So I completely forgot today was Friday and when I began working on my post the maniacal weather that has been tormenting undecided to strike again. And while I love storms, I also have a long history of them returning my love by ruining my computers like a jealous lover. Thus, I am reduced to pounding out this entry on the BlackBerry, so I apologize for the rather lackluster entry today. But it was either this or frying my new computer in a darkened and stormy night. And at the end of the day I like my computer more than properly posting.
However, this does give me the opportunity to discuss writing and weather.
As I mentioned, I love storms. As a child, I would crawl out of bed to rest against the Window, watching the dark shadow of trees bend and twist in the heavy winds. I would cracked open the pane and listen to the sound of the rain patterning against the rooftops and enjoy the refreshing chill against my bare skin. I even recall one particular heavy storm when I stripped into my bathing suit and just lay upon the front porch with my eyes closed as I let the power and the fury of nature envelope me.
To me, there is just something awe inspiring about the way the world yields to the might of nature manifest. The birds and insects grow quiet and invisible and all creatures great and small flee before its arrival, seeking silent refuge to wait out its passing.
And then there’s the lightning.
Great bolts light the night sky, carving bright forks through the clouds and illuminating all in a pristine white glow. For but a moment the spell of night is broken and it’s as if nature had turned on its own, natural light to chase away the shadows. Then the flash is gone and the ground shakes beneath the thunder’s calling.
I always wait for those brief moments, when the sky is torn in great ribbons of uncontained electricity. The sheet lighting rolls unseen behind the thick clouds between the great strikes, creating a dark, almost pink glow that barely outlines the trees and clouds around. I take in as much of the scene as I can, savoring the new perspective of a world I’d grown bored of through sheer familiarity. But in the dark of the clouds, the landscape takes on a new form of silhouettes and outlines, contrasts between dark and light.
I love it if only for the mix of fear and reverence that it inspires.
Now, weather in writing is often a rather off handed affair. Generally it sees little use and is usually made most prominent during the most difficult portion of the hero’s tale or to serve as a manifestation of the characters emotional state. Most storms either come rolling in the final act, when last the hero must face his arch nemesis or when the hero is at the lowest point generally during a great loss or defeat. I’m sure many people can think of moments when the tide turned against the hero and a convenient storm just happened to come rolling through. Certainly horror as a genre has subsided on this trope for as long as time memorial.
This is considered the Pathetic Fallacy of weather and once you start seeing it in film or literature, you won’t stop. Which is a curious name for the trope since the pathetic fallacy was originally used to describe the attributing of emotion to elements of or description about of nature. You can see that in my description earlier. Nature doesn’t truly have any fury since wind and rain has no emotion.
So common is the pathetic fallacy, however, that I don’t think most people even realize when they use it. How many off the cuff stories began with some sort of wrongdoing or misdeeds on a “dark and stormy night?” For me, it only became obvious because of my fondness for storms. I try to use weather a little more than as a reflection of a character’s inner turmoil. To me there are far more components than the terrifying dark and intimidating thunder. There’s also a bare beauty of the raw power of nature. And, in the end, storms bring an element of renewal. The rain. Does more than scatter those caught in it to seek shelter. It helps feed plants, break hot spells and rejuvenate the land. There’s always a calming tranquility after a storm, as if the skies themselves went through their own catharsis in order to replenish themselves.
So, even though I am affected by my own cultural symbolism, I find that certain elements can take on my own, personal meaning beyond established tropes. Which I think is a good thing, as the natural evolution only occurs as we apply our own spin and use to old symbols, beliefs and tropes. So I may have dark and stormy nights but not all of them Are going to be a bad thing.