15 September, 2011

Terry Pratchett Month: Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism definition (from The Free Dictionary):

Attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena.

The most famous representation of natural phenomena from Terry Pratchett's  Discworld being, naturally, DEATH. Who speaks in SMALL CAPS (they are so exclusive that Blogger even refuses to let me use them), carries a scythe, and according to some sounds like the slamming lids of coffins, despite having no vocal cords.

DEATH is not the only character made out of something abstract. There are many gods and goddesses, such as the goddess of Things That Stick in Drawers, the god Fate, the god of Avalanches, and The Goddess Who Must Not Be Named (also known as Lady Luck), to name a few of the many that exist in Discworld.

Many other authors have made characters out of the abstract. For example, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief was told through the perspective of death. Tamora Pierce's novels, set in the Tortall universe, often have the characters dealing directly with gods and goddesses who represent different aspects of life.

Have you ever created a character out of something like death or another natural (or unnatural) phenomenon in your own stories? Do you think it has an important effect on the culture or feelings of the characters in a story if they believe in such gods/goddesses?

What is your favorite personification, from Discworld or another series/novel?

Other Terry Pratchett Month Posts:

Discussion Post: On Humorous and Parodic Stories
Book Review: Nation

-----The Golden Eagle


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I haven't explored that idea yet...

nutschell said...

I love Discworld! So far my favorite one is the God of hangovers! I wish I could write humor like Terry Pratchett.I would like to explore this concept of creating a character like Pratchett's Death one day.


Tanya Reimer said...

Oh of course I do this! I love the idea of creating characters out of things like death. Of course I also feel so boring when the best name I can up with is Terror, or Hate. But really... it invokes an image no?

Old Kitty said...

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. Anthropomorphism (such a word!) at its best! I think I wanted to have pet rats after reading this - that's how powerful the story was for me.

Awww now DEATH. I love that he grapples with the big philosophical issues of life, erm, death, love, and faith, the universe and everything. And he rescues cats.

Small Gods. I think his bestest most profound, complex, beautiful intelligent book from the perspective of a turtle! :-) No-one on this green earth comes close to tackling such huge human conundrums as he does here. Yay!

Oh I am so not worthy! LOL!

Take care

Charles Gramlich said...

Although I try to resist anthropomorphizing in my scientific world, I love it in my literary world.

L.G.Smith said...

I once wrote a story that took place in ancient Greece. I used the three Fates as actual characters. Also threw in Fortune as their impulsive younger sister who worked against them behind their backs. It was a lot of fun to write.

Jake Henegan said...

I've never actually had one in my stories, but I really love Death in Pratchett's books (especially in Reaper Man and Mort).

Lisa Gail Green said...

Interesting. Usually when I think anthropomorphic I think of younger children's books with animal characters. But you're right, Death is a great example.

C D Meetens said...

I took liberties with myths, legends, gods/goddesses, etc. in "Casey and the Hereafter". It was a lot of fun to make up my own world for them.

Carrie Butler said...

You know I love DEATH! Great post! :)

(...That sounds bad to outsiders, doesn't it? *grins*)

laughingwolf said...

sometimes it gets overdone, but pratchett's make me laugh aloud! :)

Ciara said...

I've seen this a lot lately but I haven't tackled it. I have to admit it has caught my attention.

Liz said...

DEATH is one of my favorite characters.

Gee, when was the last time I read a Discworld novel? It's been too long.

Anonymous said...

I love the Dementors from the Harry Potter series. What a cool idea. Their death kiss is considered a fate worse than death. Now that's pretty cool!

Emily Rose said...

Wow, those are some original characters!

Beth said...

My daughter loves Terry Pratchett, and I keep telling her I'll have to read him. From the bits she tells me, he sounds brilliant.

That 20 Something Virgin. said...

i wish i could create a character so complex! alas, i have much writing experience to gain.

and i totally thought that definition was going to be for personification haha. at least i know what that is.

Anonymous said...

I haven't tried anthropomorphism in my writing yet, but I'm open to the possibility.

Have a great weekend.

Sarah Pearson said...

Death is probably one of my favourite Pratchett characters of all time. So much so that somewhere on my hard drive is a few paragraphs of an idea with Death as the protagonist. Sadly, I think it's too overdone now for me to do it justice in an original manner.

BornStoryteller said...

Next to any book that features Vimes or Carrot, the Death books are my favorite. I am so happy that Snuff is coming out soon. A new Discworld book is always a thrill (next month, I think).

I do often write from abstract concepts. I write a lot in Myth, Legend and Fantasy, so it's the natural place. If anyone wants to read one: The World That Holds Love http://wp.me/p1mecg-6R
or The Kitsune-Mochi and Tora Baku http://wp.me/p1mecg-9F
Hope you like them.

Misha said...

That's such an interesting idea. I've never done it myself, but maybe I can, one day. :-)

Flying high in the sky.... said...

what an interesting post!! learnt something new... thank you !

Theresa Milstein said...

I think all my characters have been alive and human. There are some good books out there where nature becomes its own character. Circle of Secrets and The Healing Spell have the bayou as a character. In Circle of Secrets, blue bottles become a character too. Both are by Kimberley Griffiths Little.

Laila Knight said...

I have. As a matter of fact there's an entity in my WIP that isn't supposed to be alive, and it's not a vampire. I'm excited about her. There is also the god that lives in the dryer and steals your socks. No, wait, that's the sock gnome. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Alex: I've thought about it, but never really tried it. Maybe it's time I wrote some Fantasy again. :)

Nutschell: LOL. It's an original thing to be a God of. :P

Me, too.

Tanya: It does. And since people carry their own impressions of the emotions/actions, it can even add another element to it. :)

Old Kitty: I haven't read that book yet!

I agree. I haven't come across one of his cat-rescuing incidents yet, but I look forward to it. LOL.

Charles: Same here!

L.G.: It sounds like fun. Fortune as a younger sister . . . that could be disruptive. :P

Jake: I have Mort in my TBR stack from the library; I plan to read and review it for this month!

Lisa: Good point. It is used a lot in MG, with animal characters--just take the Warriors or Seekers series.

C D: Sounds like a great story! :) I love world-building.

Carrie: LOL. Hey, I love DEATH, too. Maybe we should start a club.

Laughingwolf: Me, too! :)

Ciara: I haven't tried it yet, either. But I'd like to, sometime.

Liz: Why not reread one for Terry Pratchett Month? :) The more the merrier!

Stephen: I love that example! There's nothing else like Dementors in fiction. (Well, until HP look-alikes came around.)

Emily: They are. Another reason why I love Terry Pratchett's novels. :)

Beth: He is! You should try one of his books sometime.

That 20 Something Virgin: I probably would be in for a lot of rewriting if I tried something like death; there's so much to consider when it comes to a character like that!

They're very close.

Medeia: I'd like to try it sometime--once I've finished all the other projects I've invested in already. :P

Sarah: Agreed. :)

I tried writing a story with characters who resembled death in a way, though they were more like spirits--never continued it.

Stuart: There's a new Discworld book coming out soon? I hadn't known that! Awesome.

Thanks for the links! I'll have to check those out. :)

Misha: One day . . . I know I'd like to try it!

Flying high: You're very welcome! :)

Theresa: I've never heard of those books before, or of the author; but I love the idea. I'll have to check them out!

Laila: She sounds like a great character!


Krispy said...

I love anthropomorphism, and my writing is rife with it. I love how you can play with bigger ideas but also have personal character arcs all in one package.

I love Neil Gaiman's Death and Dream in the Sandman series. I haven't really read Pratchett aside from Good Omens, but I totally need to because I've heard so much about his DEATH. :)

Rachel Morgan said...

I haven't tried the anthropomorphism thing in my writing yet... but this post has provided some interesting comments to read.