Posted On November 24, 2014 by Print This Post

And They All Lived Epiloguey Ever After by Anna Campbell

Epilogues. Do you love them or do you believe the story should be summed up in the last chapter? Award winning historical romance author Anna Campbell joins us today to defend the use of the epilogue. (Fair warning…if you haven’t read Anna’s books, this post contains spoilers.) 

Welcome back, Anna! 

Hi Jennifer! Hi Romance University mavens!

Back in 2007, I attended a workshop by Romance Queen Jennifer Crusie at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Sydney. It was a marvelous session, full of wit and wisdom, as you would expect. And it included a blanket embargo on prologues and epilogues.

Ms. Crusie was adamant that you should be able to cover everything you need within the body of your story, and that both prologues and epilogues were unnecessary.

My first book CLAIMING THE COURTESAN had come out that year and UNTOUCHED had been accepted as my next release, but I was definitely still wet behind the ears when it comes to life as a published author. At that stage, Ms. Crusie was preaching to the choir on the no epilogues front (although I’ve always liked prologues, even if neither of those books featured one). I’d read too many epilogues that were just tacked onto the story without performing any plot function. All my questions had been answered by the end of the last chapter so the epilogue was just kissy-kissy, lovey-dovey stuff.

I was a bit of a purist back in 2007!

So my first four books, CTC, UNTOUCHED, TEMPT THE DEVIL and CAPTIVE OF SIN, have no epilogues. I was going to go wild with TEMPT THE DEVIL andAnna Campbell 43970006 include an epilogue where the heroine told the hero about her pregnancy. Unfortunately, one of the plot points in TTD is that she nearly died bearing her only child. Instead of a joyous moment on the French estate where Erith and Olivia have found lasting happiness, Erith went into a spin because he was scared stiff that he’d lose his beloved wife. OK, not exactly epilogue material. Delete.

The first time I wrote an epilogue was for my fifth book, MY RECKLESS SURRENDER. If any of you have read that, you’ll remember the fiendish plot that set the story in motion. Far too fiendish to bring to a satisfactory conclusion in the “I love you” chapter at the end. The hero and heroine of Reckless also have huge issues to resolve, so I thought it would be nice to show the readers that Diana and Vale are still happy a couple of years after the wedding.

That opened the epilogue flood gates. Since then, I’ve been addicted to epilogues. All of my full-length stories and one of my novellas have included them – often quite long and detailed too! Jenny Crusie would be ashamed of me.

And do you know what? If I was writing those first four books today, I’d give them epilogues too!

Why? Because romance readers ADORE epilogues.

They want to linger with the characters. They want to see that everything is OK. They want to know if there are babies or other major changes for the people they’ve come to love. Readers want one last happy glimpse of the world the author has created.

Does this mean I’m no longer a purist?

Not entirely. I still think epilogues need to perform some plot function. In all my epilogues, there remains some thread (or threads) to tie up to make the story complete. In the case of a couple of my books like MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION or A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS, those threads are majorly important but not immediately related to the conflict between the couple. In Midnight, it’s the fate of Ranelaw’s lost sister. In Rake, it’s solving the mystery of Richard’s parentage. Both issues are too complicated to squeeze into a last chapter where the couple finally overcome the barriers to their romantic union. In both these cases, there is a significant time gap between the uniting of the hero and the heroine and the solving of this last plot element.

Epilogues are very useful when the heroine is pregnant at the end of the story. Readers want to know if it’s a boy or a girl and that everything’s all right. I’ve done a couple of those, although generally they’re shorter and less complex than the epilogues with a major plot point left outstanding. Of course, if you’re writing a continuing series, you can answer these questions in future books – but I’ve learned that romance readers still want their few pages of happily ever after, like dessert after the main course of the story.

Other reasons to have an epilogue include tying up the fate of a secondary character or two, describing the wedding or the first Christmas (I use Christmas as finale in both WHAT A DUKE DARES and my forthcoming A SCOUNDREL BY MOONLIGHT). When the couple has had a turbulent romance, the epilogue shows that all is well once they’ve settled into life together. In my recent novella, HER CHRISTMAS EARL, it’s too soon for the characters to declare their lifelong devotion immediately after the wedding so I included an epilogue set during Christmas the next year when those “I love yous” have more integrity. Personally in a romance, I like the epilogue to relate to the couple featured in the book rather than act as the launch pad for a new story, but I’ve also read effective epilogues that work as a teaser for the next instalment in the series.

When I’m running workshops, people often ask me how long an epilogue should be. The answer is as long as it needs to be. If you’ve got a lot of ground to cover, an epilogue can be longer than most of your chapters – that’s the case in both Midnight and Rake. If it’s a glimpse of happily ever after, you can generally get away with a few pages. Like most things in writing, the answer’s like “How long is a ball of string?” If it works, it works.

So here is my personal list of dos for epilogues:

  1. Include them if you possibly can. Readers like them.
  2. Use them to tie up some plot point, even if only a minor one. They should still perform a function in the story.
  3. Epilogues are a great way to cover a gap in timing – several months or even years after the events in the story, it’s a nice opportunity to revisit the characters and see what’s happened to them in the interim. If there’s no time gap, perhaps you’re writing a last chapter and not an epilogue.
  4. You can make them as long as you like although if the plot point is minor, I’d recommend short rather than long.
  5. If you’ve raised a story question in the book, even only a minor one like the fate of a pet or a secondary character, make sure you tie that up either in the body of the story or in the epilogue.
  6. Don’t introduce new points of tension unless you’re using the epilogue as a teaser for the next story. Your principal couple need to be blissfully happy at this stage of the story and not facing further troubles. Romances should end happily ever after!

 

What’s your take on epilogues? Are they necessary or does it depend on the story?  Do you include an epilogue in your stories? 

Author Suzanne Johnson joins us on Wednesday, November 26th.

*** 

Her Christmas Earl

Her latest release is HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA, only 99 cents from all good e-booksellers, including Amazon.

No good deed goes unpunished…

To save her hen-witted sister from scandal, Philippa Sanders ventures into a rake’s bedroom – and into his power. Now her reputation hangs by a thread and only a hurried marriage can rescue her. Is the Earl of Erskine the heartless libertine the world believes? Or will Philippa discover unexpected honor in a man notorious for his wild ways?

Blair Hume, the dissolute Earl of Erskine, has had his eye on the intriguing Miss Sanders since he arrived at this deadly dull house party. Now a reckless act delivers this beguiling woman into his hands as a delightful Christmas gift. Does fate offer him a fleeting Yuletide diversion? Or will this Christmas Eve encounter spark a passion to last a lifetime?

You can read an excerpt of HER CHRISTMAS EARL.

***

Bio: 2014 RITA® award finalist ANNA CAMPBELL has written nine multi award-winning historical romances for Grand Central Publishing and Avon HarperCollins and her work is published in sixteen languages. Anna has won numerous awards for her Regency-set stories including RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence (twice), the Write Touch, the Aspen Gold (twice) and the Australian Romance Readers Association’s favorite historical romance (five times).

Her books have been nominated three times for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award and three times for Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year. Anna is currently engaged in writing the “Sons of Sin” series, which started in 2012 with SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED (http://annacampbell.info/rogue.html). Anna lives on the beautiful east coast of Australia where she writes full-time. You can find out more about Anna on her website, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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26 Responses to “And They All Lived Epiloguey Ever After by Anna Campbell”

  1. In many cases I like them, they give closure or a hint of the future, but I also enjoy series that allows me to revisit beloved characters from previous books. When I fall in love with the characters, I like to know that they continue to have a happy ending!

    Great post!

    Posted by Laurie Logan | November 24, 2014, 1:16 am
  2. Great article Anna!

    I love epilogues and I’ve used them twice. In Warrior’s Surrender it was also a necessity – the hero had been gravely injured in a trial by combat and while it could be inferred that he fully recovers, the epilogue lets the reader see that for themselves.

    Posted by Elizabeth Ellen Carter | November 24, 2014, 3:06 am
  3. Morning Anna!

    I LOVE epilogues! It’s like a bonus to the story…you’re smiling because of the HEA, and then you start thinking oh no! I’ve finished the book!!! but there’s a lovely epilogue…lol..it gives you just a bit longer with the characters.

    Thanks for a great post Anna! Always glad to have you back at RU!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | November 24, 2014, 9:36 am
    • Carrie, love swinging by here. I enjoye writing pieces about craft (as the length of this one should attest, LOL!). Thanks for having me as your guest. I think that puts it beautifully why we romance readers love epilogues.

      Posted by Anna Campbell | November 24, 2014, 1:13 pm
  4. I so agree, Anna. The epilogue allows us to linger a while longer with our beloved characters, and we get to see the dream living on. Nice to know the engagement ring really did lead them down the aisle, or that the wedding didn’t end in divorce three months later (as they so often, in real life, do).
    Thanks for standing up for our cherished epilogues!

    Posted by Frances Brown w/a Claire Gem | November 24, 2014, 11:28 am
  5. I’ve never quite understood the one-size-fits-all approach to how we “should” write stories. I love prologues and epilogues if they impart meaningful content. Heck, sometimes I like ’em even if they don’t! I think of them as the jump back in time (prologue) and the jump forward in time (epilogue) that frames the story. They may not always feel entirely necessary but I can’t say I’ve ever tossed aside a book because it had one. Or didn’t. 🙂

    Posted by Lesann | November 24, 2014, 3:48 pm
  6. Lesann, that’s a really good point. Even when I thought either prologue or epilogue didn’t add much plot wise (and most of the time I think they do), I didn’t chuck the book because of them.

    Posted by Anna Campbell | November 24, 2014, 3:55 pm
  7. Hi Anna,

    Laughing at the idea of JC being ashamed of you. I remember that talk of hers too. She was very good, wasn’t she?

    I’m not someone who looks for an epilogue. I think that’s because I’ve read too many that don’t tie up any loose threads. Ones that just show you the characters being happy, when we should already have that from the rest of the book. However, like you, in recent times I’ve been writing more of them. Usually if the romance is such that you really need to be sure time will heal certain rifts. I enjoy reading a good epilogue and, like you, I’ve had readers say how much they enjoy them.

    Posted by Annie West | November 24, 2014, 4:14 pm
    • Annie, I remember being surprised when a few people complained at the lack of epilogue in those early books. I’ve since come to realise it’s something a lot of romance readers look for. I think when the plot is complicated or the relationship is particularly difficult, an epilogue just ties things up so neatly. Well worth doing. And as you say, often the characters need the extra time for the happy ending to really sink in.

      Posted by Anna Campbell | November 24, 2014, 6:15 pm
  8. I pretty much dislike all blanket rules about writing. Prologues and epilogues are fine when they work and dreadful when they don’t. If you’ve got a prologue or epilogue that you think is important and you’re worried about that “rule,” just call it another chapter.

    Posted by Lillian Marek | November 24, 2014, 4:34 pm
  9. Personally, I like epilogues. Most MCs are a fair bit younger than I am. A glimpse at later months, or years, makes that HEA glow a little more relatable. The characters become more realistic because their lives go on and they grow older, just like me. Weaving them into future stories has the same effect. Love, love your books Anna.

    Posted by Rose | November 24, 2014, 6:00 pm
    • Thanks so much, Rose! Lovely to hear. I actually like seeing the characters as their relationships mature too. I’m currently writing my first series and I was surprised at just how much I loved revisiting those earlier people and showing the changes that had occurred to them in the interim.

      Posted by Anna Campbell | November 24, 2014, 6:17 pm
  10. Sorry, don’t like them. Just use a last chapter. This is one of the reasons I have a problem with most typical romance novels. Fly in the ointment, me.

    Posted by Karen R. Sanderson | November 24, 2014, 6:06 pm
    • Interesting, Karen. Horses for courses. I have to say when there’s a shift in time or space, I like it called an epilogue rather than a last chapter – especially if the “I love yous” and commitment to a relationship have already happened.

      Posted by Anna Campbell | November 24, 2014, 6:19 pm
  11. Hi Anna,

    As you’ve stated, epilogues serve several purposes, and as a reader, I look for closure, especially if it’s a great read and I don’t want it to end. Whenever a dog or (insert animal) is in the story, I want to know what happened to it, and if there’s an interesting secondary character, I’m curious if they’ll be getting their own story. However, I’m not a fan of epilogues written in a secondary character’s POV serving as a link to the next book in a series.

    Some authors post a short continuation of their books on their websites for fans who can’t get enough. Is that something you’d consider? I’d love to know how Verity and Justin are faring. 🙂

    Thanks for a terrific post!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 24, 2014, 6:21 pm
    • Jen, thanks so much for having me as your guest today. I always love visiting RU!

      Interesting you mentioned doing some mini epilogues for the website. That’s a possibility although I think if I was going to do that I’d want it for newsletter subscribers or secret squirrel fans or something just so they aren’t spoilers. You do find out a bit about what happened to Verity and Justin in Tempt the Devil – they turn up toward the end at a crucial moment.

      Posted by Anna Campbell | November 25, 2014, 2:34 am
  12. I know Jenny’s feelings on epilogues and prologues, and when she is describing the reasons to avoid them, it always makes perfect sense.

    That said, I have never had a problem with prologues and epilogues when I’m reading a book. In fact, in the case of epilogues, I look at them as a sort of bonus peek into the future – I quite like them, especially in historicals.

    I love the cover of your new book and I’m very excited to read it! I know it will end up on my Anna Campbell Keeper Shelf, along with all your other books!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 24, 2014, 7:49 pm
    • Becke, lovely to see you here. Oh, everything Jenny said made sense – and I absolutely loved her workshop. But I have to say that I think those books of mine with epilogues NEEDED them. Ditto with the prologues. I think with prologues, they’re a great way of avoiding a great dump of back story when something happens at a previous time separated from the body of the story to incite the main action. Hmm, perhaps I should do another post on prologues! 🙂

      Thanks for saying you like the new book cover. I think it’s gorgeous!

      Posted by Anna Campbell | November 25, 2014, 2:36 am
  13. As to the cover – something about the red and gold is both festive and elegant. Love it!

    Jenny Crusie’s workshops are awesome! One of her workshops inspired me to put my first fictional words on paper. I’ve got a sloooow learning curve, unfortunately!

    I think a prologuey post would be great!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 26, 2014, 2:14 pm
  14. Becke, Jenny Crusie is such a wonderful, inspiring speaker. I felt so lucky to have a whole day listening to her wisdom.

    A prologuey post next, huh? At least it won’t contain spoilers! LOL!

    Thanks for saying you like the novella cover. That’s actually a picture I took of a friend of mine!

    Posted by Anna Campbell | December 2, 2014, 12:31 pm

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