Dancing Trees and Screaming Leaves

Today’s TOOL: An anthropomorphism.


No, It’s not a cuss word, and it doesn’t have anything to do with evolution or anthropology. Teachers call it personification.

It’s giving inanimate objects human qualities.

Are you doing this in your writing? You probably are and don’t realize it.

But if you aren’t, your writing may come to life if you do.

When I’m reading a novel, I love finding this tool of creativity, of seeing objects come to life. It’s often done in poetry, but you can include it in fiction and nonfiction, too. How? I researched the steps and came up with my own blend of ideas. See below:


1. Choose an object. A noun.

2. Give your object a human name. This will help change the way you feel about the object and make you look at from a human’s perspective.

3. Interact with your object by touching it. Notice its texture, its smell, and what it sounds like when you scratch it, or when the wind blows through it.

4. Give your object a feeling. Humans feel. If you want to humanize your inanimate object show how they feel. Are they happy, sad, excited? Did it lose something? What does it love? What is it proud of?

5. Become one with that object. If you were that object what would you feel? Loneliness, fear?

Here’s my example:

Charlie, the oak tree in our frontyard, was proud of the way he shaded our home for more than twenty years. He stood tall outside my bedroom window, shielding me from storms and offering me an escape route late at night. I got to know him well. But this last winter, when I came home from college for my winter break, and the wind whipped through his branches, he bellowed and screamed more than any other year. Had his limbs grown tired and worn from old age, hurting when bent from the wind? His branches, now more crooked, looked like claws threatening to reach out and pluck me from the earth, like Charlie had grown more crotchety, too.

Notice the noun (tree) and how it’s personified. Charlie, the tree, is the noun. Here are a few of his human characteristics: proud, stood, offering, tired, bellowed, claws, reach, pluck, threatening.

Pick up the book you’re reading, and look for these anthro-guys. How many can you find? Notice them as you’re reading, and I promise your ability to use them will improve in a more humanly way.

Please share one of your favorite anthropomorphisms below.

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  1. I love this. Did you know I was going to start making those tree faces?

    • Hi Pat! No, I didn’t know you were going to make these. Do you make the parts, package them, and sell them to suppliers? Cool. You could package a different story with each one, too. Name them and give them a backstory. Then people could collect them (like those dolls with birth certificates). Ha!
      I hope you’re having a great writing week!

  2. Endless possibilities for Pat and her ceramic tree faces.
    Actually this writing exercise is great to go far in lots of constructive directions.

Please share your random thoughts.


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