Michaeline: The Pathetic Fallacy of Weather

A triptych with an outdoor winter storm, two birds, and three children enjoying the warmth of the hearth in front of the fireplace.

Winter weather captures a whole lot of story settings: the frigid cold, the hopeful life hopping around, and the coziness provided by our human technologies. We can create our own bubble of warmth even during the coldest winter. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

“It was a dark and stormy night” has been mocked throughout the 20th century, but I think it’s time to bring back the pathetic fallacy of weather for the 21st century.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about using weather in a story to help boost a mood in a scene. Tragedy accompanied by fog and gloom, horror to the tune of a thunderstorm, and an idyllic love interlude accompanied by sunshine and roses. Some people call it cliche, but I call it a device from our writing toolboxes that can be useful and fresh, depending on how you use it. (-: Perhaps the roses are overkill.

I very deliberately set a short story in February, just so I could take advantage of the weather. In the northern hemisphere, we start seeing the very first signs of spring – in my area, the ice begins to melt during the day, and pussy willows start to bloom. The earth is getting ready for new life, and my characters’ hearts were getting ready for a new season in their lives.

That said, almost every place I’ve lived, February is still the battleground for winter. I took advantage of a wild blizzard to do several things for my story.

First, it symbolized a cold and lonely past. Second, it started my plot: because a blizzard was coming, my heroine decided to take a chance on a “blizzard bae” scheme*. She was in the mood to take a chance on a romance with a stranger.

The blizzard was a major factor in my hero being forced off the road, and for him seeking help. He’s a frost god, but he’s still susceptible to cold, especially when his magic isn’t working properly.

And, since this is a romance, the raging storm gave them a good reason to spend their happy ending under a pile of comforters. This story couldn’t have been set during a spring thaw; it would have been completely different.

I think weather is probably going to play a larger part in fiction of the 21st century. We’re intensely aware of it – our media is full of stories of superstorms and record weather phenomenon. Even climate deniers can’t deny the feeling in the air that we are all impacted by Mother Nature. This zeitgeist promotes feelings of helplessness in the face of an overwhelming force, but it also sparks creativity – we humans as a species have survived every weather trend of the past million years or more, and I have to think that at least some of that survival comes from new, fresh ideas brought about by Mother Necessity facing off with Mother Nature.

So, go ahead. Let your pathetic fallacy rip. Unlike real weather, you can always scale it back if you’ve gone too far.


*What’s a blizzard bae? Well, the International Business Times link I wanted to provide was sticky and went directly to the homepage. In 2015, New Yorkers were posting to Craigslist in order to find a blizzard bae, AKA, a cuddle buddy. Please google it! The IBT post included fun tweets and all sorts of cultural information. Love has always been a little bit dangerous, but I like to think most people found a fun connection, and a few may have found a longer-term happy ending.

2 thoughts on “Michaeline: The Pathetic Fallacy of Weather

  1. Oh boy, when I saw the thing about the blizzard bae, my mind immediately went to horror. Imagine a serial killer luring his next victim to his apartment, where she’ll be stranded and at his mercy for 3 or 4 days…But I watch too much of a network called ID (known in our house as the Murder Channel), so what can you expect?

    Another thing about weather is that it can be used to create contrast as well. The broken-hearted heroine watching other couples traipse off into the sun for romantic picnics. The amorous hero seducing his lover in the midst of a harrowing storm. Although storms can be allegories for passion, so underscoring and contrast both happening with that one. Thanks for the fun food for thought ! 🙂

    • LOL, this seems to be a common thought about the whole blizzard bae thing. “An invitation to a serial killer.” On the one hand, I understand: you only have to meet one serial killer to be dead or injured 100 percent. On the other hand, statistically speaking, how likely is it that one is going to become a statistic? Dating strange men in these circumstances would be less dangerous than driving a car (especially driving a car in a blizzard!), and would help prevent one from becoming a frozen popsicle (operating under the theory that two heads are better than one if the power goes out — maybe your blizzard bae will have survival skills to complement your own, is my thinking). Dating a blizzard bae could actually save lives! Unfortunately, the only people who agree with me would be the ones who look at the blizzard bae scheme and think, “Oh, that sounds like fun!” Statistically, I may be in the minority on this one . . . . Gosh, I love the idea so much though!

      (-: I just re-read the story this morning, preparing to do some more work on my WIP, and I still love it. I just need to find my audience of slightly reckless thirty-somethings.

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