Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cars as Characters... And Other Objects

Recently I retired my old 98 Saturn, affectionately named "Sippy The Wonder Sedan" after 246,900 something miles.  I replaced it with an 08 Toyota Yaris named "Go-Kart The Wonder Hatchback".  Not everybody names their cars but they do have distinct personalities.  That's why cars end up with names from things like Ted or Susan to Smokie or The Beast.

Anthropomorphizing things has a long tradition dating back to the beginning of storytelling where hunter-gatherers sat around their camp fires telling stories with characters such as the sun, moon, mountains, rivers, and mountains.  Stories where these natural objects had spirits and could talk and interact with man and each other.

More recent stories include the Dresden Files stories by Jim Butcher and Leviathan by Scott Westerfield.  Harry Dresden has a rickety old car that works for him (barely) because it isn't modern or filled with modern electronics which his magical influence tends to react poorly with.  The Leviathan is an actual living creature that is also an airship and home to a crew of World War I era British sailors.  When the ship suffers you feel its pain, just as its crew does.

An extreme case of humanizing cars would be the Pixar films, Cars and Cars II.  The vehicles come alive with personalities ranging from the cocky athlete (Lightning McQueen) to the simple trusting friend (Mater).

By humanizing cars (or other inanimate objects), you draw your readers in to someone or something else they can love and cheer for, or hate and despise.  Things are just things, until they are given personality and a life of their own.  We are social creatures. We like to imagine things as like ourselves, with feelings, motivations, and passions.  So take advantage of that in your storytelling.

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