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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The Runaway

I’ve mentioned run-on sentences. A single sentence containing two or more independent clauses joined without conjunction. What about runaway sentences? I don’t know if that’s the official label for them, but I like it. A runaway sentence is so long without break or punctuation that I have to pause, inhale or I simply lose my place.

A run-on sentence can also be a Runaway sentence. Sometimes a run on sentence may be ‘fixed’ and become a runaway one.

Amber picked up the broken pieces of her favorite tea mug while wiping her free-falling tears away with the sleeve of her now stained blue blouse that she wore today specifically to impress Dale. (34)

That sentence is 34 words long. Wow. While packed with information it’s a tad bit crowded.

The easiest way to break up a runaway is to well… break it up. This is easy but not necessarily the best way.

Amber picked up the broken pieces of her favorite tea mug. She wiped her free-falling tears away with the sleeve of her now stained blue blouse. She wore it today specifically to impress Dale. (34)

Still 34 words. Some words had to be changed to accommodate the sentence breaks. Now I would want to take that runaway, feed it, clean it, dress and groom the poor thing into a lovely polished paragraph. This means more or less words, different words and maybe even a different order…

Amber wiped her tears and picked up the pieces of her favorite tea mug. The dark smear on the sleeve caught her teary eyes. She wore the blue blouse to impress Dale, and now it’s ruined. (36)

Amber absently wiped her tears. “Just perfect.” She carefully picked up the broken pieces of her mug from the floor. The black smear on the blue blouse she wore to impress Dale caught her eye. “I’ve ruined my favourite tea mug and my blouse.” (44)

While the second one has 44 words, I might use this one since Amber gravitates to self-pity these days and she’s overly emotional lately.

Runaways are easy to do especially if I’m in just get it out on ‘paper’ mode. When I find them, I like to take a good hard look at them and make them better. I know personally, if I made a runaway, it’s likely because I had to much to say all at once and it was probably important information at the time.

My advice about runaway sentences that need to be shortened to make more sense so the reader doesn’t get frustrated and lose patience with what you are trying to say in that overly long point.
Well I sort of already said it… feed them, clean them, dress and groom the poor things into lovely polished paragraphs.

-Sheryl

Lost in Μετάφραση

Mystery Items

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De-dangling modifiers

While researching something completely unrelated, I came across a term that I didn’t know. Dangling modifiers or misplaced modifiers. Of course once I did some further research I figured it out quickly and I discovered I dangle modifiers. Huh.

So what is it? Modifiers are words or phrase that modify something else. Often causing a confusing statement that can also be funny. Vague I know, the examples make it clearer what I mean.

For example:

Jim almost walked down every street looking for the dog.

Almost is the modifier in that sentence, but it implies that Jim didn’t go all they way down each street.

Jim walked down almost every street looking for the dog. 

Now the sentence reads correctly and the modifier is placed correctly. Now Jim is walking down the streets, just not all of them.

Let me try another:

Rolling down the street, Amber was terrified by the runaway car.

Since Amber comes right after “rolling down the street” Amber is the modifier and is the one rolling. Which is a weird thing to do.

Honestly in this case the “rolling down the street” is superfluous. But if one really felt that it needed to be said, perhaps this would be better.

Rolling down the street, the runaway car terrified Amber.

Okay so now the car is rolling, not Amber. Although the other might make for a more interesting story.

Next example:

Covered in dust, Scott questioned the plates cleanliness.

Because Scott followed the dust, Scott is dusty not the plate.

Covered in dust, the plate caused Scott to question the cleanliness.

What I would write in this case if I see the comma, I know it could be way better anyway. Besides I like to bring the sentence out of the characters head (I write in third) and make it part of the experience.

Scott ran his finger over the dusty plate and grimaced at the smudge on his finger. 

I’m sure I do this all the time. Maybe someday I’ll write without tonnes of errors, but until then I’ll ask others to proof. These sorts of mistakes are caught by proof readers or reading the book out loud to myself.  For me I try to take out the comma if it’s being used. I’s usually a clear sign that I’ve dangled the wrong damned thing.

My advice about Dangling modifiers.
De-dangle them, re write the sentence. Otherwise what the reader reads, might not actually be what’s happening.

-Sheryl

The jerk-face warrior

Wisely Perpetrating Gullibility

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Someday

But I hate that

When I write or shall I say revise, I find ways to polish what I’ve written and employ some or all of the things I have found and learned. One thing I have recently been thinking about are our key character differences. Our differences make us unique from one another, this should also be true to characters of a story. I’ve talked about likes and dislikes and how they can bring about interesting conversation and plot turns. But what about hate?

The hate of a certain food, colour, object, task, job, behavior or even another person. I personally only give my good behaving characters one or two hates and they may or may not ever come up in the story unless they are pertinent or it can inject humor, tension, foreshadows or even comradery into a scenario.

I don’t mean the “Ooh I hate that.” Kind of hate, I mean the deep down, loathing-avoid-it-at-all-costs kind of hate. The sort of thing that Antagonists are riddled with.

A hatred of something or someone can be the entire purpose of a characters drive. Not everyone that hates is a bad person.

Anne’s smile faded as she approached the house. The loathsome sound of a small dog barking behind the door made her toes curl. The door opened before she could knock and the vile creature bounded out at her. Taking a step back, she gave herself points for not punting the yappy monster nipping at her shoes and jumping up at her legs.

Valery waited while her date loaded up his vendor hotdog with condiments. He didn’t know it was a test. If he reached for the bottle of vomit, she would bail on him. Petty, but anyone who ate relish was as vile as they come. You could kick a dog and she’d find a way to forgive, but to willingly consume the slimy, chunky, tangy booger-barf was a no go for her. He squeezed the bottle and it oozed out with small fart noises; she grimaced as her stomach lurched. Too bad, he was a great kisser.

Baylor crouched quietly waiting for his quarry. With each passing minute, his body tensed a little more, the grinding of his teeth his only company in the dark yard. The nearby animals sensing his furious presence wouldn’t resume their night-song or dare approach. His nostrils flared as car headlights approached. Nobody has gotten away before, nobody. Let alone have him arrested. She ruined everything, now he had to become someone else to be happy. A tainted happiness all because of some whore tease who tempted too many men falsely. If she lived through his payback, he didn’t care. It would be a first, he liked them to suffer forever, but this one, oh, this one destroyed his control, she who wasn’t even the real target to begin with, would pay dearly.

When I give a protagonist or supporting character a hatred, I try to make it interesting, against the norm or flat out weird. That way the reader will be shocked or taken aback by the hatred. It makes a person more believable it they If I have an antagonist with bundles of hatred, I would let it out slowly or hide it from the world in which they live. Perhaps the reader would be given glimpses, with a show gesture or two. Or, with an action or conversation that starts to elude to their deep seeded hatred. They are after all the one that throws the protagonist challenge after challenge until one of them wins.

My advice about hatred.
Keep it believable. Unique to the character, but not overwhelming if they are not the villain. If possible work the hatred into the plot as a device for conversation, character building or even the whole point of the story. Have fun with hatred, but remember most people keep such powerful emotions tucked away, deep down and loathe even to talk about it.

-Sheryl

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 Relish