Think Backward to Write Meaningful Metaphors - u201cUgh...

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Ugh, Mrs. B.!” my student groaned, rolling his eyes. “Why can’t this author just say what he actually means ?!” We were reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and my student wasn’t the only one in the class who seemed weary of reading about pythons that were really hoses, symphony conductors that were really firemen, an island that was really a face. They wanted clarity, not guesswork. I don’t begrudge them their frustration—metaphors can be tricky. However, it’s helpful to think of them not as puzzles writers use to baffle us, but rather as keys unlocking more layers of meaning than we could possibly gain with a literal description. Wait a second, I just threw a couple metaphors in there without realizing it. Puzzles? Keys? Seems pretty sneaky, but honestly, I didn’t mean to! They just popped out! The fact that I made the comparisons subconsciously shows that the human mind, in an effort to make sense of its world, is already constantly linking people, objects, ideas, and experiences. Metaphors might seem convoluted, but they’re really outward expressions of the connections we already make in our daily lives. They add depth and insight to our writing. Still, not all metaphors are created equal; some are more powerful than others. The best ones enhance our understanding of the topic at hand, helping us grasp associations and characteristics we might not have noticed before.

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