Hello everyone! I am Mr Joel, an English Teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. Today, I will be sharing more about metaphors.
This post will be an extension of what we have learnt about similes. If you have yet to read that blog post, you might want to consider doing so. There’s also a video on that too!
Like similes, metaphors are a literary device we can use to compare two objects to each other. Using metaphors also help to spice up our writing, and make it more interesting for readers!
Metaphors can be a little trickier to understand and to use in our writing. But before we dive into that, let’s look at the definition of a metaphor.
A metaphor is a figure of speech where two things are compared to each other. These two things are not identical, but often have shared qualities that make them similar in some way. Therefore, the easier we are able to make the connection between two things, the easier developing a metaphor would be!
Let’s use an example to help us understand this better:
Instead of saying that ‘my teacher was angry’, you could say ‘my teacher was a raging bull’. Let’s consider how the metaphor has been used here, and what that tells us about the teacher!
In this example, the writer compared his teacher to a raging bull. This means that both the teacher and the raging bull have similar qualities. What do you think that is? I would like you to picture a raging bull. Would you agree that it looks rather angry?
From this, we can tell that the reader is trying to say that, like a raging bull, his teacher was angry. The writer has created a vivid image of how angry his teacher was in his readers’ minds just by using this simple comparison. Wouldn’t you agree that this is definitely more effective than simply stating ‘my teacher was angry’?
There are quite a few common metaphors that we can use in our writing. Have a look at the list below. Are you able to understand what each of them means?
While the teacher was away, the classroom was a zoo.
I was a detective, searching for clues that could lead to my birthday present.
The principal’s announcement that Lucy could go home early was music to
Tom is a night owl who prefers to do his work when everyone else is sleeping.
Her home was a prison she wished she could escape from.
When trying to understand what these metaphors mean, consider the following steps:
Identify the metaphor
Think about the quality being compared
Understand what that tells us about the subject
While the teacher was away, the classroom was a zoo.
Let’s try to use the steps above to understand this metaphor! Firstly, the writer is comparing the classroom to a zoo.
Now, why did he/she make such a comparison? Imagine a classroom full of pupils without their teacher present. Hardly anyone would be in their seats and everyone would be chatting with their friends. Similarly, a zoo is a noisy place, filled with the different animal sounds.
What does this comparison tell us about the subject then? The writer is trying to convey that in the teacher’s absence, the classroom is noisy and the students are behaving in an unrestrained manner, similar to the animals in the zoo.
Can you use the same steps to understand the meaning of the other metaphors in the list?
Using Metaphors in our Writing
Now that we understand more about metaphors, how can we use them in our writing? Here are a few ways!
1. Focusing on Qualities
When you are thinking of using a metaphor in your writing, consider the quality you are trying to compare. Then think of an object, animal, person or thing that exhibits a similar quality, before finally putting them together in a sentence. Let’s look at an example below!
When you want to describe a teacher as being fierce, the quality that you are looking to compare is the word fierce. Once you have identified this, look for an object / animal / person / thing that you can use to compare this teacher with. In this case, I am going to choose ‘a fearsome beast’.
Now that you have identified the ‘quality’ and ‘animal’ to compare it with, let’s go ahead to create the metaphor!
Instead of saying, “My teacher was fierce”, you can say “My teacher was a fearsome beast”. Take note that you are not using the words ‘as’ or ‘like’ for this comparison as we are using a metaphor, not a simile!
2. Using Metaphors to Describe Our Feelings
You can also use metaphors to describe the feelings of your character in your story! Here is one way you can do so:
Have you heard of the following: “a wave of (feeling) washed over me” ?
This is a common metaphor that compares the feelings of a character to a wave. When there’s a wave of emotions, that means that the character is feeling a lot of that specific emotion! Used appropriately, this can be an effective way to show your character’s feelings in important parts of the story.
3. Changing a Simile into a Metaphor to Add More Variety
Remember our example earlier about how the teacher was a fearsome beast? When writing, you can express this idea in a few ways:
The teacher was like a fearsome beast / The teacher was as fearsome as a beast (simile)
The teacher was a fearsome beast (metaphor)
If you find that you are using similes very often in your writing, it is a good idea to spice it up by changing some of those similes into metaphors. As you can see in the example above, both express the same idea, but a metaphor can be especially effective if you want to paint a strong image. Also, using a good mix of literary devices will add variety to your writing, rather than put your readers to sleep by using the same one over and over again.
4. Explaining the Metaphor (Useful Tip!)
Generally, metaphors are a little trickier because they do not always show the quality that is being compared. Take the example below:
Simile: The teacher was as fierce as a fearsome beast.
Metaphor: The teacher was a fearsome beast.
Can you see that, in the simile, the quality (i.e. fierce) is clearly shown to readers? This means that it is easier for readers to understand the meaning you are trying to convey from using the comparison. On the other hand, a metaphor can be more subtle and requires more interpretation from the reader.
To address this, we can always explain and elaborate on the metaphor so readers can understand the intention of the metaphor better! See the example below.
The teacher was a fearsome beast, roaring at the students who were misbehaving.
Can you see how the metaphor is explained so readers know exactly what was so fearsome / fierce about the teacher? By adding such details, you are also giving the readers a more vivid picture of the quality you are trying to explain. This definitely helps to make your description come alive in the readers’ minds. Let’s try this the next time we use a metaphor!
Have you come across any other interesting metaphors? Or have you created your own original ones? Be sure to share them in the comments below! I hope you’re ready to try experimenting with metaphors in your writing. Impress your teacher this week by striving to include metaphors in your writing!