Metaphors, similes, hyperbole, alliteration and wordplay are all techniques that, used judiciously, can liven up your writing. I’ll tackle each of them over the coming weeks and months, but let’s start with metaphors.
What exactly is a metaphor?
The dictionary definition is “something that describes a person or object by referring to something that is considered to have similar characteristics to that person or object”. For example, when we hear the phrase “crying a river of tears”, we know the person isn’t literally creating a river but that they are crying so heavily the flow is like a river.
You’ll be familiar with expressions such as “it’s raining cats and dogs”, “my son is a couch potato”, “my boss is a dragon”, “the teacher planted the seeds of wisdom” and so on. A metaphor describes something by using an analogy with something completely different. If we hear someone has “egg on their face” we’re expected to know they haven’t been the victim of a random egg thrower but have been caught in an embarrassing situation.
The beauty of a metaphor is its ability to bring a dull sentence to life and explain a complex concept with startling clarity. The danger is that metaphors do their job so brilliantly that they tend to become overused, which can make your writing appear clichéd or corny. The trick is to use them sparingly.
Better still, invent your own – but that is something that is easier said than done. After all, we still use Charles Dickens’s positively ancient “The law is an ass” because we have yet to come up with something better to describe the often illogical decisions made in our courts. But then that’s a whole different “kettle of fish”…
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