I’ve been blogging about literary devices. One that I haven’t talked about yet is personification. Personification is where you as the author describe the environment with adjectives usually used to describe a person. It suggests human-like motivation in inanimate objects.
Personification can be used to make things around the character into active participants. It can be employed for humorous purposes or to make the environment seem more dangerous or friendly or however than it otherwise might. Using this technique, one can highlight the characters’ emotions through adjectives and word choice. Using personification makes the world around your character come alive.
For instance, you could write “A girl walked through scary trees, but she felt protected by her red hood.” However, this stays flat on the page. There’s nothing too interesting about that sentence. Listen to the difference when I use personification: “The shadow of the tree reached its long fingers toward the little girl, who felt comforted in the protective arms of her crimson hood.” Both objects have been personified in different ways. The tree’s shadow can’t have fingers, and it certainly isn’t actively threatening her through any human-like intent any more than the inanimate hood is seeking to help her feel protected. But her emotions are projected onto the world around her using the vivid imagery of personification.
Like I said, personification can also be used for humor. Here is a rough example: “My sister thinks I’m clumsy, but I say my house likes to throw me parties. I was walking along, and the rug jumped up to trip me and send me flying. The lamp invited me to dance, and the coffee table hugged my legs. I passed on those partners because the ground was much more insistent but not much of a dancer. You know, the usual." The narrator here is turning her clumsiness into a joke through self-deprecating humor.
How can you use personification in your book? Are there places your humor can be enhanced through personification? Are there places where, rather than using straightforward language, you can use the figurative and descriptive language of personification?