Friday 14 December 2007

Writing exercise - metaphors

Dead Metaphors
Dead metaphors are clichés - they are the ones that everyone knows and have been used so many times that they are just a part of everyday language, e.g.

Stone cold
A heart of stone
Apple of my eye
Boiling mad
Steer clear
Bear fruit
Hatch a plan
Difficult to swallow
New and emerging writers work is commonly riddled with them. Of course, the first time these were used, they would have been arresting - something new and apt. Now they have become stale - and have little fresh impact. They are part of our clichéd language - they communicate but not as powerfully as something freshly minted. Collect as many as possible from reading and noticing each other's speech. Make a list. Use these for a writing game by taking them literally, e.g.

I felt stone cold -
My arms were rock
And my legs were granite.

She was the apple of my eye -
But someone took a bite
Out of my sight!

Geraldine was boiling mad -
Steam came out of her mouth!

I hatched a plan -
It is only just able to walk
And needs bottle-feeding daily.

This sort of language play helps you look anew at language you may be using without really thinking about its meaning.

Inventing Metaphors
First of all, identify something that you want to create a metaphor around - for instance - the stars. Now think of something that is like the subject or something to do with the subject - they shine, glitter, are like tin-tacks, like diamonds, like jewels, like fiery eyes. Now use an idea to make a metaphor, remembering not to use the word 'like', e.g.

The stars are shiny glitter.
The stars tin tacked to the night.
The diamond stars shine.
The jeweled stars.
The fiery stars eyed the world

Notice how one simple way is to:

Generate a simile - the stars are like diamonds.
Omit the word 'like' - the stars are diamonds.
Move the noun in front of the image - the diamond stars. Dylan Thomas uses this technique in his writing!

Extending the metaphor
This is much easier than you may imagine. Take a simple simile, e.g.

My teacher is like an... eagle.

Turn this into a metaphor by removing the word like. Now think about what eagles do and just extend the sentence further, e.g.

My teacher is an eagle swooping around the room, hovering over his students, diving down on innocent prey and demolishing them with the terrible grip of his talons.

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