Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Metaphoria - time to play

Metaphors, they're a great way to express ourselves.  Colorful, informative, sometimes amusing, they get a point across as nothing else can.  I highly recommend understanding them and using them in your writing, all your writing and by that I mean your book, your promotion, whatever you write. 

Now that doesn't mean you should go wild and stuff them into every sentence, regardless, but cultivating a grasp of their usage will give life to your writing as well as deeper meaning.

Did you know metaphors have been around one heck of a long time?  Even in the ancient Sumerian language.  And Aristotle described a metaphor as: “Metaphor is the application of a strange term either transferred from the genus and applied to the species or from the species and applied to the genus, or from one species to another or else by analogy.”

A simpler definition of metaphor is: A comparison made by referring to one thing as another.  Here are a couple of examples:

"No man is an island" —John Donne

'Forever since that time you went away I've been a rabbit burrowed in the wood" —Maurice Sceve

Life is a beach.

Time is a thief.

"He is a pig. Thou art sunshine." - unknown

Barack Obama captains the ship of state.

Life is a journey, a dance, a dream.

Metaphors are pervasive in every day life so why not put them into your writing - and learn to do it well?
Here are some helps. 

1.  Check out The Metaphor Observatory click the links and see how it's done.

2.  Consider starting your own metaphor list and keep it handy so you can add to it easily.  When you hear a good one in public or at work or at a family gathering, write it down. Use metaphors you hear from others as springboards for your own.

3.  Pay attention when you read magazines or books or newspapers. Notice the metaphors.

4.  Play with metaphors. Think about them and all the different twists and turns they can take.  For example, your own writing.  Writing is.....(what?) a roller coaster ride? as painful as slamming your finger with a hammer? the bringer of sweet peace and serenity? -- keep going.....

5. Experiment.  Try to use a metaphor in your book title

6. Complete some of the metaphor starters below. Use concrete words–of image, sound, and feeling. Remember those old cliches? Avoid them.  Be new and fresh and creative.
·    I’m as angry as
·    I’m as frustrated as
·    I’m as dizzy as
·    I’m as low as
·    I’m as powerful as a
·    I’m as tired as
·    I’m as energetic as
     I'm as confused as

Expand the list using your own ideas.  Don't settle for the old, remembered cliche metaphors - create new ones.

Mix them if you like, but don't go entirely crazy. It could become a parody of itself - which could be a good thing if that is your intent, not so good if it isn't. Here are some mixed up metaphors to give you an idea:

"I smell a rat [...] but I'll nip him in the bud" -- Irish politician Boyle Roche.

"If we can hit that bullseye then the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards... Checkmate." -- Futurama character Zapp Brannigan.
As writers we play with language.  We all have the potential for seeing things in our own unique way, for making connections in ways others have overlooked.  Play with metaphors. You don't want the Sumerians to have the last word, do you?

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