Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Writing the Romance: The Wrap-Up

Millais' Peace Concluded
The wrap-up tells us where the characters are now (that the action is over). I admit to being partial to longer wrap-ups, even when I know a long wrap-up may not be artistically intelligent. Edgar Allen Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart" ends with the climax, and it's hard to see how else that story could end. Artistically, it's perfect.

Still, I'd like to know if the guy went to prison.

Most classic romances deliver an epilogue of sorts, even Austen. She doesn't fast-forward to life after Darcy and Elizabeth's marriage, but Pride & Prejudice ends with a kind of summary of the courtship, when the book could have ended with the proposal. However, ending with the proposal would have been far less satisfying.

Jane Eyre employs an epilogue and ends on one of the most bizarre notes in literary history. Pamela doesn't stop. Dorothy Sayers tried to provide more information about Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane's future and got criticized by snooty, intellectual girls for her pains. On the other hand, Rebecca and Gone with the Wind could really have used more of a wrap-up, so much so that fans have written their own.

It is customary for romance paperbacks to end with an epilogue several months to a year in the future; it assures us romance lovers that the couple made it (see, everything is fine!).

The novels in KJ Charles' Society of Gentleman Series each end  approximately two to three months after the events of the last book (although the reader does not know this until the end of the last book). Keira Andrews' Kidnapped by the Pirate fast-forwards to nearly three years in the future. C.S. Pacat's Captive Prince series does not end with a fast-forward; you have to buy "The Summer Palace" to get that epilogue, which I did. (So from a working-writer's position, telling all upfront may not always be wise.)

Advice to Romance Writers: Generally speaking, unless you have a huge fan base--like Pacat--who will buy your supplemental stories, you really should have a wrap-up/epilogue in the book. Romance is about happy endings; assure your readers that there was one.