Personify Story Setting and It Will Give You Advice

Continuing with the idea of developing your story in a manner outside the box, let’s talk about setting. In fact, let’s flip its development on its head. Instead of slogging through a list of things like location, climate, buildings, time period, why not have your setting advise you on some of your stories more interesting tidbits?


There’s a lovely poem by Ilan Shamir called Advice From a Tree, and it’s just that, advice from a tree. Some lone tree somewhere in this world is giving advice to a friend, and with lines like, “Stand tall and proud” “Go out on a limb” and “Remember your place among the living beings” the tree is personified.


Personification is a literary device used to enhance writing by giving human characteristics to something nonhuman. It’s a form of figurative language used often in poetry—as with Advice From a Tree—and in children’s literature. For example, the book The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. (A personal favorite of mine.) is an adorable picture book in which the crayons are living beings with feelings and opinions on how they should be used and treated. They have personalities and wishes, just like humans. And they express them in letters written to their owner, Duncan. So, what if your story setting had human traits and qualities? What would it have to say? What would it notice about its surroundings? Would it have an opinion one way or another?


Here's one I did from the POV of a ballet stage.



Advice From the Stage

Stay en pointe

Get out of your head

And check your ego at the door

Step lively, gracefully

Enjoy the moment

Even when you stumble

Don’t expect to be perfect

Allow for your humanness

Love your body

Admire and appreciate its abilities

Let the music enter you, become a part of you

Ignore the critic, especially the inner one

Know me, that I am here, and I am solid beneath you

Because now is the time all your hard work is revealed



Now let’s look at what “The Stage” is telling us.


Advice From the Stage

Stay en pointe (A French term used when a ballerina is on the tips of the toes. This is about a ballerina.)

Get out of your head (The person addressed overthinks things.)

And check your ego at the door (Either the ego is big or small. We don’t know yet. But it must be a problem.)

Step lively, gracefully (Alluding to dance moves?)

Enjoy the moment (Harks back to get out of your head.)

Even when you stumble (Mishaps don’t equate to enjoying something.)

Don’t expect to be perfect (One might not enjoy the moment if striving for perfection.)

Allow for your humanness (A human is imperfect.)

Love your body (Self-care when striving for a goal.)

Admire and appreciate its abilities (Acknowledge what one already has.)

Let the music enter you, become a part of you (Use what you can to reach the goal.)

Ignore the critic, especially the inner one (Enough said.)

Know me, that I am here, and I am solid beneath you (Even the inanimate can bring comfort and stability.)

Because now is the time all your hard work is revealed (Final accolades and confirmation.)


You can see here that there are more ways to get acquainted with your story setting than traditional outlines and questionaires. There will come a time when dates, weather, terain, and the like will be necessary, but how fun is it to view your characters or storyline through your setting's eyes like this?!





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