Make your Metaphors Count

August 24, 2018



Metaphors give your writing color and flavor. They are fun to play with -- like a puppy with a new toy ball. But be careful not to get carried away. Make each metaphor count. 


Comparing something in your story to something common is an easy way to get your point across. "The asphalt burned her feet like fiery coals at a barbecue." But metaphors and similes (a metaphor using "like" or "as") can also become overused and mundane. Consider: "It's so hot, you could fry an egg on the sidewalk." Or "She is growing like a weed." These have become so overused that they are now considered cliches -- something to avoid in writing at all costs. 


One way to avoid cliches, and made your story much stronger, is to find metaphors within your story, that is, compare one thing in your story to something in within your story. If your story is set in the South, you could say that something smells as good as "fried eggs and grits cooking on a Saturday morning" -- a very popular Southern meal. Or if your story is set close to the ocean, you could compare something to the texture of "wet sand between your toes, sticky yet cool, as the waves rumble and crabs scurry to their holes on the beach."


The key with metaphors is to make them very specific and tied directly to the character who is experiencing them. Done well, metaphors bring a new level of insight to your character and makes a story deeper with greater meaning, like peering deep into a mirror and noticing things that you have never noticed before. 

WRITING PROMPT: Read through your story and underline (or highlight) areas where you have used metaphor or simile. Write those phrases on a separate sheet of paper. Are they cliches? Overused? Or just dry? Rewrite them with vivid detail and tie them as much as possible to your character's past, their setting, or something in their culture. Then plug them back into your story and let someone else read it through. Is it more power than your previous version? Make them count.




Photo Source: Mikhail Duran on




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CAROLYN BENNET FRAISER is a published writer and creative writing instructor in Brevard, North Carolina, where she enjoys helping youth find their passion for writing. 

Carolyn is available to speak to children and youth about creative writing at your school or special event. 

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@ 2019 CAROLYN BENNETT FRAISER. All Rights Reserved.