marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

metaphor from a certain point of view

One thing to watch on your metaphors is whether they are in character.  Not just for your characters -- that too -- but for your world.

It's a specialized case of watching your language in general to avoid language that smacks too much of here-and-now to convince as being no longer the fields we know.  But metaphors are a particularly strong issue because they still refer to concrete objects that we have some idea of the history of.

It's a counsel of perfection, to be sure.  Tracking down the original meaning of every idiom is perhaps too much.  Still, archers did not fire arrows prior to the advent of gunpower; you literally fire guns and only metaphorically fire arrows.  No one had a strong suit before the invention of bridge.  Which meant certainly not before the invention of playing cards.  (And whatever anyone tries to palm off on you as the history of the Tarot, playing cards, and fortune-telling cards, were invented only after cheap paper existed.  Modern era.)

And some things are not natural to use as metaphors.  One writer I read once realized that her narrator, never having been near a desert or having heard from anyone who had been, would not naturally discuss someone looking like a man who sees water in the desert.  So she instead gave her a long song and dance about how it would be possible.  What she should have done was dig deeper.  Like a storm-tossed mariner who finally sees land, perhaps.

That goes for the narrator, too, no matter if you don't do first person, or even tight third.   It's much stronger a problem for a character -- your serf would not naturally describe something as emerald green, your princess kept in the castle all the time would not naturally describe something as being like the open road -- but even your narrator has to live in the world where things are.  That the writer knows about playing cards is no excuse for the narrator.

On the other hand, you also have to watch for metaphors that would no longer naturally mean what they would have meant in the setting.  Broadcasting your news, for instance, to the tavern.  "Broadcasting" means taking a handful of seeds and throwing them over the ground, rather than planting them one by one, but even readers who know that will not think of that when you try to use it metaphorically.  sigh The trials of a writer's life.
Tags: metaphor, world-building: social classes, world-building: technology

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