Using Personification in Your Writing

Welcome to AuthorHouse Author’s Digest. Today we’ll talk a bit about personification and how you can use it in your self-publishing efforts.

 

Personification is a literary technique that gives human characteristics to animals or inanimate objects that do not normally display emotions or human responses. It’s a common technique that has been used by writers and storytellers for centuries. It’s also a great way to make your descriptions more vivid and to add a sense of imagination and adventure to your narrative.

 

animal-farmWalt Disney films, Lewis Carroll’s books and George Orwell’s Animal Farm are good examples of personification. You can give anything, from a doll to a car, human characteristics and describe it as if it was acting and speaking in a human way. And with dialogue, of course, comes personality and reader reactions like sympathy, anger, inspiration, and laughter. Giving inanimate objects human characteristics also allows you to tackle controversial subjects without making readers immediately defensive.

 

 

The religious type of personification is called anthropomorphism and is a way to attribute human qualities to God or the Gods. It’s also used in poetry to strengthen metaphors and similes. A good example of this is the nursery rhyme The Cat and the Fiddle.

 

the-cat-and-the-fiddle1The Cat & the Fiddle (by Mother Goose)

 

Hey diddle, diddle
The cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

 

 

It is also possible to personify abstract things like emotions. Love and anger, for example, have often been personified in poetry and prose. The weather is another non-living topic which is often personified.

 

Excitement (by Arquesha A.)

 

cakeExcitement is a child
eating ice cream, running
down a hill, playing with
other kids, having fun
in the sun. Excitement
is making cookies,
cake and other kinds
of desserts. Going
to a birthday party and
is always walking in the room
with a smile on her face.

 

 

snowflakesSnow (by Jake)

 

Snow speaks to the people its
falling above in the glooming
sunlight.
Its white sparkling voice
echoes as it falls through
the air.

 

“Show, don’t tell” is one of the rules of personification. It’s an excellent way to convey an image or mood without simply saying it directly. Instead of saying that something is like something else as in similes, you can personify something metaphorically.

 

Dinnertime Chorus (by Sharon Hendricks)

 

teapotThe teapot sang as the water boiled
The ice cubes cackled in their glass
The teacups chattered to one another.
While the chairs were passing gas
The gravy gurgled merrily
As the oil danced in a pan.
Oh my dinnertime chorus
What a lovely, lovely clan!

 

 

MMs4raisinsAdvocacy and advertising campaigns often use personification. M&Ms and the California Raisins are examples of this. People are more likely to buy or care about something if they can relate to it personally and emotionally.

 

 

You can practice personification with simple exercises. For example, try writing sentences personifying the Sun, wind, rain, an automobile, a piece of furniture… even the products on a supermarket shelf. Give them human traits by using actions that only humans do, or by using adverbs and adjectives that normally relate to people.

 

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