Darlene Foster's Blog

Metaphorically Speaking

Posted on: August 10, 2015


A metaphor is a figure of speech that identifies something as being the same as some unrelated thing for rhetorical effect, thus highlighting the similarities between the two. (the dictionary definition) I remember learning about metaphors in school. I love them! We are advised, however, to use them sparingly in our writing as many of them are considered clichés. I once submitted a story to an anthology call out. To my delight, my story was chosen. The editor asked me to make a few changes including removing some of the numerous metaphors and similes. I thought I was being so clever, but once I removed a good chunk of them or reworded them, I realized the story read much better. By using metaphors in my rough draft though, I developed some great ideas.

In a newsletter sent out by Jan Moore she writes about how metaphors can be useful, not just in writing. She mentions that Creative people use metaphors automatically. It’s our natural mode of communication. I certainly agree with her on that point. I often get strange looks from my non writing friends and family when I use metaphors in my speech.

Jan Moore has written a book called Work on Your Own Terms:  Change Your Mind and Change Your Life in Midlife and Beyond which is worth checking out. Written by a former career counselor , Jan writes about how you can create meaningful work that nourishes the soul and sets you free, at any age.

Work On Your Own Terms

Jan also goes on to say: Metaphors can be powerful guides for living. Writers and artists use them and so can you. Playing with metaphors can help generate new ideas. Here are a few to play with:

  1. If your day was a colour, what colour would you paint it?
  2. If an obstacle was a mountain, how would you climb it?
  3. If two paths diverge in a wood, would you take the one less traveled?
  4. If a project was a baby, how would you nurture it?
  5. If your life was a song, what would you be singing?

What would your answers be to these questions? Put your answers in the comments if you wish. I would love to read them. 

From one of my favourite authors who passed away last year at age 92:

Words. Words. I play with words, hoping that some combination, even a chance combination, will say what I want.
…Doris Lessing

Doris lessing 20060312 (jha).jpg

photo from Wikipedia

27 Responses to "Metaphorically Speaking"

I could do with learning a thing or two about metaphors, I feel I’m very poor at them. When I’m reading fiction I’m often amazed by the way writers come up with clever ways of describing things that I would never think of. The other day while reading ‘Small Gods’ by Terry Pratchett I was struck by how he described something futile someone was doing as being ‘like emptying a bucket underwater’. He was a master at that sort of visual description. I have occasionally read books that have been so full of metaphors that they’ve detracted from the story, so I agree that they need to be used wisely, but I also agree with you that they can be used to great effect.

A good start is with an exercise like this. Just answering one question a day would get you thinking in metaphors. You most probably use more of them than you think.

I should give it a go, thanks, Darlene.

Thanks so much for the shout-out Darlene!

I look forward to posting an article from you on my website.

I’m hoping you will explore your decision to move to Spain. I think people would love that.

Want me to share this Blog post on FB?

You are better with Social Media than I am. What’s the protocol?

With gratitude,


Oh yes, please do share this post on Facebook. I was thinking of writing something about moving to Spain. I,ll put something together for you shortly. Thanks for the inspiration to write about metaphors!!

Oh, how I used to love reading Doris Lessing. She opened my eyes when I was a college student. Next, I think you’re absolutely right! We writers speak metaphorically all the time. But as a creative writing teacher, I advise my students to not overuse. Lastly, today, I am the color blue. If I was a song, I would be singing, “Yesterday” by Paul McCartney.

I discovered Doris Lessing later in life but am so glad I did. I think the answer to the questions would vary from day to day. I love your answers BTW. Thanks for playing along.

Very thought provoking questions Darlene. I have to give some more thought but I choose orange as my life paint and it is the path less traveled. By that I mean living outside of the box, seeking the unusual rather than the norm.

I also chose orange and the road less travelled!! Thanks for playing along. It is food for thought isn´t it.

I guess I just used another metaphor!

I love metaphors. Right now I’m reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which is chock full of metaphors. One I remember distinctly is the description of what happened to Theo during the explosion when a chard of glass “like a thorn” punctured his skin.

Tartt is a brilliant, award-winning novelist, and her metaphors are exquisite, but I think there are too many of them. Sometimes, in my opinion, they interfere with the flow/forward motion of the narration. My word, the book is 767 pages long, just like the number on a Boeing jet – Ha! But I have something lighter and shorter on the side to read now too.

Timely topic, Darlene. Oh, if my day were a color, I’d choose silver with purple edges and maybe a dash of gold or red.

Too many metaphors and similes can be distracting but when done well, they add so much colour to the story. Speaking of which, I love the colour you chose for your day!

My day if it was a colour would be bright sunshiny yellow .
I would climb a mountain with fully packed picnic hamper.
Being a tiny bit of a coward I travel well worn paths.
I would read my own stories to a baby …just the sound of a human voice soothes.
I would sing folk song because they tell a story .
I love anything that will colour a story up . Metaphors …bring em on .

That baby would be very fortunate to hear your stories and folk songs!! I love this exercise. Thanks for playing along.

I would paint my today goldenrod. I would climb the mountain by weaving to and fro, slowing making headway. I would definitely take the path less travelled. Who knows what lies undiscovered! I would nurture the project by raising it as close to nature as possible. At this stage in my life, if life was a song, I’d be singing “Wild Child” by Kenny Chesney. By the ocean, wandering and in tune with the wind, the waves and the sun.

You have painted your world so well Diane, Metaphors come naturally to you! Thanks for sharing.

A soothing color of blue
With determination
Yes, I want new adventure
With tender, loving care
Something upbeat, that makes everyone want to sing along

blessings to you, darlene ~ maxi

These are all great and so you!! Thanks for playing along.

I’ve never been really good at metaphors, so I found this post of interest.

I´m glad you found this post interesting. People use metaphors more than they realize.

Great post Darlene.
Blue – not a sad winter blue but a bright summer day blue.
No, it might well be full of brambles!
With love.
Raindrops keep falling on my head – Because I’m free
Nothing’s bothering me.

I love your answers!! Especially the song. It is a good one. Thanks for playing along.

One of the key reasons I read and enjoy Ray Bradbury’s works is that he wrote amazing metaphors. Thanks for recommending books on metaphors, Darlene. Will surely come in handy!

Some writers are so gifted in the way they can use metaphors so effortlessly.

No roller coaster for me. The only ride I go on is the one in the car to and from the fair.

My roller coaster days are behind me now as life in Spain is so much slower. But there are still a few bumps every now and then. Thanks for the visit Carl. Are you happy with your move?

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