“Are Epilogues Necessary?” and the “Cookie-Cutter Epilogue”

Thursday, February 4, 2016



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?


12 comments :

  1. I've been wondering this myself! Especially when I finish reading romance novels in particular. I get so tired of seeing everyone married and with a kid--sure, it's great but I feel like not everyone needs that sequence of events to be happy and it gets boring to read after awhile.

    Cassandra Clare writes the best epilogues I think. They are the perfect length and wrap everything up in such a great way that I am always satisfied when I end her series.

    One of my favourite books to lack an epilogue was the Under the Never Sky Trilogy. At first I was disappointed that I didn't get an epilogue but I loved the way everything wrapped up so I appreciated it more because there was no epilogue.

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    1. Definitely! Thanks for sharing your thoughts :) I have yet to read Cassandra Clare's books and still haven't picked up the Under the Never Sky trilogy, but I probably will now that you mentioned them! I'm quite curious now.

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  2. Hmm... I don't really mind epilogues all that much. I'd honestly rather have them than not, because, well, if the epilogue kind of ruined the "heart-stopping beauty of the last chapter," then at least the last chapter was good, right? Then we can all forget about the epilogue like it never even existed. At least, that's what I usually think when an epilogue wasn't my taste. xD

    I sort of agree with what you said about epilogues that were written for the need of closure from the readers, though. I can sort of relate to that, since I've felt the same thing for books that I don't want to end just yet and has such an open ending in its last chapter and lacks an epilogue. >.< HOW CAN I LIVE WITH THAT??

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    1. That's true. Other than for Harry Potter and Mockingjay, I pretty much always forget about what happens in epilogues.

      And I know what you mean. I don't like having endings that leave readers hanging, but at the same time, I don't really know how to explain my thoughts further. I feel like books can wrap up well while still having clear cut endings, epilogues or not (if that makes sense).

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  3. I totally agree with you! However, some readers need the epilogue and hate open endings. A lot of people hated the ending of the Delirium Trilogy because it's an open one, I personally loved it :D
    And some epilogues can be really good! Like the one in Clockwork Princess:D

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    1. Definitely! I totally understand that it can be hard to be left hanging, so I know why people like epilogues, I just wish they were more satisfying. I've heard from others that Cassandra Clare writes good epilogues, so I will definitely be looking forward to reading her books more now!

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  4. Butttttt epiloguessss. Hahahha. I'm definitely someone that needs closure, because yes I need my characters to be okay! But I definitely agree that sometimes a book doesn't NEED an epilogue. I've read some where I didn't necessarily care for it, and then there were others that just made it confusing.

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    1. I'm super conflicted too >.< I can see both sides - I like closure, but sometimes it goes too far and other times it's not enough. I like the idea of epilogues, but so many have fallen flat for me...

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  5. Oh, I totally get what you mean. Sometimes I don't like epilogues because I want room to wonder. However, more often than not I'm delighted when we get epilogues. For example I love the Harry Potter and Legend epilogue! I also like getting companion novels/series within the same world, like Blood of Olympus or Stars Above.

    Jess @Princessica of Books

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    1. Agreed! I loved the Harry Potter epilogue! It was so great seeing the gang all grown up :,) I still have to catch up on the Legend Trilogy! (I'm so behind on finishing series, it's ridiculous!) I've never read companion novels, really, but I can see the appeal. I'll probably pick up Heroes of Olympus again soon though (since I read The Lost Hero and never finished the rest of them).

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  6. Ugh I don't like epilogues because they're usually exactly what you described: this is how much better the world is, this is who married who, these are the names of their kids, etc. I'd rather the story end where it ends. Plus things don't have to be perfect to be good, and there are other ways to live life and be happy, so that HEA doesn't suit every character. As long as the big questions are answered, the arc is complete, and the goal has either been accomplished or failed, I've got all the closure I need.

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    1. Agreed! As long as the big questions are answered, I'm usually satisfied.

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