Jenny Kateis the founder of Writer Nation, an online space dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 19 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity. You can find her on her Website, Facebook, and Instagram
What’s not to love about metaphor? Our language would be impoverished without its contribution to our poems, jokes, stories, and rhetoric. Metaphors enlighten us about one thing by relating it to something else. This connection flashes through our brains like an epiphany, one of the best feelings in the world. In his book, I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor, James Geary jests that “metamorphine” is a habit we all get into as children. We love to chase life’s ah-ha moments, those thrills of discovery—the satisfaction of our innate curiosity.
Writing with metaphors is fun, and adds so much to our work, but working with them can be tricky. Before we discuss how to write metaphors well, let’s review their definitions.
What’s in a Metaphor?
In the “The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992) pp.653,” is found the following reference:
METAPHOR … (1) All figures of speech that achieve their effect through association, comparison, and resemblance. Figures like antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy, simile are all species of metaphor.
In case, like me, you’ve half-forgotten, here are some short definitions:
Antithesis is the comparison of opposites.
Hyperbole makes an obvious exaggeration.
Metonymy is name-calling or name substitution.
Similes are explicit (explained) comparisons.
Metaphors are implicit (implied) comparisons.
All of these are useful for adding interest to stories. Try adding hyperbole to humor, and metonymy to romance and fight scenes. You might use similes and metaphors when your characters unite, but antithesis when they go their separate ways.
Characters and Setting
When crafting a metaphor for your fiction work, consider the characters and setting in your story. Use an image consistent with that context, whether the setting is 1920’s America, or the narrative voice is that of a child. Keep in mind, that a good metaphor, like a good joke, requires some commonly understood background or a little setup for success.
It’s good when an effective metaphor aids in understanding, but it can also be destructive when deployed as a negative stereotype, or meaningless when it has degraded into an outworn cliché. Restraint is recommended when weaving a single metaphor throughout a work. Repeat it one too many times and it will lose its impact like a boring old joke. Outdated, overused, mixed, and bad metaphors are all well avoided.
The Old Cliché
These historical metaphors are so outdated they’ve lost their cultural context:
Stan sold goldbricks and well-watered cattle. The other landscapers hated him for it.
Do Stan’s competitors hate him because they are envious of his lucrative business model? No. A goldbrick is a counterfeit gold bar and watered cattle are those that have been watered ahead of an auction to tip the scale, and sales price, higher. Stan’s competitors hate him for being a crooked businessman, but owing to these outdated terms, modern readers might not understand.
A frozen metaphor has completely lost its original meaning and taken on a new one, while a dead metaphor has become so ubiquitous it no longer brings an image to mind. Here are examples of both:
The time before the author’s deadline was running out.
The word “deadline” is a frozen metaphor. It was first used during the American Civil War. A line was drawn around a prison. If prisoners dared to cross it, they were shot dead. Now it means “due date.”
The metaphor of “time running out” is dead. It refers to the sand in an hourglass. Modern readers know what it means for “time to run out”, but the image of an hourglass won’t likely come to mind.
Here is a metaphor first without, and then with, some background to give it clarity:
She was like a daisy with the paparazzi.
She was a daisy, heliotropic, turning her eager face toward the light of the paparazzi sun.
This is a mixed metaphor full of clichés:
When the opposing team closed in on him, Marty lost it. Claws out and teeth bared, he was a cat’s-eye marble short of a bag, playing hard-ball for all he was worth.
When baseball’s the game, the cat’s out of the bag, the marbles are lost, and for all Marty was worth, he was still a few pennies short of nickel, the image of Marty resisting attack is not made any clearer.
Troubleshoot Your Metaphors
If we think of a metaphor as a meaning machine, how do we troubleshoot a broken one? In Geary’s, I Is an Other we find a hint in the example of Carl Jung. When a patient used a phrase such as “a ticking time bomb,” Jung would follow up with questions.
A writer might ask whether there is more to learn about the nature of this bomb. What happened in the moments before the bomb was set? What happens when the bomb explodes? Is there a way to defuse it? There is no need to include every little thing about the bomb in a story, but if the metaphor isn’t first clear in the author’s mind, neither will it be clear in the mind of a reader.
A metaphor comes in two main parts; the target and the source. These are connected by a verb, which is usually “to be.”
A bad, or “broken,” metaphor is, more likely than not, suffering from an identity crisis. The true identity of the metaphor’s target is for the author, still unknown. Thus, the first question to ask would be, who or what is the bomb? Who or what exactly is about to explode?
Consider this example:
She was a ticking time bomb, incessantly nagging until her husband blew up.
Who is the bomb? It can’t be both she and her husband.
She was a ticking time bomb, incessantly nagging until she blew up. Her husband was on constant alert for the fallout.
A couple of years ago I read several books on metaphor and set a goal of writing 50 for practice. Here are two that struck literary notes:
She was a fancy font—so ornate and complicated, she was hard to read.
She met him at the library but decided not to take him home. He had a great cover, but his pages were all glued shut.
I encourage you to experiment with metaphors. While the little thrills of epiphany are alone worth the effort, it may also improve your writing skills. You might even discover a silken thread to tie one of your stories together.
While there are many books about metaphor available, listed below are a few I’ve personally enjoyed.
Dream, the PPW 2022 anthology. The short story “Dream Crush” by Cepa Onion, and flash fiction stories, “Sleepstone” by John Lewis, and “Blanket of Joy” by Uchechi Princewill, all employ memorable metaphorical language.
Deborah L. Brewer joined Pikes Peak Writers a decade ago, seeking help with a cozy mystery. When the novel was completed, she stayed for the camaraderie. Now she’s writing short stories. An editor for the PPW 2022 anthology, Dream, Deborah contributes to Writing from the Peak to help fellow PPW members write better with more enjoyment, and ultimately, achieve their writing dreams.
Sometimes it seems as though we are inundated with writing help, encouragement to write, conferences to attend, deadlines to meet. And all of those are good. They keep us focused, energized, equipped, and reminded of what’s important.
But what happens when life gets in the way?
No amount of cajoling, criticism (from ourselves or someone else), or chafing will keep our backside in the chair and our fingers on the keys when something else comes between us and our story.
True, sometimes the stuff that distracts us is simply that: stuff. We could choose to ignore it, like the laundry that piles up and multiplies like bunnies in the dark recesses of our laundry room. We could choose to delegate it, like asking our spouse to make dinner tonight while we finish this chapter. We could choose to turn off the email buzzer or silence our phones for an afternoon or ask a neighbor kid to walk the dog this week.
That stuff will always be there, and we can make arrangements for that.
But what about the big stuff? The life-changing things that happen? Those events that cannot be rescheduled, must not be ignored, should not be delayed.
We all have those.
When life gets in the way of our best laid plans, here are some suggestions as to how to get through them without losing your sanity and without feeling you are abandoning your writing:
● Stop and seek counsel. Whether you are a person of faith or a person with some great friends, share what’s going on and seek answers. Perhaps there is a change you need to make.
● Stop and breathe. Think about the situation for a moment. Perhaps whatever has come up isn’t as much of an emergency as you first thought. Can someone else take it on? Can you call a friend and ask them for help?
● Release the situation. If you know in your heart that this is something you must do yourself, unclench your hands from your writing and get it done. This is a time when having some margin in your schedule will relieve a lot of stress.
● Do what you need to do. Sometimes we’re faced with a sudden death, or an illness, or the birth of a child, or the loss of a job. All of these are life-changing events that will need your attention for a period of time. That doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer. You aren’t putting your writing aside because you don’t have what it takes. It just means you need to do what my husband calls “a priority interrupt”. In most cases, these situations will not permanently stop you from writing.
● Call in some support. Whether you’re under a contract deadline, a critique group commitment, or you need to cancel your next writer’s meeting, ask a friend to help communicate the situation. Ask for help.
● Keep the story in your head. No matter how stressful or hectic our lives become, there are still a few times during each day where we can focus on something other than the situation at hand. Keep a notebook with you to jot down ideas when you get a spare moment. A small digital recorder works great. Most phones and iPads come with a voice recorder. Save these thoughts wherever and whenever you can to put into place later on.
● Come back to the project with a joyful heart. Regardless of whether the interruption lasted an hour or a year, return to the project knowing that you are a writer, even when life gets in the way.
Takeaway: There is no shame in pausing in your writing because life throws you a curve ball.
1. Have you hit a roadblock in your writing because of something that’s happened, or are you afraid of something? Look back over the time you haven’t been writing until you get to when you stopped, and honestly assess the situation.
2. If life has gotten in the way, is it a legitimate reason not to write or an excuse?
3. If it’s an excuse, resolve the problem today.
(This article was previously published in Nuggets of Writing Gold)
DonnaSchlachter writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, SinC, Pikes Peak Writers, Capitol Christian Writers Fellowship, Christian Women Writers, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly for Heroes, Heroines, and History; and judges in writing contests. www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com
Happy holidays! I hope you’ve gotten through Thanksgiving
without too much trouble, and Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve and
Day are just around the corner. What’s coming up for your writing year next
year? What important dates do you have coming up? Any plans at all?
Start Planning Now
Now is a good time to start planning out your writing year for 2020. What DO you have coming up? Deadlines? Conferences? It’s good to get these things planned out ahead of time so you don’t have any conflicts. I started using a planner this year and it has helped tremendously for deadlines as well as personal events like baby showers.
I use an old school planner notebook to plan out my writing
deadlines and what I want to accomplish for the year, but if you’re techy, you
can use your phone or tablet. I like to get the pretty planners, and a nice
pen, though if you use pencil, you can easily erase if you need to move up or
push back a deadline (which I’ve done a lot in the past).
What to put in your planner?
The obvious is deadlines you have. When you plan to have your book finished, sent to the editor, when you’ll be revising, etc. It may seem like micro-managing, but if you have an open-ended date to get your book finished, will you finish it? I base my deadlines on when the next comic cons are in Colorado Springs, so cons usually go into the planner first. I like to have a new book out for those. Since I self-publish, I need that date so I know when to submit the book and have it printed and sent in time for the Con. Deadlines have a way of sneaking up on you. “Oh, crap, that’s tomorrow?”
Plan for Writing Conferences
Regarding conferences, you’ll want to plan that out to take time off from work if needed, and to make your reservations. It’s helpful, too, if you put reminders in your planner a month or so ahead of time. That way you know what’s coming up. [Don’t forget PPWC2020!]
Don’t Forget Social Media
Do you plan out your social media content? You should! It
keeps you engaged with your readers. I Google holidays and national days for
each month and plan my content around that.
January 1st is National Bloody Mary Day, February 17th
is Random Acts of Kindness Day (I have these in my planner for next year). You
can plan a theme for the month, or just randomly post each day or week. If it
ties into your book or series, all the better! Social media users like to read
about personal things, too, like how you spent your day, or see photos of you
at different events.
Contest deadlines. If you plan on entering contests
throughout the year, you will need to know when those are. When to start
writing your submission (if needed), the deadline to send it in by, and when
they plan on making the announcement of the winners.
Why plan out your writing year? It helps you stay on track with deadlines, and keeps you engaged with readers. You may not stick to it religiously, but it helps you to know what’s coming up and you can always make adjustments to it, and you won’t be surprised when the Pikes Peak Writers Conference comes up on April 17-19, 2020, almost a month earlier than 2019. Happy planning!
Margena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you getting FOMO? The Fear of Missing Out by not
being on Instagram? Well if you aren’t using it, you should. It’s the hottest
social media platform out there and the fastest growing. According to Statista,
Instagram now boasts more than 500 million daily active users. That’s daily.
Twitter has only 126 million. It’s
nowhere near Facebook’s 1.5 billion daily users, but it’s gaining, and gaining
fast. And Americans report more engagement on Instagram than on Facebook on a
daily basis these days.
So how do you take advantage of Instagram as part of
your author brand?
Galore & Engage!
Stories are showing the most engagement these days.
Since you are a storyteller, this one is a no-brainer. Tell a story with a beginning,
middle and end. Even if you’re doing a story about pizza (the most common food
pic on Instagram), create the story: the search for pizza, the finding of the
pizza, the eating of the pizza. Anything can be a story.
There are several ways to create the story.
Type is a simple post
with text with creative fonts on fun backgrounds.
Music – add music to
your story by choosing the song on this tab before capturing your video
You can go Live and tell the world what you’re
up to, just like Facebook Live, only this will fade off Instagram after 24
You can do a Normal story and create it with
photos and/or video. Video is only 15-seconds.
a burst of photos that repeats over and over. Like a wave or jump in the air or
opening a book.
– really focus on something and zoom in on it Add music to make it sound creepy
feature just allows you to create video without having to keep your finger on
the record button.
Hashtags Galore & Engage!
are super important on Instagram so people can find you. Choosing the right
hashtags will put you in front of potential readers.
regular Instagram post, I recommend only two hashtags in the main caption. Then
add up to 30 in the first comment. Make a list and rotate your hashtags so you
aren’t stalking the hashtag.
stories, you can simply add hashtags to the Story so people can see them, or
you can add them and then put a sticker or shape over them to hide them.
and engagement are why people are on social media. The more compelling,
interesting, funny and creative your posts, the more people will enjoy them.
It’s important to be a presence on Instagram to make it work. That doesn’t mean
simply posting photos, slapping on a few hashtags, and then ignoring it. This
isn’t a “build it and they will come” scenario. You must engage.
hashtags that represent your author brand, your community, your interests and
likes. Then start liking and commenting on those. Be a presence.
debate in the Instagram world about the effectiveness of your feed these days
with Stories taking off. Tyler J McCall, Instagram Guru and Coach, recommends
feed posts only every other day or so and to concentrate on your Story.
said, your feed should look like your author brand. What is your brand? What
are your themes? The Instagram feed represents the window in the
window-shopping metaphor of people looking to find others to follow. If your
feed is a jumbled mess, then it’s unclear what you’re offering.
other authors in your genre and see what they are posting. Do they have a
celebrities you like. What is their theme?
that’s a certain dominant color. Other times it’s a regular pose, like with a
book reading or playing with the dog. Other times it’s a certain camera angle.
The possibilities are endless, so get creative. Think about your author brand
and the themes and messages in your books. What can you out of those to make
part of your theme?
is the fastest growing social media platform out there. If you are considering
social media for your author brand and you like photos, I recommend jumping in
the Instagram deep end. It’s not as overtly political as Facebook. And it’s not
as time-consuming as a YouTube channel. It’s a fun platform and who knows, you
might even find some new friends.
Jennifer Lovett Herbranson is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 17 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity. You can find her on her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest: @jennylovett
Eight years ago I received a helpful bit of writing
advice. A multi-published author recommended having a minimum of three projects
going at a time.
If you’re struggling to complete a story, this may
sound like bad advice. Juggling multiple stories can become an avoidance
Writing the beginning of a story involves one type of
brainstorming. Endings are a different game altogether. If you’ve never
completed a short story or novel, push everything else aside until you get a
rough draft finished. Only then will you have an ingrained roadmap required for
simultaneous creative trips.
Why should you try working multiple projects?
The Simmering Pot stage:
Let’s presume you have finished a short story or
novel. It may be a very rough first draft, or you may plan to submit it soon to
a magazine or agent.
that story aside for a week. Even a month. When you come back to it, you will
see it in a more objective light. Everything from typos to plot holes will jump
out at you.
that completed draft is resting, begin a new project. Those creative juices
tend to stagnate if not kept flowing.
start working, and an idea occurs about the first project. Like a pot on the
stove, you set it aside to simmer, but find yourself returning to stir
frequently. Resist the urge to do major editing. Instead, jot down your
thoughts on a sticky note, in the margins of your manuscript, or in red in the
to the second project, slamming out a hasty draft. When that’s roughed out,
step things up by jotting notes for a third story. Only then do you return to polish
the first story.
The Shifting Priorities stage:
When you have three stories going at once, you can
allocate attention to the project that best suits your mood or time
constraints. You do not work on all three stories every day, or even every
month. You can focus on one story at a time. The point is, if you get stuck
creatively or time-wise, you have something else waiting for your attention.
Marathons – You may require stretches of uninterrupted time to plot. Maybe you get bogged down in character development or research. Final edits may be when you most need several continuous hours to work. Save your longer writing sessions to do this work.
Sprints – Work or family obligations make it impossible to get in a good brainstorming session. When you have three stories going at once, one may be at a stage where you can effectively work in fits and starts. There are points in my short story process where it makes sense to carry a manuscript around, jotting notes as they occur to me.
Passion – One story jumps to life, consuming you. Focus on that tale until the fire wanes. Remember though, writing isn’t all about the Muse inspiring you with intense creative bursts. Be ready to put in the plodding along hours, too.
You get a nibble. A request to send chapters to an editor. You can drop the other two projects to work on the one most likely to get a contract.
The main reasons I like having multiple projects
pace of production will increase when you juggle multiple writing projects.
Once a project is completed, and pushed out of your creative queue, start
another to take its place.
won’t experience blank page syndrome, that empty feeling when a story is
finally really finished. Instead, you’ll pick up a work-in-progress and hit the
a story is with an editor or agent, you won’t be as anxious waiting for a
response if you’re working on other projects.
an agent asks “what else have you got,” you have an answer.
You may have experienced writer’s block. Sometimes,
setting a story aside can get you “unstuck.” The danger is that you’ll never
get back to that story, or writing in general. You don’t want that to happen.
Nor do you want to skitter from unfinished story to story
like a frog hopping across a pond. Or like that aunt with a sewing room jammed
with piles of fabrics in various states of un-done-ness, jutting pins and fraying edges a testament to
procrastination. Finish your projects – unless one proves to be totally
unworkable. I have several completed novels and short stories that will never
see the light of day, but finishing them taught me valuable lessons.
The friend who gave me the three project rule is a
short story author. I write both short fiction and novels. This technique works
juggling a mix of long and short fiction. A short story may cycle through the
queue faster, while a novel may work slowly through the process, but it still
keeps my production high.
Give it a try. You may find yourself turning out more
stories, and at a faster pace.
Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while
her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock
Mystery Magazine. She takes
a turn in the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton
Manor Library with two novels, Ink Or Swim and A Thorny Plot. Working in the world of hazardous
substances regulation, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or
factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. The two worlds collide in the humorous
mystery novel Survive Or Die. You can
learn more about Catherine’s fiction at http://www.catherinedilts.com/