When proofreading your work in progress you may find you are fonder of your metaphors than your reading public is going to be. Be guided by your crit partner, crit group, editor and/or anyone whose opinion you value (no family members, of course). If your imagery trips up the reader it needs smoothing out. Psychological research has revealed we’re hardwired to appreciate metaphor, though. So keep them well-placed and ringing true, while remembering to avoid cliche and to use sparingly.
Simile: a comparison using as, like or than (easy for children to understand)
“its fleece was white as snow”
“For it is as the air, invulnerable”
“like a diamond in the sky”
“if, like a crab, you could go backward”
Metaphor: an implied comparison (a good one is memorable)
“At night Times Square was the colour of sweets – a gigantic neon-lit bag of treats” (from The Magic Bicycle - Brian Patten/Arthur Robins)
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”
There are various metaphorical subsets to explore, how about synecdoche and metonymy in a future article (I bet you’ll be all ears…)?
Now let’s rev up the engines and hit the floor running on the vexed subject of mixed metaphors. They have their place –
For comic and/or satirical effect, or political bombast (intentional or unintentional): “When you open that Pandora’s box, you will find it full of Trojan horses.”
To suggest a troubled mind:
“…to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them…”
but, on the whole, avoid.
An idiom is a phrase (sometimes a metaphor) that has been used so often that it has broken free and is understood despite its literal meaning. These are a nightmare for anyone learning English as a second language (over the moon, pulling your leg, etc).
Here’s a collection of mixed idioms:
“We’re as thick as two peas in a pod”
from the US TV series Scrubs
“Go and count your sour grapes before they hatch”
from the UK TV series Father Ted
“you buttered your bread, now sleep in it!”
from the classic Disney film Pinocchio
Finally, if you’re going to use an idiom, make sure you’ve got the right spelling:
|A Damp Squid by Jonathan 3D|
“to give free rein” not to give free reign
“to the manor born” not to the manner born
“a damp squib” not a damp squid
After all, it’s not rocket surgery.
SCBWI British Isles Winchester Conference.
Excitement is bubbling as the conference gets nearer. We're so thrilled that our very own, and rather wonderful, Catriona will be sharing her knowledge and expertise at this year's conference. Click here for more details.