Sunday, July 8, 2012

Week 28 - Personification

8 Jul - 14 Jul: It's Alive!
The room seemed to sit there with raised eyebrows, innocently saying ‘Yes?!' 
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
We all know that characters make a story great, but who says the characters have to be human?  Now, this may seem like a simple and obvious question (especially to crazy sci-fi writers), and I'm sure we can all think of a zillion examples of non-human characters that have made it in the mythological, religious, folk-lore and yes, literary world.  Animal Farm, Lord of the Rings, and Jungle Book are some classic examples. 

If one wants to delve into various religions, explore fables, or write science fiction, fantasy or children's stories, personification, or anthropomorphism, that is, assigning human traits to non-human forms, is an obvious tool.

But for those of us who want to keep it real, lending something a personality can also serve a role.  If we want to get extreme, consider novels such as the Perfect Storm and Twister to see what compelling stories can be woven around a 'thing' as a major character.

On a more modest scale, personification is an effective form of imagery, similar to metaphors and similes, that can add an extra oomph to a setting or scene.  And as Douglas Adams demonstrates, it can set tone, add humour and be just darn refreshing to read.

In Week 27, I looked at clichés and stereotypes, and suggested using original thoughts and images to avoid those haggard expressions.  Why not think about personification, and give that dark-and-stormy night a life of its own?

Again, I turn to my trusty bookcase for examples:
Far below, the town's piers looked cheerful and dashing, and far out at sea the lights of passing ships bobbed and blinked in the dusky light.  Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson.

The sirens were wailing for a total blackout, wailing through the rain which fell in interminable tears.... The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
Humming drifted out of the night.  It wasn't a gospel tune exactly, but it carried all the personality of one.  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.
Whether we like our leaves to frolic or our dogs to smile, personification adds life...literally.

Exercise 55.  Personify a dog, the sea, a cloud, a derelict car, and a ship in a storm. (Taken directly from So You Want to Write by Joan Rosier-Jones.)

Exercise 56.  Use personification in a descriptive passage about a natural object (rock, leaf, grass etc), a fruit or vegetable, and a kitchen utensil.  Have the object in front of you and refer to it often.

During Week 29, I will continue with the tools that evoke thought and emotion in the reader by looking at symbolism.

No comments:

Post a Comment