How do you write descriptively while also keeping the reader engaged? Try personification. Personification is a literary device used to describe a non-human thing as having human characteristics.

Personify Wind

Photo by Shandi-Lee

Here is how reader Adriana Willey used personification in response to Wednesday’s prompt, Fall.

In autumn, I hear the wind. He is alive and leans in to whisper. His words are gentle and flowing. They carry a cadence of up and down, loud and soft, strong and still. He tells me that it will all be ok; everything will turn out in the end. The silence is his breathing in.

Isn’t that beautiful? Here are four things Adriana does to personify the wind that you can use to personify anything:

1. She calls the wind “he” not “it.”

Clearly, the first step to personifying anything is to refer to it using human pronouns. Humans don’t call each other “it.”

2. She describes the winds movements with human verbs.

Obviously, the wind doesn’t actually whisper, nor is it capable of leaning in. It also doesn’t speak or breathe in, which Adriana also credits the wind for. However, it’s not a stretch to connect these human actions to the wind.

When you personify, you want to give the object human qualities that are already reminiscent of its own characteristics. So for a tall poplar tree, you might connect its height to the height of a father next to his little children. “The poplar tree is tall, like a father towering over his children,” you could say. That’s not quite personification yet, though. It’s just a simile.

To personify, just cut out the “like.”

“The poplar tree is my father. He towers over me.”

3. She gives the wind a voice.

“He tells me that it will all be ok; everything will turn out in the end.”

When non-human things speak, they instantly become more relatable.

Here’s a great experiment. Try having a dialogue with an inanimate object. It worked for Bambi. It can work for your writing.

4. She gives the wind empathy and emotion.

The most interesting thing about Adriana’s passage is that the wind knows what she’s feeling and comforts her. To Adriana, the wind isn’t just some air particles colliding against the cells of her skin. It is an old friend, a grandfather-like persona who picks her up when she’s down.

We all want to be reminded we are not alone. What better way to do that than portray the world as not some cold scientific thing composed of atoms and cells, but a place where even the wind can hold your hand.

PRACTICE

“If stones could talk,” the saying goes. Well today they can.

Personify something. Whatever you want. Perhaps the bookshelf in your office, the cool November air, your refrigerator, the tree in your backyard, your pet gerbil, or even the bird making a ruckus outside of your window.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments.

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).