Lately, I’ve been doing a more reading. I attribute this to my Nook. As much as I resisted the idea of reading electronically, I have to say it’s nice to have a bookstore at my fingertips. It appeases that instant gratification, too busy to make another stop aspect of my life. Whatever the reason, I’m reading more.
In my recent reads, I’ve come across more and more books that have epilogues. In fact, there are so many stories of late that do have epilogues that I’m a bit surprised when I find one that doesn’t. As a writer, I can tell you it’s rare for me to include an epilogue, which I’d say is generational.
When I was growing up and reading everything I could get my hands on, it was rare to come across an epilogue. The story ended where it ended. Sometimes things were neat and tidy, but sometimes they were left in the air. The idea with leaving things in the air was to leave things to the readers’ imaginations. Let the readers decide if getting married meant the main characters had kids and lived happily ever after.
If a writer tries to leave things open ended now, readers will eviscerate them. Okay, eviscerate is a bit of an extreme, but they will point it out. Some will be nice and some won’t. I’ve personally been bitten by this. I concluded my trilogy with the anti heroes triumphing over the heroes. The last scene was the epic battle followed by a reflective passage from the protagonist. The story concluded on Valentine’s Day of the protagonist’s senior year of high school, which is important for two reasons.
First, I got countless requests from readers urging me to complete an epilogue and let them know what happened for the rest of the year. They wanted to know if my protagonist went to her prom and graduation and what happened in her future. It wasn’t enough for them that she’d won the battle she’d been fighting for three books. They needed to know more. Second, in the beginning of the final chapter of the final book, there was a scene in which the protagonist received a Valentine’s present from her boyfriend. The book ended with me never revealing to readers what the present was. To be honest, I didn’t think they’d care so much. Boy was I wrong! I was flooded with messages all asking one question: what did she get for Valentine’s Day? The fact that the gift was never specified bothered my readers and it was suggested I address this in an epilogue.
While I didn’t add an epilogue to my trilogy, this experience, combined with my recent reads, got me to thinking. Maybe the epilogue is more than a nice idea. Maybe it’s something writers owe to readers who’ve invested their time and emotions in the characters. If I think of it that way, it makes more sense to me. Having omitted them for so long, it’s going to take some effort for me to include them in my future works. The spoiled child in me wants to resist the idea and wants to tell people this is my book. I’m the author and I’ll write what I want.
So, I’ll write what I want, but if the fans aren’t happy with what I write they aren’t going to read it. As a writer, it’s important to remember who I write for and why I post my work to be read online. I write for the pleasure of my fans. Making them happy makes me happy. To ignore a suggestion that is valid simply because I’m stubborn or possessive of my story isn’t going to endear me to those I write for nor will it make me a better writer.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to write an epilogue for every story I write. I also don’t expect to see one in every story I read. Sometimes, they just won’t be called for. Sometimes they will though and that’s when I’m going to do it. I’ll let the story be my guide.