How to Write/Avoid a Pathetic Fallacy
If you want to use the pathetic fallacy (figuratively):
- Begin by trying to put yourself in the shoes of the animals or objects you’re describing. Try to see the world from their perspective.
- Imagine the their desires, personality, and emotions. Is it happy, sad, angry?
- Describe the objects or animals by using phrases that match their personalities and emotions
For example, what might it feel like to be a soccer ball? Would you feel excited as the striker dribbled you toward the goal, or would you be annoyed by the constant kicking and punting that the players subjected you to? This affects your pathetic fallacy:
The soccer ball loved to jump, roll, and fly towards the goal.
If you find yourself employing the pathetic fallacy literally, in scientific or otherwise formal writing, it’s important to find ways to avoid this tendency. Fortunately, this is not too hard once you get used to it – simply scan your writing for emotional words such as “want” or “fear” and double-check whether you’re really confident that the animal/object in question is capable of feeling that emotion.
When to Use the Pathetic Fallacy
The pathetic fallacy is considered inappropriate in science, but it’s perfectly fine in creative writing. In fact, it’s actually a very effective metaphor – by imbuing nature with human emotions, you can generate sympathy and understanding of the natural world. This “fallacy” allows you to place your reader in the shoes of animals, trees, oceans, rivers, etc., in a way that can be very creative and compelling when used by an adept writer. Indeed, as the examples in §7 will briefly show, the pathetic fallacy is found nearly everywhere in literature.