Need to stretch the creative brain muscle? Then give a go for all or one of these exercises where the art of comparison can broaden your imagination. I used these often with high school students, in creative writing workshops, and present them in my book, The Author’s Journey.
Using the art of metaphor can help us write about those things that touch us the most emotionally. Through metaphor and simile—describing something by using the elements of something else—can free us to express our inner feelings. Metaphors can also provide a beautiful backdrop for describing a person, event or thing that has moved us. How many times have you heard or even said yourself, “There are no words to describe it.” I challenge you to find the words even if you are using the comparison technique of figures of speech, such as metaphors and similes.
Metaphor Exercise 1: Close your eyes and repeat the process for setting the intention, only this time ask for a single image to come to mind. Write down the image. Go with the first one. Then write what the image reminds you of. For instance, if the image was of your first love, perhaps it reminded you of the smell of a spring day after a brief rain. Or maybe it reminded you of being in a tornado. Go with whatever description comes to mind.
You have just created a metaphor for this experience by writing a comparison of two unlike things that do have some element in common. You can extend the metaphor by stretching your imagination to use it throughout a whole paragraph: the winds, the calm before the storm, the aftermath of a tornado. A simile does the same thing except you actually use the word “like” or “as” in the comparison.
The title of this book, The Author’s Journey: A Road Map for Writers – From Draft to Published Book. You might have noticed my continued use of this metaphor by referring to the journey, path, or road. I’ve tried to limit it, but it’s there without my even noticing it.
Examples of other metaphors:
“…helped demystify the natural poetry of the Ocklawaha, shredding its verse into ribbons.” (From River of Lakes by Bill Belleville) This is clever because it combines two metaphors into one explanation.
“The lit fuse of my feelings burned down until my heart exploded into one final burst of flame.” – From P.C., fooling around at the computer. As simile: “I could not trust my emotions, which were like the fuse on a stick of dynamite waiting to burn its way into my heart.”
“The long-necked ballerina glided across the stage.” Metaphor for a swan
“The unbridled child loped across the room like a wild horse.” Simile. Both of the above from The Journey from the Center to the Page by Jeff Davis.
Exercise 2: Writing a Poem Using Imagination and Metaphor — Five Easy Pieces*
First, close your eyes and imagine a person you know well or invent someone. Once you have imagined the person, put them in an exotic setting. Now you are ready to create the Five Easy Pieces poem. Each of the five things below will become one line of the poem. Trust yourself here and do not worry about making sense. Just write the answers to the following things. You may be surprised by the results when you put it all together.
- Describe the person’s hands.
- Describe something he or she is doing with the hands.
- Create a metaphor (or simile) for the exotic place where you have imagined this person.
- Ask this person a question in context of numbers 2 and 3 above.
- Imagine the person looks up from what he or she is doing, notices you there, and gives an answer to your question that suggests he or she only gets part of what you asked (as if hard of hearing or confused or deflecting).
Exercise 3: Take off in metaphor land by using one of the clichéd first lines below to begin a descriptive piece.
- “It was a dark and stormy night.”
- “Her face glowed in the candlelight.”
- “He was the monster in her nightmares.”