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How to create a metaphor practice, part 1

Before I sit down and “go in” to my writing for the day, I like to do a few warm ups—kind of like a singer going through her repertoire before going on stage.

I might reread a few pages from the day before or maybe do a free-write on an aspect of my story I’m still trying to figure out. Sometimes, I’ll play around with creating metaphors or similes that I might use in my story. All of these are a great way to get my creative juices flowing.

Reminder: a simile compares two different things and usually uses the words “like” or “as” in the comparison; a metaphor describes two different things by stating that one thing is the other or has some of its qualities.

Simile: his eyes were as blue as the ocean

Metaphor: his eyes were the ocean

What are the benefits of creating a metaphor practice?

Like practicing anything—piano, painting, photography, public speaking—you get better at it over time and it can become second nature. By consciously choosing to practice making metaphors or similes, you will naturally become better at them in even your first drafts!

There are several ways to create a metaphor practice. Below is one example.

Metaphor Practice Exercise:

In the course of your reading, write down in your journal or computer file the metaphors or similes that grab your attention. Look for the best of the best.

Currently reading “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway, I noted the metaphor he used to describe bare trees against the sky of Paris: “The trees were sculpture without their leaves….”

Love it! It works so well because Paris is all about writing and art and he compares the trees to sculpture—an art form. This is an example of a metaphor that stays true to the themes of the story. Extra bonus points for this!

Now on to the exercise: Take your favorite metaphor and use it as a template to create some of your own. This exercise will help your brain create new synapses. Trust me.

My example in subsequent revisions:

Template: The trees were sculpture without their leaves…

  1. The dead madrona branches were giant antlers without their leaves.
  2. The dead madrona branches were giant antlers without their leaves and peeling bark.
  3. The madrona branches were giant antlers without their leaves and peeling bark.
  4. Without their leaves and peeling bark, the madrona branches were giant antlers against the blue sky.
  5. Without their leaves and peeling bark, the madrona branches were giant antlers against the cloudless sky.

I may or may not use the last line in my novel, but, if I do, I’ve made sure everything is organic to the story: both the madrona tree and the antlers have meaning in the scene.

If you want your writing to become stellar, practice your craft and examine how the masters have done it before you.

To learn more about metaphors, please read my previous post, “What makes a good metaphor?”

In my next post, I’ll share more ideas for creating a metaphor or simile practice.

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