Personification Plus


Personification is a great tool to be able to use in creative writing. Famous authors such as Charles Dickens use it to make their descriptions interesting and powerful. This session includes an example from Shakespeare and Dickens, but there are lots more examples in the Personification session in the Level 2 Adventures in Description course which you can use alongside these or as an alternative.



This activity takes a closer look at personification and how children can develop their describing skills and make their creative writing really come alive. You may wish to do the Guide to similes, metaphors and personification activity before doing this one. This session will take children through how to use personification and provides various examples and ideas to help them become confident in it.
The activity goes through an extended example from Dickens (including an easier to understand version), which is not only a great example of how to use personification, but also a good way to become more familiar with Dickens.


What you need

  • Access to the guide and examples below
  • Images or actual things to describe – you can have these prepared or look for them together as part of the activity
  • Pen and paper for notes and writing descriptions


What to do

  • Step 1: Read through the recap of personification with children.
  • Step 2: Children choose something to describe then work through the guide to describe it using personification.
  • Step 3: Study and discuss the further examples and ideas – children have a try at writing some more personification based on these.


Step 1: Recap of personification

Personification is where you describe an object or place as a human by giving it the characteristics of a person: how they act, feel or look like.


  • A hungry cloud eating up the sun.
  • An angry storm.
  • Branches quaking in fear of the howling winds.
  • A bench sitting bored on the side of the hill.

Step 2: Guide to describing something using personification

Choose an object or place (or find a picture of one) that you want to describe. Can you give the place or object human characteristics?

To do this consider these three aspects of being a person:

1. Human body

Are there things about the place or object that remind you of parts of the human body?
For example: arms, legs, a face, hair, fingers or toes.
Also include adjectives for these. For example: long, short, wide, skinny, strong, weak, rosy, pale, bright.

2. Human action or behaviour

Does the place or object seem like it is doing something that humans do?
For example: standing straight, running, laughing, crying, smiling, frowning, creeping, hiding, dancing, shouting.

3. Human emotion

Can you imagine the place or object feeling or showing human emotions?
For example: happy, sad, lazy, angry, excited, calm, crazy, clever, sleepy, healthy, lost, unsure, scared, brave, strict.
You could include these emotions as an adverb (usually by adding ly to the word) to describe the human action you have thought of.
For example: running happily, bending carefully, laughing excitedly.

You might use any or all of these areas to add human characteristics when describing a place or object.


Step 3: Examples and more ideas to try


Study and discuss these further examples and ideas. Children can then have a try at writing some more personification based on them.


Describing the weather using personification

King Lear, by William Shakespeare

In Shakespeare’s play King Lear, there is a famous scene where King Lear is raging at the storm and he shouts:
Blow, winds, and crack you cheeks! (Act 2, Scene 3)

What a powerful image of the wind blowing so hard it would crack its cheeks!


Writing Challenge

Write some interesting and powerful personification of elements of a storm, or another type of weather, by giving it human characteristics.
Ideas: a cloud, lightening, thunder, sun, stars, moon, wind, rain, snow or hail.


  • Come, rain, and shed your tears. Weep over this dry, infertile land.
  • The lightening’s long, pointed fingernails split the trees right down to their roots.
  • The rushing wind came stampeding through the houses, stamping down trees, leaving everything broken behind it in its race across the land.

Describing a house using personification

Arthur Gride’s house, in Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens

Another great example of personification is by Charles Dickens in his book Nicholas Nickleby, where he describes the house of a mean and unpleasant character called Arthur Gride.

Arthur Gride hoards all his money, and doesn’t care for or help anyone except himself. He uses people and all he thinks or cares about is how to get more money and then keep it hidden away for himself. Arthur Gride is what is known as a miser – a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol.

The following passage might not all make sense, but don’t worry, you will still get an idea of the way a place can be described as a person and also how it can relate to and further describe the character who lives there.
There is a more accessible version underneath the original.


Original passage:

In an old house, dismal dark and dusty, which seemed to have withered, like himself, and to have grown yellow and shrivelled in hoarding him from the light of day, as he had in hoarding his money, lived Arthur Gride.

Meagre old chairs and tables, of spare and bony make, and hard and cold as misers’ hearts, were ranged, in grim array, against the gloomy walls; attenuated presses, grown lank and lantern-jawed in guarding the treasures they enclosed, and tottering, as though from constant fear and dread of thieves, shrunk up in dark corners, whence they cast no shadows on the ground, and seemed to hide and cower from observation.

A tall grim clock upon the stairs, with long lean hands and famished face, ticked in cautious whispers; and when it struck the time, in thin and piping sounds, like an old man’s voice, rattled, as if it were pinched with hunger.

(From Chapter 51 of Nicholas Nickleby)


More accessible version:

Arthur Gride’s house was old, dark and dusty. It seemed to have shrunk and become wrinkled, like the man who lived there. It had grown yellow and shrivelled by keeping him for itself, hidden away from daylight, just like the man had kept hidden his money.

Small, bony chairs and tables that were hard and cold – like Arthur Gride’s heart – were arranged in a joyless way against the gloomy walls.

Weak pieces of furniture had become lifeless from guarding the treasures hidden inside them. They wobbled unsteadily as though they were always in fear of thieves. They shrunk up in the dark corners, where there was no light to cast a shadow, and seemed to hide in fear of being seen.

A tall grim clock stood on the stairs. It had long, thin hands and a starving face. It ticked in cautious whispers; and when it rang to tell the time it made sounds like an old man’s voice, rattling as though it were in pain from hunger.


Writing Challenge

Can you describe a place, and the things inside it, in a way that gives it human features? For an extra challenge try to use your descriptions to make the place or objects relate to the person who lives or goes there, like Arthur Grides’ house and furniture reflect his own mean and hoarding personality.

Here’s an example of a very different character and house to Arthur Gride:

The house belonged to Ruby. A bubbly girl who loved to have fun with her friends and was often seen dancing instead of walking. Her front door, with its cheery yellow paint and bright hanging baskets, stretched out its arms and smiled with a beaming face to welcome everyone in. Inside the house bright, soft armchairs grinned with life and generosity. Music played from the much-loved piano whose keys sung with joy. The piano glowed with pride at the happiness it gave to all those who danced along to its tune. The house bloomed with health and happiness, as Ruby herself did, and together they turned strangers into friends.

There’s lots of scope here for fun and unique descriptions. Personification can really make your writing come alive and much more interesting. It helps you describe things in a unique way. Think outside the box and really work your imagination.