What is an Epilogue?


An epilogue is a nifty device that acts as an additional – but separate – part of your story. You can use it to wrap up any loose ends, showing what happens to certain characters.

An epilogue always takes place in the future, after the main events of your story have happened. Filmmakers often use it to give a sneaky afterword, hinting that there’ll be a sequel to a film.

Like so many other words in the storytelling world, ‘epilogue’ comes from a Greek word, ‘epilogos’, which means ‘conclusion word’. The epilogue always appears at the end of a film (or literary work). This makes it the opposite of a prologue, which always pops up at the start.

Greeks, always blazing a trail

The Greeks invented all the good stuff. Greek yoghurt. Greek salad. Really, the epilogue should be called the Greek epilogue. Aristotle and co. invented the epilogue aeons ago as a way to summarise a play’s moral lessons, as well as explaining what happened to its main characters.

Then Shakespeare and his Elizabethan mates came along and ripped it off. Remember Romeo and Juliet? At the end of this smash hit, Shakespeare provides a touching post-play description, which explains the dreary atmosphere that sets in after tragedy hits the play’s two lovers:

A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun for sorrow will not show his head.
Go hence to have more talk of these sad things,
Some shall be pardoned, and some punished,
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

Of all the literary devices, the epilogue is a corker, with people still going mad for it today. We’ll show you a few examples below so you can exercise some Greek epilogos in your next production.

In case of emergency

Like setting off a fire alarm, an epilogue should only be explored when absolutely necessary. You definitely shouldn't use it as a cheap substitute for a meaty, satisfying ending, and your epilogue should provide a point of view that's vital to the main story. It's a supplemental tidbit that helps a viewer understand what's happened, offering a neat resolution.

Here are three questions you might want to ask yourself before you go cooking up an epilogue:

1. Does it help to develop a character?

After seven books and a neverending array of twists and turns, the Harry Potter series finally drew to a close with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. At the end of the final installment, there’s an epilogue – set 19 years after the events in the rest of the book – where readers get to see the fates of the characters as adults. It’s a reward for readers who spent so much time in Harry’s wizarding world. And it also reassures nervous Potter fanatics that all his suffering and dragon battling wasn’t in vain.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

2. Does it hint at a sequel?

American Netflix hit Stranger Things served up gargantuan epilogues at the end of both its seasons, each time hinting that something sinister is still out there in Hawkins… and, naturally, they’ll need the next installment to find it and kill it. In the final scenes of season two, just as everything’s calmed down, we see the camera slowly zoom out and gradually flip upside down. As the music gets more ominous, we suddenly realise that we’re in 'the Upside Down' – and that things are definitely bubbling away down there. Now that’s what you call a cliffhanger – and the very definition of epilogue.

The Dance - Stranger Things

3. Does it emphasise a key part of the story?

Underneath all the fighting and blood and black eyes, the Rocky film franchise is really about grit, perseverance, and relationships. Rocky III sees Rocky teaming up with his former nemesis, Apollo Creed, as Apollo coaches Rocky for his next fight. Apollo’s one condition? That Rocky grants him one final fight. And that’s exactly what happens in the film's epilogue, after Rocky’s main fight – with Clubber Lang, a.k.a. Mr. T – is over. It’s one of the most tender moments in the movie, wrapping up those last few loose ends, and emphasising the importance of friendship.

Rocky III – Ending

Wrap up your stories with Boords

At Boords, we love literary devices and we can't stand loose ends. So if you're looking for someone to help with your next epilogue, look no further.

Boords is the online storyboarding app for creative professionals. Simplify your pre-production process with storyboards, scripts, and animatics – then gather feedback – all in one place. Creating storyboards (and epilogues) has never been simpler.

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