Apr 14, 2012

M is for Metaphor

Metaphors are like pineapples... because... um...
During a recent writing workshop I picked up some useful advice on creating metaphors to add colour and flavour to your writing.

The thing to avoid with metaphors is clichés like 'raining cats and dogs' or my pet hate is when people 'drown' in each others eyes. 

Another problem is when metaphors are mixed in a sentence or paragraph and provide conflicting or confusing comparisons. For example: I could see by her expression she was a crazed dog with a chip on her shoulder. I tried to leave the shop but she drove at me like an angry bull. There are too many different images here that do not organically sit together well. The safest route is to keep metaphors simple, just one comparison for a passage, however, clever writers can continue with a metaphor and keep the flow cohesive. Take this example from English Essential (Mem Fox & Lyn Wilkinson): Writing is a bumpy road, full of obstacles, potholes and loose stones. ...If you can avoid these problem areas your writing stands a better chance of reaching its destination without being wrecked on the way.

In this workshop, we were given the theme friendship and a set of unrelated nouns to compare for a metaphor. For example, you might compare friendship to a diamond, circus, city... or a pineapple. There were some fantastic results, but you'll have to make do with mine today:

Teenie, Becka, Sophie and Jess were 'the bunch'.
"Like a bunch of bananas, you girls are always hanging together," Jess' mum would say.
No. They weren't bananas, they were pineapples. As a group they put forward a hard outer-skin, their spiky exterior, keeping everyone else out. But they enjoyed a sweet delicious secret, with just enough tang to be thrilling. 

Try to think outside the cliché square - what else could eyes be like? Diamonds, fireworks, vodka... a bicycle?

24 comments:

  1. I love the last lines about the bananas
    Nice post :)

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  2. Most useful post with plenty of ideas,

    Have a wonderful and peaceful week-end.

    Yvonne.

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  3. wonderful information--i am going to give this lots of thought

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  4. Thanks for following and commenting. I'm happy to return the favor. Good luck with the rest of the challenge.

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  5. Thanks for stopping by my blog. You have a new follower! :)

    The drowning metaphor drives me insane, too.

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  6. Yep, metaphors and cliches often go hand in hand. And why do fear and blood always taste like metal?

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  7. Lovely post and blog. Great ideas. So glad I visited!

    If you've the chance, pop over to my blog. I'm the author of the Bella and Britt series for kids.

    Am following you...

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  8. I asked my cat, Metaphor, for help, but as she meowed loudly and accusingly and paced back and forth, it was clear her answer was the same as always. "Eyes are angry zombies that will EAT YOUR BRAIN if you don't feed me, now!"

    So I did.

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  9. I love your example of a crazy metaphor. Too funny! Nice way to make a point.

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  10. I liked your metaphor, and especially the way you went in one direction and then changed it up while still staying in the same food group! :)

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  11. Great information and makes you think!

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  12. What a great exercise! Your metaphor was wonderful.

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  13. Great job how you got the point across. In Virginia, a pineapple symbolizes hospitality so your pineapple really worked for me.

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  14. Hi Charmaine. I loved the pineapple, lol. Great lesson on metaphors. Must do some more...

    Denise

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  15. Very enlightening post, information I am sure to use! :)

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  16. Great example.
    I'm struggling with eyes like a bike ;)

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  17. warm pools-I've used that for eyes.

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  18. trekking your blog!!! sometimes metaphors make my mind twisted!

    cheers!
    ..TREK..

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  19. Oh god... my whole LIFE is a mixed metaphor!

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  20. Love it! I'm not great at metaphors. When I'm drafting I leave comments in the ms like (add something descriptive that's not a cliche) so I can work on it later :)

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  21. Love the pineapple part . . .I think eyes could be like blades of grass if they are green, or they could be brown gold like autumn leaves . . . aagh. Eyes are hard to make into similes and metaphors without a cliche.

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  22. Excellent advice, Charmaine. You would think I'd know to avoid cliches but my aunt had to point this out to me. Now I cringe when I read one. I very much appreciate a creative metaphor.

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  23. Yes too many cliches spoil writing but then you can have fun mixing them.

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