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NaNoWriMo Day 13: Writing Personifications

Writing Personifications

Most of us talk to people not inanimate objects, or else (in the case of people like me) we talk to both.  But sometimes inanimate objects are central to a story’s plot.  For example, if you’re writing a mystery or crime novel, your characters want to maintain a certain air of unknown.  They will probably become known for the coat they wear, or the car they drive.  As authors we can throw our readers a hint by personifying these inanimate objects.

When I think of the power behind a good use of personification, I always think of the parable of the blind men and the elephant.  It’s our human approach which makes us see things in a certain way – within the confines of our own understanding.

Metaphors are central to writing this way.  Don’t say:
the car had wing mirrors like ears, ready to hear its master’s voice
Instead go for:
the car’s wing mirrors were ears, ready to hear its master’s voice

Here are a few things about personification:

  1. That reminds me... Most things remind us of someone, even if it’s a totally obscure link.  This is when our minds start to imagine seeing people in things.
  2. But... personifications don’t have to be linked to real people or characters.  Often when we see a face in something, or imagine an object having a mood, it’s not a link to a real person so much as a characteristic.
  3. The ultimate Red Herring! Your character’s preconceived ideas based on these personifications can throw readers way off the scent. They’re a great tool in thrillers, mysteries and crime novels.


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