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Voices for The Planet : Persona Stories

Coming soon are ideas for biography/reports.

We invited our director, Heather McQuillan, to contribute a couple of ideas for aspiring prose writers. Heather writes novels, short stories and flash fiction.


If a plant or an animal, or even a whole ecosystem, could talk what would it want to say to us?

Persona writing uses first person “ I” as the narrator of the story but is not the writer. Your writing should come from the experience, and in the voice, of a living thing.

Getting Started

Select an animal, plant or ecosystem. You might want to use a picture to inspire you, or select a living thing that you are personally connected with. Write from their perspective on a situation they face. Remember not to write about the living thing but try to see the world in a different way — through their "eyes". Tell a story. Why is this persona talking to us? Why now?

Explore Form and Purpose

Try writing with a specific purpose but still from the living thing's perspective.

Your story could take the form of a lament/ a justification/ a memoir/ a protest/ a message to a child/ a last confession ...

Explore Voice

As you are giving voice to this living thing you need to put your own voice aside. Build a character. Who is this persona? What motivates/ drives them? What do they reveal about themselves in between the words?

Think about the tone, timbre and dialect that it uses to speak.

In her book Singing Home the Whale, Mandy Hager creates a voice for the whale, Min, through the sounds and musicality of the words.

I was born on a night the moon drew the sea high towards her face. As the swell lifted my mother I slid into the tide tail first, the cord snapping as she nudged me skywards to the icy air. Below me rang my family’s welcome, lapping love around me as I nosed towards my mother’s milk. . .
. . . Right from the start I was a seeker; wanted to explore the workings of the waters we called home. I glided between peaks and spurs, rocky spines, and boiling vents that bubbled from the belly of the ocean’s core. I was the minnow of my mother’s clan, pandered to by parents, uncles, aunts; and with my cousins by my side, we cruised through coral coves, skimmed stands of kelp and bladderwrack, and swam through swaying sea-grass meadows that split to single stems as we eased through . . .
Singing Home the Whale, Mandy Hager

If you haven't read Singing Home the Whale then go find it now. It is award-winning and awe-inspiring.


The words you choose will reflect your narrator's experiences.

What is of importance to a snail? a mushroom? a fern? a beach?

What language would they use to describe their experiences?

If you use a simile make sure it fits your narrator's world view.


Start Late. Don't start at the beginning of the story the persona wants to tell but towards the end of it, enticing the reader to find out what happens next, as well as wondering what led to this.

Start Fast. Your opening words are crucial for the tone of your piece. Don't allow your persona to ramble- get right into the heart of your story.

End strong. What is the final turn/ impression that you leave the reader?

Read it Aloud. Reading aloud is an essential part of the writing process. Does the dialogue sound natural? Does it flow? Can you identify stops and starts, changes of rhythm and pace?


Write a first draft of your Persona Story and enter now.

Entries until July 29th or until all places are full.

Thank you to Mandy Hager for sharing her work with us.

(c) Write On School for Young Writers


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