Examples of Metaphors for Great Writing
Find out what a metaphor is and how you can use this powerful literary device to elevate your writing.
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What is a metaphor?
A metaphor falsely states that one thing is another while creating a truthful, symbolic comparison. Some examples of metaphors:
What is the difference between a metaphor and a simile?
These two writing tools are often mixed up. They are quite alike, but with a key difference.
With a metaphor, you state that one thing is another. For instance, "his kitchen is a sauna" and "her argument is bulletproof." In a simile, you also compare one thing to another, however not as directly. You don't plainly say one thing is another, rather say it's similar to another.
A word like "is" can still be used, however, a word such as "like" or "as" goes with it. Some examples of similes:
Examples of metaphors in narrative writing
Metaphors play a variety of roles in narrative writing. Two major categories:
Use metaphors for great descriptions and dialogue in narrative writing
A great description creates a vivid image in a reader's mind. However, if a writer eats up multiple pages describing a single character, place, object, etc, the motion of the story can come to a standstill. Readers may get bored, even if the language is colorful.
A metaphor is a great tool for creating a vivid description without using hundreds of words.
As you now know, a metaphor states that Thing A is Thing B. Let's say Thing A is a character in your story your audience hasn't yet met. If you choose something for Thing B that your audience already understands, you can immediately give Thing A characteristics of Thing B with a simple mention.
For instance, let's say Thing A is a character named Stanley who has an odor problem. Here's how you can get across that trait with a metaphor:
Stanley sits next to me at the kitchen table. When he reaches for the salad bowl at the center, the stench of a dumpster releases from his armpit.
The reader would get quite a vivid description of poor Stanley in just a few words.
Keep in mind, when you come across metaphors in narrative writing, they're not always written in a straightforward way like the examples we looked at earlier (ex, "his kitchen is a sauna").
In the instance with poor Stanley, the word "is" does not explicitly appear in the comparison, yet a metaphor is still present. The text is suggesting that the odor from Stanley's armpit is the stench of a dumpster, even though the phrasing doesn't include "is."
Metaphorical writing works for dialogue in a similar way as description. A character can get across a vivid point quickly with a spoken metaphor. For example, let's say a narrator thinks a character, Fred, is a bad dancer. Here's how that could come out in dialogue:
Jack, in the passenger seat, asks, "How was that club you and Fred went to last night?"
"The place was all right. But I had to keep my distance from him once he got out on the dance floor. I didn't want people to know I was friends with the guy."
"I thought you two were cool?"
"He's not a bad dude. But those dance moves. His feet are made of concrete."
Not only can a metaphor help describe a person or thing a character is talking about, but the character doing the talking. In this example, in just a few words, the narrator not only expresses Fred's bad dancing, but expresses his own sarcasm.
Now you're accomplishing quite a lot with just a few words.
Use metaphors for great abstract comparisons in narrative writing
In dialogue and description, metaphors tend to be tight together within the text. "His feet are made of concrete" is a metaphor that starts and ends with a single sentence.
However, abstract comparisons may also be present in narrative writing, which can play out over multiple scenes, possibly even the bulk of a story.
Consider the phrase "X is a metaphor for Y," which you've probably heard. For instance, "Ethan almost drowning in the lake is a metaphor for his failing relationship with his son."
With abstraction, a writer can take the concept of a metaphor and broadly connect Thing A with Thing B. Nowhere in the text is a writer saying Thing A is Thing B, yet if the characteristics of Thing A strongly resemble those of Thing B, a connection forms.
Let's say the character Ethan has been struggling to mend a relationship with his rebellious son. No matter how hard Ethan tries, he can't seem to gain his son's attention. Panic grips Ethan. He comes to believe the relationship is over.
Now, let's say Ethan, upset about his son, decides to take a swim in the ocean to clear his head. Unfortunately, he's caught in a bad current. No matter how hard he tries, he can't seem to win the fight against the water. Panic grips Ethan. He comes to believe he's going to drown.
Then someone tosses him a life preserver.
Here, a metaphorical connection is made between Ethan's relationship with his son and his near drowning. Ethan being saved with a life preserver implies that his relationship with his son can also be saved.
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