Three potential ways to end your story
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Use caution when employing empathic universe

A common 12743499_10153238792900216_6441172198668910918_n technique that genre writers use is customizing the environment of their story so it matches the main character’s mood. In doing so, the author creates an empathic universe. Examples would be a lightning flash in the opening lines of a Gothic horror story or rain falling during a funeral.

Also known as a melodramatic setting (The term empathic universe was coined by Cambridge Science Fiction Workshop’s David Smith.), it regularly appears in melodramatic and romantic writing.

The problem with this technique, though, is it’s a cliché. Rain doesn’t always fall at funerals, the sun doesn’t always shine when the protagonist becomes hopeful, and fog doesn’t always descend when a character is confused.

This is not to say that an empathic universe can’t be artfully done. Nathaniel Hawthorne puts it to good use in “The Scarlet Letter” when describing the girl Pearl in a sunny glen to show her purity.

To prevent the melodramatic setting from being cliché, follow a couple of simple guidelines. First, don’t employ an overused meaning for a weather system. A dramatic wind need not appear when tension rises. Instead, think of weather patterns as deeper metaphors and introduce them only when appropriate. For example, what if wind represented “life,” moving in crests and drops but ever forward? The wind then could be described at a portion of the story when the protagonist is cognitively aware of his surroundings. Secondly, use the empathic universe subtly. Rather than making it the focus of a sentence or an entire paragraph, sneak it into the description or action as a phrase or short clause. This then keeps it from being the center of the reader’s attention.

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