If your writing is flat and uninteresting, if your stories need more zest, if your novels could use a fresh makeover, you should start using one of the oldest writing techniques, which is also one of the best tools that a writer can use.

The best writers use metaphors. Like poetry, a metaphor will express a thousand different meanings all at once, allowing the writer to convey much more content than they could do otherwise. More than playing simple word games, the use of metaphors in your writing can elevate your stories to a place next to the greatest authors in the world.

How to Use Metaphors
The human mind loves to make comparisons between different things, as if all of our dreams are looking for a way to find their way out of our imaginations and onto the printed page.

A metaphor is where you show how two unrelated things are similar. “Her smile was sunshine.” A key aspect of a metaphor is use a specific transference of a word into another context. “He was a swift stallion.”

There are many kinds of metaphors: Allegory, catechesis, parables, extended metaphors, etc. An extended metaphor establishes a subject and then extends it further, as in this quote from Shakespear:

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”

But be careful not to mix your metaphors, unless you’re doing it deliberately. This is where you take the first comparison and try to extend it further to something unrelated. For instance, “The dominoes will fall like a house of cards: Chackmate,” or “Its your turn at bat, so go make a touchdown.”

The Best Writers Use Metaphor
Shakespear’s stories are full of metaphors. Ray Bradbury says that one his great writing secrets is that he uses metaphors everywhere. Metaphors will elevate your writing, taking something plain and transforming it into something beautiful. Poetry is full of metaphors.

Action Steps
Transform your writing into something great with metaphors.

1. Make it one of your missions as a writer to master the art of writing with metaphors.

2. Learn more about metaphors by reading poetry and books which are full of them.

3. When you’re outlining your story, try to think of a metaphor to use in every scene.

4. If you need to, use one of your rewriting cycles just to add metaphors to your story.

What to do now
Imagine how greater your story will be with the use of metaphors. Metaphors will free up your imagination, which will take your story in directions you may not have planned on. Enjoy the surprises that metaphors will bring to you!


– Mark O’Bannon

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