A metaphor is a comparison of two things without using as or like. It is also known as parabolé. Metaphors can infuse a sparkling vitality to anyone’s writing if used in the right manner. In many ways, they are a portal to a higher plane of thinking. The best example I can give for this is the word ‘mountain’. It is quite extraordinary that there is no other word for ‘mountain’ in the English language. You may argue that words like alp, hillock, peak and mount are similar and you would be right. They are similar, but they are not the same.
How do you then write an essay or passage on a mountain without constantly referring to the same name over and over? Surely this makes it very monotonous for the reader? The answer is to use metaphors to help the reader visualise what you are trying to convey. Using metaphors for shapes such as mountains enables you to use the ‘artist’s eye’. This is where the higher plane of thinking comes in. If you draw the shape of a mountain range and ask a student to describe what they see, they will probably say a mountain range. If you encourage them to give other examples of that shape, it is very gratifying to hear the answers. The key word here is to encourage them. It is a technique that has to be nurtured, not acquired. What you are essentially asking them to do is to give a list of metaphors for the mountain. They will move through the gears pretty quickly, from shark’s fins to rose thorns to talon tips. Then you can encourage the sentences to look like this:
“The peaks had the shape of a row of shark’s fins”.
Now they will link the outline of an object to another shape regularly when asked, forming metaphors quite easily. The ‘artist’s eye’ should be encouraged for trees, waterfalls, beaches, clouds and any other parts of nature that have a contour, a shape or an outline. A tree thus becomes the skyscraper of the forest, a waterfall becomes a silver slide and feathery clouds hang over sickle-shaped beaches.
Over time, the metaphors can become more advanced and creative. Lips are sugar sweet, deserts are Satan’s sauna and veins of lightning pierce through ribbons of mist. There are no limits to how original a child can be with metaphors. The secret is to let them visualise how one object or idea can be associated with another. The end result shall be a passage of writing that is unique, vibrant and thrumming with the energy of metaphors.
For much more of the above, please check out my book Writing with Stardust or click on any of the book covers underneath.