Thursday, March 31, 2011

Writing Exercise 14: Metaphors


Let's talk today about metaphors, analogies, comparisons, etc., that could enhance a text and make it more interesting. Of course, 'exhausted' metaphors could make your text sound stereotyped and trite.

There are so many metaphors, we've heard so very often, that while reading we don't think about them anymore. You should be really careful with using boring metaphors, because they might just blow up your text with useless bla bla. For example: 'He broke her heart.' In most of the cases it's simply better to show the consequences of the 'heart breaking'. Similar with comparisons. Instead of writing 'Red like blood' use something better to describe the fact, e.g. 'Red like his bloodshot eyes after a long night out full of alcohol and drugs'. Well, that's maybe good enough for an example, but not good enough for a text.

All right, this exercise has two parts:
PART 1: Take your time and collect 30 metaphors, analogies or comparisons, you personally use very often. Believe me, you use more than you think.

PART 2: You might already guess. Out of that 30 pick up 10 and create three fresh versions each!

PART 1: Well, I've found my 30 metaphors ... in German language. This time it's difficult to translate them, because some of the terms don't make sense or simply don't exist in the English vocabulary!

One additional note: While collecting I've realized, that obviously I'm very fond of using terms with animals, colors or food! *g*

PART 2: Well, I simply didn't want to rack my brain for finding something extraordinary to that plain phrases. Instead I've used a technique to create some completely new metaphors:
  • Life is (like) a rose, it's full of thorns and can blossom.
  • Residing is (like) a meadow, green and juicy.
  • Family is (like) a cellar, dark, dusty and filled with hoards.
  • Believe is (like) a vase, it depends, which flowers it contains.
  • Energy is (like) a car, you have to fuel it first to use it.
  • Believe is (like) a mirror, you can only see what's in front.
  • Success is (like) coal, brown, dirty and needs a lot of hard work.
  • Family is (like) a table, is one leg shorter it tips over.
  • Recreation is (like) a deck chair, foolish, if it's folding up.
Thanks Roland for the hint! There is no like in metaphors!

Okay, that's enough! I really should make a little note in my current writing project to edit my text according to metaphors, analogies and comparisons!

This is a simple technique to create simple metaphors. It's best, when you're with a partner, but it also works for one:
  • Person A thinks of plain, general term, e.g. marriage, woman, profession, love, etc.
  • Person B thinks of a concrete object, all things, that can be seen and touched, e.g. a chair, socks, a cat, etc.
  • Person B names his object, Person A formulates a spontaneous sentence to the object.
  • Combine them and you receive some 'country lore':
    Marriage - carpet - to sweep something under the carpet
    Marriage is a carpet, a lot of things get swept under.
See, very simple, but very effective and so true!


  • April 01, 2011 1:26 AM
    Anonymous :

    Hi Karin,
    I love metaphors too!

    I'm sorry to say (and please take this in the light in which it is written and maybe it's different in German, I don't know) but strictly speaking these are not metaphors but similes.
    In English a metaphor does NOT use the word 'like'
    The use of the word like makes it a simile.

    Metaphor: Her arrival was a breath of fresh air in my life.
    Simile: Her arrival was like a breath of fresh air in my life.

    PS hope you liked the album . . . . :-)

  • April 01, 2011 1:54 AM

    Hi Rowland,

    I've just checked the sheet, where I've noticed the method ... you're totally right! There is no like in my examples, too! Somehow it crept in during translation! Thanks for the tip! I'm going to change it!

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