Seems I’ve gone into the Superhero business. Figurative Language Man takes to the skies like a pelican with vertigo, fighting the good fight to make writing sparkle like sunlight on a mountain lake.
Okay. I hear you. That’s as corny as a hushpuppy. Maybe, but I have your attention pinned like a bad wrestler. So I’ll get right to the point. Why should you use figurative language? It paints pictures in your reader’s minds.
Let’s look at four types of figurative language: Simile, metaphor, personification, and hyperbole. Wait! Before you run screaming into the night, I promise to make it simple.
Simile is a comparison using “like” or “as.” For example, his eyes were as hard as cats eye marbles. See? We just took two fairly unlike things and magically combined them into a simile. Similes can really pop off the page. Don’t just say that someone is not trustworthy. Instead try, “He is as treacherous as a snake.”
At all costs, avoid the dreaded adverb (see above posts). “He ate hungrily” is both boring and redundant. Try this instead: “He devoured his meal like a Hoover Wind Tunnel.”
Also, avoid clichés. Use similes that pair unlikely comparisons. For example, “The girl grinned like a coyote with a mouthful of cactus spikes.” Now you’re getting it!
Some folks find metaphors more confusing. They are a colorful way of comparing, like similes, but they eliminate the middlemen (like or as). Here are a few examples:
• Her eyes are precious emeralds.
• His pitching arm is a mighty catapult.
• He’s a knife in the back to his enemies.
• That mutt is a walking stink bomb!
Be creative. Don’t be afraid to use wild comparisons. Your readers will thank you for it. Just yesterday I got the following email:
“Dear Figurative Language Man,
Thank you for using such strong metaphors. I especially love the boy vomiting a waterfall. Will you marry me?”
But just so you don’t set your expectations too high, not everyone is as dazzling as Figurative Language Man. You have to take it in bite-sized pieces. It took me more than 50 years to get marriage proposals from my blinding prose, and I can’t even use them. My wife won’t let me.
This is a “fifty-cent” word. Say it at parties so everyone can see how literate you are. Look a girl or guy in the eyes and say, “You are the personification of perfection.” See if that doesn’t melt a heart or two.
But what, exactly is personification? Put simply, it’s giving human qualities to things that are not human. And no, I don’t mean politicians. I mean things that actually are not human, like trees, rocks, forces of nature, and more.
Some examples of personification:
• The flower opened her petals and smiled at me.
• The trees tangoed in the wind.
• The mountains, dressed in their winter cloaks, have receding hairlines.
The easiest way to describe hyperbole is an extreme exaggeration to the point of humor. All “Yo Mama” jokes are hyperbole. We’ve all heard these. “Yo mama so fat that when she wears high heels, she strikes oil.” Or “Yo mama so hairy she uses Carpet Fresh for underarm deodorant.”
More examples of hyperbole:
• Your nose is so big, a bird could build a nest on it.
• Are those your ears, or are you wearing bowling trophies on the sides of your head?
• He has enough dandruff to powder a white Christmas tree!
So there you have it. Practice the art of figurative language and your writing will shine like bling at a mall kiosk. Who knows? You might even get marriage proposals like Figurative Language Man.
So keep on writing. The more you do, the better you become. Until next time, metaphors be with you!