Monday, April 12, 2010

A Story with Curves: Using Metaphors

Writers are often faced with the problem of having to paint their readers a mental picture. Unlike works produced for visual arts, writers must use the reader's imagination and lead it down the path to the picture they wish to paint. This can be very frustrating, especially if you do not have an innate sense of how to effectively write in a visual fashion.
One of the easiest ways around this problem is the use of metaphors. These phrases assist a reader in understanding the information you are trying to impart. For example, "the wind cut through her thin clothing like a knife." This metaphor gives the reader the image of someone who is poorly dressed and freezing cold.
When using metaphors, the most common problems readers face is mixing their metaphors. It is all too easy to fall into this trap and editors do not appreciate it. If you cannot correctly use metaphorical text, your book may not be published.
Another common issue is the overuse of metaphors. While it is tempting to throw a few on every page to continue painting the story in your reader's mind, excessive use is actually annoying and amateur. While there is nothing wrong with using metaphors throughout your book, they should be sparse. Otherwise, your book may come across as dated and clich├ęd. This combination is one you must avoid at all costs.
The best way to learn how to use metaphors is to read the works of the literary giants who perfected the art. Philip Marlowe, Agatha Christie, GK Chesterton are just a few examples of writers who effectively used metaphorical text. Read through these works carefully and make a note of how often metaphors are used. This will give you a better idea of how to balance them in your own work.

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