I just finished writing the script for a music/culinary-themed graphic novel I’ve been working on called In The Weeds and I found myself wrestling–not for the first time–with whether to include an epilogue. Here’s the thing with epilogues: whenever I’m reading a book or watching a film and there’s an epilogue tacked on to the end that wraps everything up (as Homer Simpson would say) in a neat little package, I always feel sort of condescended to–as if the writer assumes that I’m too fragile (or just plain to conventional) to deal with a story that has any loose ends.
On the other hand though, whenever I’m writing I always want to wrap everything up. I even had an epilogue scene for In the Weeds tacked up as the final index card on my little plotting cork-board. At the last minute, though, I decided not to include it. The story just ENDS. The main conflicts have been resolved, but ultimately there are a lot of non-essential things that the reader will probably be curious about that are never resolved. For example, one of the main threads in the story involves a band having to decide whether to jump on-board with a successful but somewhat sleazy record producer, and in doing so betray their current friend and manager. You of course find out what they choose to do, but without an epilogue, you never find out whether the choice they make pans out for them–whether they ever “hit the big time” or not.
As mentioned before, this isn’t the first time I’ve been round and round with how much of the plot to tie up at the end of a story. The last time was a few books back with Midnight Sun. That book originally had a one-page epilogue scene that would have been the first and only time the story moved to first person narration from the protagonist, H.R. I actually drew and lettered this page and had it ready to go to press. Before I send off the files for a completed book though, I like to have one (or preferably more than one) person read through the book and give me any thoughts or suggestions he/she has.
In the case of Midnight Sun, one of the people who was nice enough to give the book a read-through was my friend Craig Fischer. One of the things he reacted to was the epilogue. As I recall, he mentioned the change in narration to first person as well as just the overall “neatness” of having everything tied up in the end via a verbal “exposition dump.” Ultimately (through the Magic of Photoshop™) I removed the narration and ended the story instead with a (nearly) wordless single-page image.
Just for fun, though, here’re both versions. First the page used in the published book, then the original with the narration: