I love a good metaphor. Any story packed with well-wrought metaphors will win my heart. I ran into similes and metaphors in Sophomore English class at Peabody High School. I can still see the room. Tall industrial windows, wood paneled walls. Everything was dark brown. Bobby sox were in at the time and we all went home with black scuffs on them from the floors that had been oiled regularly for the last hundred years.
I don't remember anything we read that year except "The Most Dangerous Game". I do remember we had lots of grammar and lots of writing. That year we learned figures of speech. I still remember most of them. I should use more in my writing. Simile and Metaphor were my favorites. I had no desire to represent sounds or use a part to represent the whole, but comparisons won my heart.
Let me define metaphor for you just in case you were out that day: a figure of speech in which a term is transferred from the object it ordinarily designates to an object it may designate only by implicit comparison or analogy. (American Heritage Dictionary) A simile is a light version of a metaphor in which the comparison is stated not implied. Got it?
A metaphor is better defined by example. Here are a few:
William Blake: "Oh, rose, thou art sick." It's not about roses at all but about the shame of illicit love.
Robert Frost: Stopping by Woods on a Winter Evening, after a description of a quiet snow scene, ends with "and miles to go before I sleep." Is he talking about getting home and lying under a warm quilt or is he talking about death?
I referred to the fire trucks in the last blog, as Christmas lights. That's a metaphor. Had I said "blinking on and off like Christmas lights" that would be a simile.
Most of what I write is historical. While I try to get the history right, I am often caught in the quandary: did I get the way people act and feel right? There really isn't any way to know. Even taking part in a reenactment can only take you part way. The car is always waiting to take you home to all the modern conveniences.
For that reason I see everything I write as metaphor. It isn't here and now, but it reflects it. I can’t imagine what it was like to live with some of the conditions my characters have to contend with. I can relate to similar conditions and use that to illuminate my own life, and yours. That is a ready-made metaphor.
When I started writing this, I was going to fill it with wonderful metaphors, but when I sat down to write, I couldn't remember a single one. One of my more important writing activities is walking the dog. The metaphors I did come up with came from reciting poetry to her for half an hour every morning. Poetry is compact and lends itself well to metaphor. Prose is more spread out and isn't so much in need of metaphor.
Metaphors make the writing richer, the mind of the reader struggle more with the meaning behind the meaning. They don't appear often in kind of fiction I read these days. What a loss.
So…send me your favorite metaphor.