Anthropomorphize That!

Anthropomorphism. A mouthful of a word. It is the act of applying or imposing human form, behavior or emotions onto an animal or inanimate object.

In science the behavioral study of animals is strictly reduced to action and not attribution of emotion or feelings are permitted.

“The chickadee flew from branch to branch.”
or
“The male chickadee moved to the right of the female chickadee and touched sides.”

As writers we easily add emotion to animals etc. Because it’s what we do naturally.

“The chickadee flew excitedly from branch to branch.”
or
“The male chickadee snuggled up to the female lovingly.”

This tool is often found/used in children’s stories, science fiction, space operas etc. Stories like Lord of the rings or Winnie the Pooh. Where animals are given the ability to talk, walk, behave like the human champions we want them to be.

Examples of physical Anthropomorphism

The man in the moon
Cats, dogs, cows etc. that walk on two legs or use paws/hooves etc like hands.
Changing the face of an animal to be more human.
Giving appliances or plants faces. (Brave little toaster, Alice in wonderland, Beauty and the Beast)

Examples of Emotional Anthropomorphism

Suggesting expressions of any emotion from an animal or object. “The cat looked up at me with love.” or “The dog’s big eyes looked sad.”
The cat sat impatiently waiting for it’s dinner
The snake watched wearily as I approached. It looked angry and ready to strike.

Examples of Behavioral Anthropomorphism.

Any animal, insect or object that speaks a human language.
Having an animal pick up an object such as a fork or use a pencil.
Have an animal Drive car or spend money
Implying human behavior in animals: The bird looked thoughtfully at the cage door.
Having a flying broom do something funny that would require a sense of humor or thought.

Anthropomorphism is the reason we teach animals tricks. The added belief they are more like us makes us as humans happy. It is also why we fear things that are less like us. Things with more legs or eyes like insects and spiders. Things with fewer legs like snakes and sharks. Anything that we can’t associate a physical similarity to or a behavioral similarity. There will always be exceptions to this as with anything. However in general humans like human-like things.

I don’t have any animals in my stories as of yet nor objects that I apply human characteristics to. I have however read many that do. Whether it’s on purpose or by accident. From childrens stories right up to stories for adults.

This isn’t to say that you should or should not anthropomorphize animals or objects, just to be aware when you do it. If its purposeful like a giant talking spider or a car that flies and has attitude or a tree that doesn’t like trespassers, then by all means make it a character and more humanized.  However saying “The cellphone rang happily” instead of “The cellphone rang a happy tune”, makes a bit of difference to a more serious story.

My advice about Anthropomorphism. 
Unless you’re going for it specifically; be careful the sentence doesn’t become silly.  

-Sheryl

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