Another month has gone by, which means it’s time for another Round Robin, and author Rhobin Courtwright has come up with yet another great topic for us: “Have you noticed how weather is used in writing? How have you used weather in your writing? Drama? Mood? Revelation?”
I absolutely love all forms of symbolism in writing and art. Even when the symbolism isn’t subtle, I still really enjoy it. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as OTT with symbolism, and I especially love spotting it in films – the good guy riding the white horse, the bird flying away to symbolise freedom, the rainbow symbolising hope, etc, etc.
I first discovered writers could use the weather as a symbol in their stories when I was at school. The book we were studying was A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh, and I was struck by how the author used the weather to mirror what was going on for the protagonist. This was when I first learned the term “pathetic fallacy”. Pathetic fallacy actually means giving human abilities to the weather or nature – eg “the sun was smiling”, or “the daffodils danced”. Of course the sun doesn’t really smile and flowers can’t dance – that’s why it’s a “fallacy”- but writers often use pathetic fallacy to reflect what’s happening to their characters. Even if the symbolism is so subtle the reader doesn’t directly notice, it can still subconsciously affect their mood and the way they react to what’s happening.
I’ve used the weather/nature as symbolism a few times in my own writing. In Penny’s Antique Shop of Memories and Treasures, for example, the hero, Kurt Bold, is walking home from an evening with the heroine. He still doesn’t realise yet that he’s in love with her. It’s a clear, cold night. When he looks up, the sky should be as bright and starry as it would have been in his home in Wyoming, but because he’s in London, all he can see is the neon of the streetlights. The stars are hidden – just like his own emotions.
The weather plays a much bigger role in my novel The Summer of Love and Secrets. For the first half of the novel, the heat in the city of London is stifling, and the heroine, Kate, is deeply unsettled and has trouble sleeping. The weather mirrors her own restless emotions. Then the weather breaks, and the resulting storm is vital as a symbol. It’s a scene in which the hero, Paul, is persuading Kate to see her dad – the man who abandoned her as a child. I’ve put the full extract here, so you can see how important the break in the heat and the sudden downpour is to the play of emotions.
Paul put his hand on Kate’s arm, and she stared down at it, full of rage. ‘Please. It’s important. Come inside and give the guy a chance.’
She shook off his hand. ‘Like he gave me a chance, you mean?’ She turned on her heel. ‘I can’t even believe what I’m hearing.’
The rain was falling in sheets now, dripping from her hair in wet streaks. Kate blinked the water out of her eyes and stumbled as she walked away. Instantly Paul was at her side, steadying her. His shirt was soaked, plastered to his frame.
‘Kate, if not for your dad, then for his kids. They’re waiting inside to meet you.’
Kate stopped in her tracks. ‘They?’ she said. Her voice was brittle. ‘How many has he got?’
‘Two. He’s brought his son and daughter.’
A brother she’d only met once as a baby, and a sister she didn’t even know existed. Kate’s teeth began to chatter in the rain. Paul stood over her, the rain rolling down his forehead and into eyes full of urgent anxiety.
‘Why?’ she said. ‘Why do you care?’
The rain was now a torrential downpour. Paul raised his voice above the sound of the water beating hard on the rooftops. Raindrops ran in rivulets down his face and over his lips. ‘I might be an idiot. I might have done this all the wrong way. But I care about you. This is your only family. You have to give them a chance, before it’s too late.’
Her body was shaking, but she forced her mouth open to speak. ‘It’s not fair. Not fair of you to ask. Not fair of him to come here after all this time and blackmail me with his children like this.’ She gave a violent shiver, half anger, half misery. ‘And it’s especially wrong that you even thought about contacting him without telling me. I cannot believe you did that.’ Her anger consumed her so that she could barely articulate herself. The words stuck in her throat, and she heaved great breaths.
Paul gripped her arms. ‘No, I know. Nothing about it is fair. And I shouldn’t have contacted him without letting you know. But I didn’t want to see any more lies printed about you. I thought I was looking after you.’ For a moment he held her, bending his head over hers in a vain attempt to shelter her from the rain. Then he dropped his hands to his sides. ‘Come on inside.’ He made an attempt at a smile. ‘In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s raining.’
With this passage, I tried to have the storm add an extra dimension to the heroine’s sadness and her turbulent emotions. The part where the hero is “bending his head over hers in a vain attempt to shelter her from the rain” is also symbolic. Paul would like to protect Kate from all the hurt she’s experienced in her life, but it’s impossible. He can only do what he can.
I love to use symbolism in this way, and I really enjoy deciphering the symbolism in other writers’ books, so I enjoyed writing about this topic a lot!
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How about you? If you’re a reader, do you enjoy it when an author uses symbolism? How about in films? And if you’re a writer, do you use symbolism yourself? And do you have any great examples of when the weather has been used as a symbol?
If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear them!
And if you’d like to read what my author friends have written on this topic, please click on the following links to find out:
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-EP
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com