Thursday, March 13, 2014

Part Two - Figurative Language - Usual and Extraordinary - With Free Lesson Plans Ideas from PerfettoWritingRoom(c)

Yesterday, if you recall - and I hope you do! - we began an overview of figurative language.

      It began slowly with cliche and idiom. We will perhaps go BACK to that later.
      We ended with what I HOPE was an enlightening definition of hyperbole and an extension into its uses in fiction writing.

      Today, WE will discuss some of the other types of figurative language. Ones that you clearly know, and ones that you might not have heard of.

Let's start where we left off yesterday. With good old #4. PERSONIFICATION!

4. Not your Daddy's Personification. Personification is supplying inanimate objects and abstract ideas or actions with human characteristics. This is done in poetry, fiction, and more often than we think, in our ordinary day-to-day speech.

  • Traffic is just crawling!
  • I would have called you sooner but my cell phone wasn't cooperating.
  • Time just flew.
  • Why don't you wear this hat until the wind calms down?

All of these have the element of personification, even though you would never really think of them as such.
Really these are just examples of ordinary speech - idiomatic expressions even. Because each of these inanimate objects is doing something a human would do, it is considered an example of personification. Generally speaking personification is used in poetry and fiction for effect. Personification can be a a few words or a few sentences.
         Technically (and don't go crazy over this one) personification is a type of metaphor, because it compares one thing to another. We aren't even doing metaphor for a day or two though, so don't worry.

HOWEVER - there are other types of PERSONIFICATION!

5. The Pathetic Fallacy - ahhh. Doesn't that just ooze intellectual gravitas? The pathetic fallacy is a very specific type of personification, coined by John Ruskin and refers to the sentimentality found in poetry when all of nature and weather is imbued with emotion. When flowers dance and clouds sulk and rocks ponder in a stoic silence, you can be sure you have stumbled onto the pathetic fallacy.
        Now, critics and writers argue that the pathetic fallacy can be found in fiction as well, and that nature mirrors the feelings of the writer or narrator. Remember in poetry that the speaker may often be the writer, though in fiction the speaker is referred to as the narrator.
          Classically, the pathetic fallacy is considered an "error in reasoning" simply because weather and nature does not have emotion at all, let alone the emotions of the character. Despite the bad rap, writers may use the pathetic fallacy with subtlety to great effect. It is quite easy to see how it can become maudlin and overwrought, however.
            "The Friday funeral for Charlie dawned gray and colorless. Mabel looked out the window, then up at the sky which cried out its sadness for her and the world. The clouds unleashed a torrent of teardrops onto the soil, mourning alongside Mabel, but offering her no comfort."

If you think "Ugh. Maybe that is a bit much," we agree with you. Remember though you can use the pathetic fallacy carefully and in the right spots to strengthen your writing. So don't let my lousy sentence get you down. And don't let the word "pathetic" get you down either! It derives from the word pathos, or emotion. How about:

            "Charlie had always loved this sky. The vast heaven that only Oklahoma could show off, with its blazing blue dome.
        'Thanks for nothing,' Mabel said, and her eyes flew open as her lips moved. Had she really said the words out loud? What did her in was the smell. That ozone smell. She lifted the lace curtain and peered out to sky beyond. Not five miles away they'd be burying him, and out here, you could nearly see that far. The rain was coming, whether to laugh or cry at Charlie's death, she wasn't sure, but big, black thunderheads were forming, and she saw them now at the far edge of the world coloring the world an inky gray."

        EVEN IF you don't love this. . . you have got to admit this is a much BETTER example of the pathetic fallacy if I do say so myself. I'm here all week. Don't forget to tip your servers. . .!

6. Anthropomorphism - another form of figurative language, and subset of personification that applies human traits, behavior, and characteristics to non-humans, usually to animals. This is useful for many reasons. It creates wider audience appeal (Mighty Mouse can be enjoyed all over the world not just by a single race of people), enables the writer to handle upsetting topics (such as death in Charlotte's Web), or for satirical purposes (Animal Farm, anyone?). Lastly, anthropomorphism can be used as an educational device. There is no end to the list of children's books that use this technique to help young kids understand the world around them a little better.

                                                                   SO WHAT's NEXT???

PART THREE of Figurative Language, The Usual and the Extraordinary!
P.S. If you're waiting for Simile and Metaphor, don't worry, it's coming.

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