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.
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A Handbook to Literature. William Harmon.
“Cogito et Histoire de la Folie.” Jacques Derrida.
The Elements of Style. William Strunk.
New Oxford American Dictionary. Edited by Angus Stevenson and Christine A. Lindberg.
The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Martin Puchner, et al.
The Norton Introduction to Philosophy. Gideon 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.« Back to Reference Index