Monday Metaphor Series

I’ve been trying to think of a way to repay the “Kindness of Others” (to paraphrase Blanche) who have informative web sites for writers and to talk about something I am interested in. So I’ve decided to blog about various ways to use language to enhance the basic story. I could have called this “Figures of Speech” or “Tropes” or “Comparisons” or some other comprehensive expression, but nothing else has the simple elegance of alliteration. So Monday Metaphors it will be.

To begin, “Metaphor” seems like a good place to start. A metaphor is a name or descriptive term ascribed to something to which it is not literally applicable. Metaphor assumes the reader understands both the literal and the symbolic meanings and is able to bridge the metaphorical gap. gives this example:

Metaphor Example: My father is a rock.

Original sense: hard, mineral material made of stone.

Metaphorical sense: very strong or reliable person.

 Oftentimes, a word the writer is using suggests a companion, a concrete or abstract closeness to the original word that it can almost be a synonym. The second word comes on the heels of the original so quickly as to seem glued to it. A word of caution—often that comparison is a cliché. “He was an animal.” “Her eyes were pools.” Better to search for an original concept. “Not a thought in his snail brain.” “Her eyes were forget-me-nots.” “The sea was having a tantrum.” Metaphors do not use words of comparison, such as “like” or “similar to,” but come right out and call the thing the other, not “Her eyes were like forget-me-nots.”

Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.”

Alfred Noyes, in The Highwayman, said, “The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,”

In Brenna Clarke’s River, Cross My Heart, Johnnie Mae goes swimming at the new swimming pool: “It was her lane only, her water before her, and she plowed through it with all the energy she had.”

In my Dalton: King of the Diamond, “The pitcher winds and Dalton swings. He hits the ball and it takes wings.”

In my Arctic Danger, Kiana is distracted by the beautiful flowers: “’These pretty little forger-me-nots have a tiny speck of sunlight in the center,’ she said.”  “Girls,” said Gary.

Metaphors should be used sparingly in order to carry the most impact; don’t over-salt the meat; sprinkle delicately.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nancy Stewart
    Apr 18, 2011 @ 08:06:38

    You’ve not over salted here. A good description of the use and over use of metaphors. A good beginning of our Mondays!


  2. Barbara Bockman
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 01:05:40

    Hi Nancy,
    Thanks for visiting. I think this new series is going to be fun.


  3. Pamela Maynard
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 05:13:51

    Who knew metaphors could make Mondays such much better? Thanks for sharing. I need to use a few more metaphors in my writing, especially if I write on Monday!
    Thanks for sharing!


  4. Janet Ann Collins
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 12:17:59

    As an English major who took lots of Linguistics classes for fun, I’ve never understood why people think the difference between metaphors and similes is so important.


  5. Priya Iyengar
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 13:54:39

    That’s an excellent thought, Barbara. I’m a big fan of language embellishments. No doubt I like simple and sweet usage of language but a cherry on the top is always delectable.

    You are the best person I know who could make the language more enthralling. With your expertise in English language you will able to help a lot of budding writers in honing writing skills.

    I’m sure your Monday postings are going to be more fun, creative, and helpful.
    Keep it up.


  6. J. Aday Kennedy
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 14:42:24

    Barbara is the Queen of Creative Phrases, especially metaphors. I’m in a critique group and enjoy the way she incorporates them into her writing.
    J. Aday Kennedy
    The Differently-Abled Writer & Speaker
    Children’s Author of Stella the Fire Farting Dragon (April 2010)


  7. Priya Iyengar
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 15:30:20

    Jessica, I totally agree with you and vote for that title. She is a deserving person for that crown.


  8. Barbara Bockman
    Apr 19, 2011 @ 23:17:24

    Hey Gals,
    Thanks so much for your kind words.

    To Janet Ann,
    I don’t necessarily think it makes much difference what you call your creative embellishments. What fascinates me is that there are countless ways writers and speakers have used to expand the meaning of their thoughts and to develop images the reader can visualize. In giving name to what one writer invents, the etymologist or linguist can create a category, giving other people the chance to expand their own minds, taking off in different directions using the same category in a new way. I think we all want to say something unique; and part of the fun of writing is finding that unusual way to tell our stories. One mark of a good writer is her use of strong verbs. Using figures of speech is simply another way to try to write a good story. It has been suggested I talk about “why figures of speech are called figures of speech.” I’ll do that next Monday.


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