Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Epilogue vs Denouement

After telling my son that I just wrapped up my novel's denouement (dā-ˌnü-ˈmäⁿ), he asked me what was the difference between a denouncement and an epilogue. 

Good question, good kid.

Like a good parent, I told him to look it up in a dictionary. You remember those? Like a tablet, but for word definitions. Better yet, no batteries.

He came back with:
·         Denouement: the final outcome of the main dramatic complication in a literary work
·         EPILOGUE: a concluding section that rounds out the design of a literary work

So both sound similar  –  so much for the low tech solution.  In reaching out to the Internet hive mind, I got a more specific answer.

The denouement is a more immediate wrap up of the aftermath of the story. It's the "yes" to the hero’s proposal, the banishment if the traitor and the adulation of the tribe.

And the modern epilogue is usually clearly labeled and can be weeks, months or years later.  As the end credits roll, we see the final fates of friends and foes play out.

Yet for me, that makes the most succinct of classic endings, “... And they lived happily ever after,” in a gray area.

And while I admire the economy of the phrase, I've never been a fan.  It implies that the rest of their lives are so boring that the people we've rooted for aren't worth visiting again.  

Doesn't leave much room for a sequel.