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Metaphorically Speaking

December 4, 2010

One of the real joys of writing is coming up with a metaphor that fits like a church key and isn’t cliche. (Fits like a glove would have been cliche) Sometimes, especially when you are in the zone (Is ‘in the zone’ cliche yet?) metaphors just seem to fall into place faster than a Japanese domino topple. Metaphors are tricky little widgets, because you can easily overuse them and then the metaphor overwhelms the story. Honestly, I think it’s one of the most fun parts of writing is finding that clever little word twist that grabs the reader by the eyeball and forces a quick gasp or tiny chuckle.

Not having an MFA in creative writing, I have to lean on experience rather than education. For example, until I started doing a bit of research for this blog, I had no idea there were so many different types of metaphors. Silly me, I thought a metaphor was simply a metaphor. (I’m convinced I would’ve made a piss-poor English major.) According to some unnamed English Professor there are fourteen distinctly different types of metaphors. (I’m not going to cite him here because he might be wrong and I don’t want to be guilty of passing out bad information – do your own research if it’s that important.)

Possibly because I haven’t been educated in the craft of writing, I don’t have a full understanding of all the underlying mechanics of the language. But then Noah wasn’t a boat-builder either. (If I understand the Professor’s chart, this would be a dormant metaphor.) I am constantly on the lookout for good metaphors. They are all around us. Here’s a few I’ve collected over the years.

Racing at Bristol is like jet fighters in a gymnasium.. ~ Richard Petty

It’s raining men. ~ The Weather Girls

Ride Like the Wind. ~ Christopher Cross

Were you born in a barn? ~ My mother. (But I digress)

I’ll close with my own metaphor. “Motorcycling is a metaphor for life. If you don’t pay close attention to where you are headed, you may never get there.” I just made that up. It’s not very good writing, but it is a metaphor.



The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learned from others; it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an eye for resemblance. ~Aristotle, De Poetica, 322 B.C.

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3 Comments
  1. December 4, 2010 1:31 pm

    Awesome blog! And so true about overused metaphors. Blech. I can’t slog my way through a single paragraph when its metaphors have heavy on headcount but light on sense like a Tea Baggers rally. 😉

  2. December 4, 2010 1:32 pm

    Ooops! Should have been “are heavy”, not “have heavy”. I need a nap.

  3. Diane K permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:56 am

    I talked about your wonderful use of metaphors on the first review I ever I ever wrote which was on amazon. I just LOVE your metaphors. lol. It makes reading so much more fun. You may be surprised to hear that whenever I talk to someone about your writing, I mention your clever use of metaphors. I can’t wait to read the next book.

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