally don't want to sit through more books just about the reconstruction of the kingdom or whatever after the war is over, but I find it is kind of obvious that the changes will need to be made and they do not need to necessarily include it in the story as the closing thought. I understand all stories can't end with "And they looked off into the distance and saw all the rubble of the battle, but instead of feeling despair, were filled with hope for the future" or something more eloquent but along that same wavelength, but it's also kind of frustrating when so many epilogues have the same exact end.
Yes, everyone deserve to be happy, but does every book have to end on a high note? What's wrong with not having a perfect ending?
The main reason why I assume epilogues exist is because we as readers want closure. Often, the last chapter has a strong impact on us, but they are often open-ended. Do we really need the closure of epilogues to be satisfied? Is there anything wrong with having an ambiguous ending? Can there be a happy medium?
Or here's another question: can we have endings without epilogues? Last chapters are always unique to the arc of a particular story. Although they can be open-ended, having slightly ambiguous endings does not bother me. I hate cliffhangers, but I don't mind vague endings if it means having a special ending solely for my favorite characters, rather than sharing the same fate as many other book characters out there. Not having epilogues will limit the cliche endings I dread. But will something be missing from the story without them?