Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Hills Are Alive with the Sounds of Redacting

If inanimate things such as hills become alive with the sound of music, we may suspect there is at the absolute least a solitary musician, hunkered down, practicing on an instrument, in all likelihood an exotic instrument, say a bag pipe or Sousaphone, our logic being only someone with an exotic instrument would want to practise in the hills.

Dramatic logic overcomes the possibility of a single musician, a string quartet, or a full symphony orchestra, overcomes because most of us who read have been indoctrinated. We accept the potential for hills coming alive in the first place because of previous things we've read. 

We admire the hills, taking on a musical quality, which is in fact a poetic quality as opposed to the more scientific presence of wind or rock slide. Thus the phenomenon or, if you will, literary device of the pathetic fallacy.

Writers, in particular poets, were using the pathetic fallacy before the pathetic fallacy had been discovered by the Victorian-era critic, Walter Pater. William Wordsworth, for example, "wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,”using a lovely image that attributes the human emotional quality of loneliness with the non-human form of a cloud.

At one point in your development, you were of the opinion that the term "pathetic fallacy" was typical of the buzzwords of the critic and academic. Why, you asked yourself, wasn't a pathetic fallacy anything more than personification? 

Why, indeed; you'd yet to consider how personification was an attempt to attribute a human trait to an animal or inanimate object in a comparison where the subject was seen as more purposeful in attempting to achieve a human trait. "The dog was telling us the time for its dinner had come." The ocean was behaving like a politician, alternately waxing and waning in its enthusiasms."

You''re not only willing to accept the pathetic fallacy for what it is, which is to say an author, trying to make some inanimate quality more memorable--"The wind howled like guaranteed banshees," you use the device. You're not deliberate, often surprised to find a pathetic fallacy in your work when you begin to consider self-editing. Nevertheless, with some frequency, you're tendency is to leave the pathetic fallacy in rather than delete it only because you slipped it in without thinking.

You want your prose to bear the heavy load of agenda-   and intent-laden emotions rather than have any sentence bear the stigma of outright declarative, with no hint of feeling. How wonderful it is to deal with charactrs who are so driven to accomplish their goals that they will scarcely give you time to think of backstory or traces of rationale. 

A character who comes forth to take stage, then declaim, "I did it in recognition of my having been humiliated and punished as a child," should be identifiable as a character not of your own creation.Pathetic fallacies work best when the reader scarcely notices them; they are buried within sentences and paragraphs, in some cases given foundation when they are made to seem as having originated in the speculations and interior monologue of a character.

No one you're aware of has given Shakespeare bad marks for his observation that life is a brief candle, nor indeed a poor player who struts and frets his moment on the stage. If anyone will be caught out, using the pathetic fallacy, it is more likely you than Shakespeare, even though his Big Three for storytelling platforms, dialogue, narrative action, and the soliloquy of interior monologue are there in plain sight, for all the playgoing world NOT to see.  As for you, you have a while left to get your act together, which is a pathetic fallacy to be overcome, right?


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