An epilogue, baby! Well, sometimes, at the end of a book, a book full of words and meaning and themes and plot and characters and crazy imaginative shit like that. I don't know how you feel about epilogues (or if you've ever thought about them once, alone and of themselves, which is the sort of fiction-related crap we here at Blogagaard sit around and ponder each and every day) but I've come around to them as of late. I used to to be of the opinion that they were kind of a cheap tack-on at the end of an otherwise compact novel, a sort of unneeded footnote, but I've realized lately that in today's borderline illiterate world a novelist needs all the help he or she can possibly get and that an epilogue is just one more tool in the ol' writer's toolbox.
That said, I think we need certain rules for epilogues. The first and biggest rule, I'd say, is simply THEY SHOULD NOT BE LONGER THAN AN ACTUAL CHAPTER. Otherwise, why not just add them as one more chapter? In my mind, an epilogue should be a relatively swift yet punchy exit from the fictional dream, weighing in between one and seven pages, max. Don't go all Return of the King (film) on your poor, antsy reader.
Second: I used an epilogue in The Suicide Collectors because, above all else, the book had at that point shifted from the point of view of one character (the one and only POV for the entire novel) to a second character. Still, I kept it short as possible, because it was AN EPILOGUE.
Third: Feel free to disregard the two rules above and play with an epilogue when you're punching out those early drafts, but when final editing time comes around, only keep it if you feel the material within will leave a HUGE gap, an EXORBITANT gap, if not included. An epilogue should not be a cheap and easy way to tack on a few more tidbits of information or reveal some crucial final plot twist. An epilogue should be elegant, with more awe than shock.
Next up on Blogagaard: Prologues!