Good morning, campers! It’s Thursday Quick-Write day, and Liz Garton Scanlon is your fabulous guest author. She’s written picture books like ALL THE WORLD and IN THE CANYON as well as the middle grade novel THE GREAT GOOD SUMMER, and today, she’s here to talk metaphors.
Saying More with Metaphors:
Using the Element of Surprise to Say Big Things
Metaphors and similes are such fun, accessible poetic devices to teach, and to use! And not just in poems, either. Literary comparisons allow writers of all stripes to crystallize images and drive home points, to make things even truer and more deeply understood than they previously were. Pretty powerful, huh?
Unfortunately, guess what else they’re good at? Becoming clichéd. Struck me like a bolt of lightning… you’re cute as a button… she’s an angel… I’m blind as a bat! It seems a shame to offer students this handy tool and, at the same time, walk them straight toward a significant pitfall!
The writing exercise offers writers a way to create fresh and wild metaphors, have a few laughs and, sometimes, discover new truths along the way.
1. Brainstorm a list of emotional or physical states (jealousy, joy, fear, hunger, anger, excitement, worry, confidence, sadness, etc.) Put each word on a little slip of paper and have everyone in the group pick one. (If it’s just you, give yourself a nice choice of words or, better yet, have someone write them for you.)
2. Now, brainstorm a list of both natural and manmade objects (pillow, rock, waterfall, TV, table, blender, forest fire, river, puddle, book, bar of soap, etc.) Put each word on a little slip of paper and have everyone in the group pick one.
3. Each writer sets up their forced simile at the top of his or her page: Sadness is like a forest fire, jealousy is like a rock, worry is like a blender….
4. Now, take a few moments to make this TRUE. At first, many writers will say, “Nope. Impossible. Mine don’t go together.” But I like to compare this process to making a Venn diagram. The things you’re comparing don’t have to be identical – they just need to overlap a tiny bit! So, simply ask yourself, “What details do these things have in common?” That’s what will make this true!
5. For example: Jealousy is like a rock. They’re both really hard things. They’re heavy so they’re hard to move out of the way. Some people think they’re ugly. OR: Worry is like a blender. It just goes round and round and round and chops up perfectly good ideas and good days.
6. After doing one round, mix up the papers and try it again. Before long you’ve revealed the endless opportunities for fresh and surprising and meaningful metaphors. Enjoy! And feel free to share one of your newly discovered metaphors in the comments if you’d like!