An epigraph is a quotation, phrase or poem placed at the beginning of a book. They can also be used at the start of new sections or even chapters.
I like them, as they indicate the intent of an author in creating a story, offering a hint of the mindset they had and acting as a mood-setter for what’s about to come.
It’s tough to resist the temptation of a bite-sized quote set in speech marks—the fridge magnet industry thrives on them! I’ve collected pithy words of wisdom for the last 30 years and have several folders, that would make a thought-provoking collection in book form if I ever had the patience to collate them.
I’ve used an epigraph at the start of all of my books. The first story Who Kills A Nudist? has a theme of how fragile we are physically and spiritually, and how that is taken advantage of by manipulative men. I chose a quote by Jeremy Taylor, a 17th-century English clergyman, who wrote a devotional manual called Holy Living and Holy Dying, in which he observed:
Man is a bubble, and all the world is a storm.
The second story The Perfect Murderer features a serial killer, whose bloody activities were used by a member of the establishment to cloak his own return to murder. He’s killed a dangerous criminal a year for 40 years, without being suspected. I chose a poem by Leonard Cohen as the epigraph:
The Reason I Write
The reason I write
is to make something
as beautiful as you are
When I’m with you
I want to be the kind of hero
I wanted to be
when I was seven years old
a perfect man
Have any of you used epigraphs in your books?