Last week we looked at the most common descriptive techniques beyond adjectives: similes and metaphors. This week, we’re going to get a little more technical.
Personification is the giving of human characteristics to a non-human object or an animal.
It’s a relatively common type of description, though not used as frequently as similes and metaphors. Personification can be very effective in setting mood and tone.
EG: The wind sighed as it passed over the grassy sandbank.
This creates a peaceful or gentle tone, which could be important to the meaning you want to evoke. Perhaps you want to soothe the reader, or maybe you want to lull them into a false sense of security.
Personification can be used to create a negative or ominous tone too.
EG: The stairs screeched ad we thundered upward.
Stairs, clearly, can’t actually screech. They don’t have mouths. Or lungs. Thus, by attributing the non-human object the human characteristic of screeching, the scene is set as a dark or negative one.
This is sort of the opposite of personification. It’s when we attribute animal characteristics to human characters.
EG: The man purred as he spoke.
Generally, men don’t actually purr. Cats do. But by giving the man’s words the characteristic of purring, we get the impression that he’s being flirtatious, or perhaps manipulative.