What Is Personification and How to Use It Effectively in a Story
Personification is a literary device that personifies an inanimate object or personifies one thing as another. It can be difficult to write personification effectively because it's not always clear what the personified object is feeling. In this article, we'll define and provide examples of personification as well as go over some tips and techniques you can use to make your personifications more believable and captivating.
Definition of personification
Personification in a story is defined as figurative language in which inanimate objects are or animals given human qualities. In essence, personification imbues nonhuman things with the power to think, feel and act in a metaphorical way to convey information creatively.
This literary device can be used to great effect when crafting a story as it can add a layer of depth and emotion that might not otherwise be possible.
The purpose of personification
The purpose of using personification in a story is to explain concepts and emotions in a concise way and help readers better understand what is happening in a scene.
One way to think about personification is to consider it as an expansion of metaphor. Whereas metaphors use comparisons between two things to create meaning, personification takes that one step further by giving life (or human-like qualities) to the thing being compared. When done well, successful personification can help readers connect with your story on a deeper level, immersing them in the experience you are trying to create.
When using personification as a literary device, be careful not to overdo it because your reader will begin thinking less about the actual storyline itself and start focusing on how ridiculous all the characters are acting instead. Although adding some humorous elements through personifying things like pens or chairs would make for an interesting read if done incorrectly.
Examples of personification
Some personification examples might be:
- A chair with bony fingers that are scratching across the floor.
- The wind howling through a crack in the windowpane.
- A character's heart running a mile a minute when they are anxious.
- Trees crying leaves that fall to the ground.
- The sun smiling down on us.
Difference between personification and anthropomorphism
The difference between personification and anthropomorphism is that personification gives things human qualities, while anthropomorphism assigns human characteristics and actions to non-human objects.
For example, in the sentence "The trees danced back in forth in the wind," the trees are personified as having human qualities metaphorically (dancing like a person). Whereas if the trees huddled together and talked about an upcoming war against a wizard, the trees are anthropomorphized with a human characteristic and taking actions that a human would take.
A simple way to remember the difference is personification is metaphorical human characteristics and anthropomorphism is literal human characteristics.
Both techniques can be effective tools for bringing your story to life, it just depends on what you are trying to achieve with your writing.
How to use personification in a story
The first step to using personification in your story is to come up with a good reason for doing so. You can't just throw personification into your writing willy-nilly because it sounds cool or because you think it might make the story more interesting.
Instead, you need to find a way to use personification that furthers your plot or deepens the character development. For example, if you are trying to show how a character is feeling overwhelmed by a situation, you could use personification to give physical form to those feelings. In this case, the personification would be serving as a metaphor for what the character is experiencing internally. (i.e. their heart racing a mile a minute)
On the other hand, if you want to show how lively and energetic a character is, you could use personification to describe their movements and actions to the objects around them in a way that is more vivid and engaging. (i.e. the city streets came alive when the band started to play)
Personification should never be used for the sake of using it. It needs to serve a purpose in your writing, otherwise, it will just end up being confusing or distracting for readers.
If your story includes objects that can think and feel then adding some elements of personification would make sense in order to create a more interesting dialogue between characters. Just remember that overuse of this literary device could result in an annoying experience.
How to use personification in poetry
When using personification in poetry, it should be done for the sake of creating a beautiful or metaphorical description.
For example, you could use personification to describe how heavy raindrops fell on the city streets below by saying that they are bullets piercing through skin. Or if you wanted to show what it sounds like when leaves are caught up in the wind, you could say that their laughter echoed throughout the forest as they danced back and forth with each gust of air. These examples would make for great imagery without being too overbearing because personifying elements is only one aspect of your overall poem structure.
When personification is used effectively in poetry, it can be a very powerful tool for painting a vivid picture in the reader's mind. Just make sure that you are using it for the right reasons and not just because it sounds pretty.
Final tips on using personification
When using personification, keep the following things in mind:
- Be careful not to overdo it - if everything is personified, then nothing will be taken seriously anymore.
- Use personification to show how characters are feeling internally or externally.
- Remember that personification is a metaphor so use it sparingly for maximum effect.
When used effectively, personification can be a powerful writing technique for bringing your story to life. By giving physical form to non-human things or imbuing them with human qualities, you can help readers connect more deeply with the tale you are telling. With careful use, this device can add nuance and emotion that might not otherwise be possible. So when crafting your next story, consider using personification as a way to bring added depth and realism to your work.