Have you ever noticed, when reading a metaphor, that the idea is solid, but the execution hasn’t quite hit the mark? And when I say metaphor, I’m referring to all subcategories of metaphorical language (simile, metaphor, personification, etc.)
For this post, I’ve decided to take early drafts of some of my own metaphors from my current novel, describe what wasn’t working, and then you can compare it to the revision. My hope is that this will help other writers identify logic, originality, and clarity issues with their own metaphorical language and rework accordingly.
EXAMPLE 1 DRAFT: Marcelle’s eyes were downcast when she knocked into Jen, and Jen spun like a turnstile.
DISCUSSION: I liked what I was going for here, the image of a turnstile, but it wasn’t quite what I wanted. While a turnstile does spin, and the logic works in a way, this makes it seem like Jen is the one being likened to a turnstile, when the image in my head was that Marcelle was the turnstile and Jen the human that got spun out of it/her.
EXAMPLE 1 REWORKED: Marcelle’s eyes were downcast when she knocked into Jen, causing Jen to spin like she’d been shot out of a turnstile.
EXAMPLE 2 DRAFT: The drumming in her head grew stronger.
DISCUSSION: In this scene, I already alluded to the beginnings of a headache, so I’m confident readers will understand that drumming is metaphorical for the thumping pain typical of headaches, but because drumming is a commonly used a metaphor for headache pain, I wondered if I could try for something a little fresher. Also, because the headache is growing, I wanted better imagery than just one drum, a whole orchestra’s worth, in fact. Fair warning: I had recently finished reading The Bell Jar when I revised this, and I was all about the hyperbole.
EXAMPLE 2 REWORKED: The percussive ache in her head would soon be worthy of a conductor’s baton.
EXAMPLE 3 DRAFT: By 12:16 A.M., it was just Maeve and the grasshoppers, her heartbeat at the rate of their metronome.
DISCUSSION: I don’t hate my draft, but for argument’s sake, I wanted to know if I could clarify a little, because I wasn’t sure if it’s general knowledge that grasshoppers sound a lot like crickets. Also, I had already used “at the rate of” close to this passage, and I didn’t want to sound repetitive.
EXAMPLE 3 REWORKED: By 12:16 A.M., it was just Maeve and the grasshoppers, her heartbeat in time with the metronome of their chirping.
So get it all out in the first draft, but be prepared to spend some extra time with your metaphors during revision.
Do you ever notice metaphors that fall flat when reading? Do you pay special attention to metaphorical language when revising? Please share 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.