Oh how I love a good metaphor.
You already know how important stories are.
Metaphors are like mini stories.
I would argue that the right metaphor is even more powerful than a story.
A metaphor is a comparison between two or more unrelated objects.
A friend of mine regularly uses metaphors in her emails to me and they are brilliant.
They are so good I copy and paste them into a document filled just with her metaphors.
Here are a few examples:
“Her blood pressure was lower than the Mississippi Valley.”
“There are more wires involved in that desktop than there are pit vipers in India.”
“He ate like a human forklift at a three county landfill.”
“He started snoring like Gunga Din’s chainsaw.”
“…eating like Kirstie Alley in a Fettucini Alfredo factory.”
“I feel like I’m trying to teach Aristotelian logic to Mike Tyson.”
I’ve asked her how she thinks up these metaphors and she just says that they pop into her head spontaneously as she’s writing.
Here are some other metaphors I’ve found from various places:
“”The sun was behind the wood, very red, looking over the paling of trees like a farmer inspecting his own hogs.” (Flannery O’Connor)
“Burst of energy just hit me like a train carrying 10 tons of espresso.” (Dooce.com)
“The landing at JFK was like being on the back of a motorcycle when it crashes through a brick wall.” (Dooce.com)
“All over me like melted cheese on a radiator.” (Elizabeth George)
“As loose as the rivets on a Southwest Airlines 737.” (source unknown)
I’m no expert on how to write metaphors but I do know that the more specific they are, the better.
For example, saying “You look like a madman” just wouldn’t have the same chops as “You look like you might have swallowed a mad dog.” (Flannery O’Connor)
I also know that you should read Gary Bencivenga’s bullet about metaphors.
He says you’ll be one of the most persuasive people on the planet if you master metaphors.
Or, as Aristotle said, “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor.”