I used to take an enormous amount of pleasure using the term ‘pathetic fallacy’ when I wrote about books. It would go something like:
“The author uses *pathetic fallacy* (wink, wink, nod, nod) through extended description of the raging storm outside to convey … etc etc”
Between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one, I’m sure it used to crop up in almost every other essay I wrote.
Now I’m older and not a whole lot wiser it’s time to make a confession. It’s only quite recently that I realised that all that time, so for a good six years that I was proudly using the term, I actually didn’t understand its real meaning.
I won’t go into all the ins and outs of it here, although it makes interesting reading, but pathetic fallacy means assigning human traits to inanimate objects.
Somewhere along the way though, my stunted brain linked pathetic fallacy entirely to describing the weather to reflect the emotion of a scene or a character …
I’ve been born into a nation which spends an alarming amount of our conversation talking about what the skies are doing, which is something we just can’t help doing, even though we are well aware of it. (I’ve tried to stop but I actually think we’ve been programmed.) Even so, it’s sort of embarrassing that I’ve been misusing good old pathetic fallacy for so long.
So I guess this blog post serves as a sort of official apology to the term. I really will try harder in the future to be a bit better and get things right, ok? Sorry, again.
I love writing about the weather in my stories. It always seems to seal the moment for me, gives it a hard edge of colour that it didn’t have before. In Boy in the Tower, I wrote in scenes of heavy rainfall that never ceased and this is where the story opens. (After the start of our summer, you don’t have to look far to see what sparked that idea.)
In the book that I am working on now, the world is covered in snow and ice. I like the picture it makes in my mind: A cold, hard place to live, where the predominant colour is the bland face of white. I can see it now.