In literature, an epigraph is a qutoation on the title page of a book or a motto heading a section of a work. (Handbook to Literature)

Epigraph Writing Exercise

An epigraph must really earn its place within the work. Editors are split on the necessity of an epigraph. Some editors like to see them, others find them to be as necessary as a hangnail. If you are going to use an epigraph, consider using it in a way that is new and essential to the work you are writing.

Choose a work or chapter you are currently revising: short or long. Study your main character for moments when s/he might use a quote. If you cannot find a moment when your main character would quote someone or something recognizable, then the epigraph might not be organic to the work. If you can find a moment when the main character can organically quote either in close in narration or dialogue, use this quote as your epigraph. 

Before sending the work out, really consider whether the epigraph is necessary to the narrative. Usually, the epigraph can be cut. Readers like to be thrown into the scene from the start and epigraphs can hinder this immediacy, so really consider whether your epigraph is necessary to the narrative.

Submit Your Work for Individualized Feedback

Please use Universal Manuscript Guidelines when submitting: .doc or .docx, double spacing, 10-12 pt font, Times New Roman, 1 inch margins, first page header with contact information, section breaks “***” or “#.”


The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the PresentEric Kandel.

A Handbook to Literature. William Harmon.

“Cogito et Histoire de la Folie.” Jacques Derrida.

Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Lynne Truss.

The Elements of Style. William Strunk. 

New Oxford American DictionaryEdited by Angus Stevenson and Christine A. Lindberg.

The Norton Anthology of World LiteratureMartin Puchner, et al.

The Norton Introduction to PhilosophyGideon Rosen and Alex Byrne.

Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. Patricia T. O’Conner

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French & Ned Stuckey-French.

Writing the Other. Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.

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