When I was ten or eleven years old, our teacher marched us over to the cafa-gym-itorium (didn’t your school have one of those?) and sat us down in front of the rolling cart that held (hooray!) the TV set.
The film they showed us featured a tumble weed. There was no dialogue, just a stirring score that swooped and whispered as the tumbleweed rolled through its day. First it rolled down a deserted street and across an open plain. Then it started to have adventures. It was nibbled by animals, it got stuck on a fence and, in a climax that had the whole class gasping and biting our nails, it had a run-in with an 18 wheeler. We were sure it had been destroyed. Silence fell in the huge room as 26 preteens stopped fidgeting and tried to make sense of our feelings of loss. Then, oh joy, the tumbleweed rolled across the now-empty road and we all cheered.
Why did we care, asked our teacher. We all shrugged, a little embarrassed, as the spell broke and we realized we had been rooting for a bundle of twigs.
“That,” pointed out our smug teacher, “Is called ‘personification’.”
More than 30 years later, I still remember the experience and the discovery.
Write the story of normally-non-sentient object
- This week, the NASA Dawn Spacecraft settled into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet in our solar system’s asteroid belt. Imagine what it’s like. Could you imbue Dawn with a personality and report back for us?
- What other object catches your interest?
- Decide whether or not you will tell the story in the third person (as in my tumbleweed story) or the first person.
- If you work in the third person you can decide to have your object pass through the hands of several people or you can observe the object and anthropomorphism your narration, to give it life.
- If you work in first person, you can have a lot of fun figuring out what characteristics such a thing could possess. (Think of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: Cogsworth, the butler-turned-clock is, in his own words, a bit ‘wound up’)