Merriam-Webster says inanimate stands for “a thing that is not alive, such as a rock, a chair, a book, etc
.”. Dictionary.com goes further with its definition in linguistics: “belonging to a syntactic category or having a semantic feature characteristic of words denoting objects, concepts, and beings regarded as lacking perception and volition”
Sure, but with writers, things rarely stick strictly do dictionary or general definitions. And they shouldn’t. Not always, anyway. Writers often use inanimate objects, concepts and beings as a starting point to transpose them and give them a ‘live’ human meaning, defining us, them, anybody, or some form of human relations.
There is always a human element, anyway when we write about inanimate objects. When he came up with “Famous Blue Raincoat”, one of his best and most celebrated songs/poems, Leonard Cohen through that coat gave all he felt about a failed relationship, treachery, love, and at least a dozen sense of other human feelings:
“Oh, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn
at the shoulder
You’d been to the station to meet every train
But then you came home without Lili Marlene…”
Nothing inanimate there. The raincoat has taken all the shapes and forms of a person wearing it and how Cohen perceived that person and their relations and relations with others involved.
That is why a writer can (and often should) see all things inanimate as something that can give them inspiration for their writing. Past, present, future, it can all be ‘seen
’ and viewed from that object, whether it is just a starting point or something that permeates the writing throughout. Basically, a writer could give life to things that are seemingly not alive.
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