marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

wrassling a metaphor

Sometimes it can be really difficult to wrassle that metaphor down to the ground.

It's not the avoiding cliches so much.  True, it can be a problem because of the appropriateness issue, but it's not the big one.

There's nailing down the meaning and getting a metaphor that actually illuminates it rather that swaps sideways at it in general.

And then there's the point-of-view questions.  The right metaphor will, as a sideline, describe both character and world.   But I have seen an author describe a man looking at something like a man in the desert at water, and going on and on about because the character didn't live near any deserts, or at a time where she would have heard a lot about them.  Rather than going for something closer to home, like a storm-tossed mariner finally seeing land.  A becalmed mariner who feels the wind?  No, that's a moving thing, not a stay-in-one-place thing, which was the connotation of the metaphor. . . .

And the connotation is where things get even more ugly.  It's why cliches become cliches.  Why are your hero's eyes emerald green, or grass green?  Because poison green, or snake green, does not incline your readers toward him in the appropriate way.  Vice versa for the villain, of course, but getting your metaphor to pull their own weight rhetorically is where you really manage to compact maximum meaning in minimum wordage.
Tags: characterization, cliches, dual purpose, metaphor, point of view, world-building: other

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