I noticed recently that Sylvia Plath, in her novel The Bell Jar, favored verbs as delivery vehicles for metaphor. Don’t get me wrong; the woman could work a metaphor along the syntactic spectrum, but the verbs really stuck out for me, and it occurred to me that in my own work, which contains a fair amount of metaphorical language, I hadn’t yet mastered Plath’s skill with verbal metaphors. Hence, this post in which I workshop one metaphorical image using different parts of speech and different phrase types.
For the purposes of this post, when I use the term metaphor, I mean Aristotle’s larger, all-encompassing definition: “metaphor is the transference of a term from one thing to another: whether from genus to species, or species to genus.” Subcategories of metaphor, including personification, simile, and metaphor in its narrower definition, are all on the table for this discussion.
Without further ado, let’s see how many different syntactical ways I can use the word worm as a zoomorphism (the subcategory of metaphor concerned with attributing animal characteristics to human, inanimate objects, or intangible concepts.)
As noun in adjective phrase: A worm of drool leaked from Mark’s mouth onto his pillow.
As noun in noun phrase: As Mark drooled, a worm formed on his pillow.
As verb in verb phrase: Drool wormed its way out of Mark’s mouth and onto his pillow.
As adjective in adjective phrase: The worm-shaped puddle of drool could slither right back into Mark’s mouth, as far as Joan was concerned.
As object in noun phrase: Mark’s pillow was slick with a worm of drool.
As noun in adverb phrase: The drool leaked from Mark’s mouth slithery as a worm.
As verb functioning as adjective (gerund) in object phrase: Marks’s pillow was slick with worming drool.
There are more possibilities, but hopefully the above seven are enough to communicate my point, which is that when it comes to metaphor, you have syntactic options!
Have you ever thought about the mechanics of metaphor in this way before? Let me know in the comments.
This post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. So many great blogs to keep hopping through. Click here to join the hop and to see what other writing tips you can glean from this month’s edition.