From Memories to Memoirs, Part 7: Creating Fresh Metaphor 6


Ideas are raindrops_796

In Memories to Memoirs, Part 6, I wrote about the importance and impact of fresh metaphor to the life of our stories. Not only does metaphor engage the imagination of our readers, it is key to our own writing voice. Because metaphor is the frame through which we understand concepts, it reveals where we grew up, where we live, and how we think; it is is both cultural and highly personal.

Most of the time, we use metaphor unconsciously. However, when we write — and particularly when we revise — we have the opportunity to use metaphor deliberately and with intention. We can create new, fresh metaphors that set the tone for and communicate the deeper meanings of our stories.

One way to create new metaphor is simply to have fun and play with language.

A Fun Metaphor-Creation Exercise

Select five of the following concepts and create metaphors by completing the sentences using concrete objects for comparison. After you’ve stated the basic metaphor, play with its possible extensions.

For example: A basic metaphor might be “Life is a basket.” If life is a basket, what does that mean? What kind of basket is it? Wicker? Wire? Wood? What does it hold? Is it a burden that you have to carry around with you, or is it something else? My life is an in-basket filled with events, interactions, and possibilities — I can choose what I take out and what I leave in. What else might the image of a basket contribute to a person’s understanding of life?

What happens if you choose something unexpected, such as “life is a cup of coffee,” or “ideas are raindrops”?

Now it’s your turn. Complete at least five of the following, or use concepts of your own:

  • Life is …
  • Love is …
  • Ideas are …
  • Hope is …
  • Faith is …
  • Death is …
  • Education is …
  • Parenting is …
  • A discussion is …
  • Happiness is …
  • Virtue is …
  • Consciousness is …
  • Kindness is …
  • Cruelty is …
  • Spirituality is …
  • Community is …
  • Security is …

What new metaphor(s) did you create? Share with us by leaving a comment.
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This is the seventh in a series on turning memories into memoirs (and memoir-related essays). Click here to read Part 1 — What is Memoir?

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6 thoughts on “From Memories to Memoirs, Part 7: Creating Fresh Metaphor

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    I thought I’d share a metaphor I just wrote about my mother’s depression—a darkness that engulfed her spirit and robbed her children. “Depression is a child crying in the night—a child crying for the light—and with no language but a cry.”

    I appreciated the exercise…it’s a keeper! Best wishes, Sara Etgen-Baker

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Sara, thank you for sharing this haunting and beautiful metaphor. The image of a child crying for the light is a powerful one. It communicates fear and loneliness and helplessness — made all the more powerful with the extension that she has no other language with which to speak.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Thank you, Sharon. And wow, that metaphor could go in so many directions — anthropomorphizing an object, such as a leaf, allows for a lot of character expression, including humor. I picture the leaf as stubborn: “I’m not letting go, so there!”

  • barbara toboni

    Hi Amber: Thanks for the prompts. Here is my contribution: Hope is a pillow. If it is there when I lay my head down at night I am grateful.