You have a story inside you, and the story has a message. You don’t just want people to read it, you want them to feel it.
Metaphors make us laugh, they make us cry, but most of all they make us think. I’ve got plenty of examples below, but first and foremost I want to explain why they’re so important. It’s going to challenge you to bring your content creation to a new level.
And it’s fun.
The word metaphor comes from the Latin metaphora, meaning, “to carry over,” and originally from the Greek, meta pherein, “to carry beyond.”
Stories are all essentially complex metaphors because they carry over what is human in you and transfer it to what is human in me. This is possible because of our inherent unity.
But that’s rather abstract. Let’s get our hands dirty with some examples.
A few weeks ago I posted a personal story about a life-changing experience in India. Sharing personal stories is daunting for pretty much everybody I’ve ever met, but I’ll tell you it does get easier with practice. Usually we’re bombarded with doubt, Why am I sharing this? Will people judge me? Will they even understand what I’m trying to communicate?
However by practicing the craft of writing, all of these questions get answered. You’re conscious of the reason you’re sharing a specific story, and you’ve learned the tools of the trade so people understand rather than judge. That’s where metaphor comes in.
Let’s go back to that example of a personal story:
Here I relied heavily on metaphors both to entertain and to drive the message home. To entertain I used little metaphors and similes to get the job done in a single sentence. For instance, in the blog there’s a moment where “a humongous mass of tropical bird droppings slopped into my hair.”
(That wasn’t a metaphor. That really happened.)
On the one hand, I slowed down writing that sentence and chose words to make it as entertaining as possible, but I didn’t necessarily think it would make people laugh. To bring out the humor of the situation I relied on metaphor.
This was not one of the coin-sized pellets you find on your car, it was more like what would happen to kids in Nickelodeon game shows in the 1990s.
Rather than merely describing the event, creating the metaphor makes it palpable in a reader’s imagination.
To be clear, metaphors do not come to me in one sitting of euphoric writierly bliss. Often I’ll walk around wondering how best to express an idea for a couple days. Then I develop the habit, and it becomes easier.
So that’s one kind of metaphor, but there’s also a more profound level, the extended metaphor. They sink into a reader’s mind, help them remember your message, and expand upon it into their own lives. Essentially my story of surrender in India serves as an extended metaphor about how the adventure of writing a book pits us against our ego. Thus the title, “How India Taught me to Overcome Creative Resistance.”
In the case of extended metaphor, the goal is to allow the reader to lose themselves in the experience of a story and then connect the dots in a concluding paragraph. I do my best to convey that here:
When you’re crossing the border to your more creative self, don’t be surprised resistance, criticism, excuses, and even anger will flare up with reckless abandon. And nobody can tell you what’s going to happen.
As I mentioned before, creating metaphors like these is not a talent but a habit you learn with love and time. During the past week, we had some fun with this in the Facebook Group simply by choosing GIFs. If you can choose a GIF you’re exercising your metaphor habit. And if you’re insecure about your ability to choose GIFs, don’t you worry. You can practice that too.
Finally, it’s just about playing with a new craft tool, it’s also about noticing how writers you love use it. Just building that awareness is going to help you mature your own voice as an author.