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Metaphors are a type of imagery. In this lesson, you will learn the definition of metaphor.

You will read some metaphors, and learn how to identify, interpret, and write metaphors.

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Imagery: Making Writing Beautiful

When writing, it is important to use meaningful words. When someone reads your writing, you want to grab their attention immediately.

You need to make every word count. One tool a writer has is imagery. Imagery is the use of vivid, descriptive language to appeal to the senses of the reader. It is used in poetry and other creative writing. There are several kinds of imagery, including metaphors.

Metaphors

A metaphor is a comparison that equates two things without using the words ”like” or ”as”.

Metaphors often use surprising statements to evoke a strong image. Sometimes a metaphor does not make sense at first glance. This kind of metaphor is intended to make you consider a new or different aspect of a familiar situation, object, place, or person.

The Descriptive Power of Metaphors

Look at the picture that Lucy took on her vacation. You could easily describe it as blue sky, blue water, white clouds, brown rocks, and a lighthouse. But that is a very weak description.

This is what Lucy wrote about her vacation:

Lighthouse scene.
Lighthouse scene

The waves were a soothing roar in the background. The sea foam was salt and pepper sprinkled on top of the waves. The people on the opposite shore were brightly colored beetles, crawling back and forth.

The surface of the rocks was an oven, but the wind was a cool knife. The lighthouse was a proud soldier, guarding the whole scene.There are several metaphors here. If we think about the metaphors, we learn much more about Lucy’s vacation experience than we could see by looking at one small picture.

We can start to feel like we are on the scene with Lucy near the lighthouse.

  • The waves were a soothing roar.

The sound made by the waves was very loud and continuous.

  • The sea foam was salt and pepper sprinkled on top of the waves.

The foam on the waves looked like salt and pepper sprinkled on top of food.

  • The people on the opposite shore were brightly colored beetles crawling back and forth.

From a distance, the people looked very small and moved the way beetles do.

  • The surface of the rocks was an oven.

The rock was warm all over, from being directly under the sun.

  • The wind was a cool knife.

In contrast to the warm rocks below, the cold gusts of wind felt surprising and unpleasant.

  • The lighthouse was a proud soldier.

The lighthouse stood straight and tall while everything else was going on around it. It made Lucy feel safe to see the lighthouse there.

Writing Metaphors

When you are writing, you can use a metaphor to make a description memorable.

  • First, identify the person, place, or object you will describe. Think about that object using your five senses–sight, taste, touch, sound, and smell–and using your emotions.

    How did it make you feel?

  • Once you choose your comparison, write your metaphor using actions (crawling back and forth) and descriptive words (soothing roar) to make it clearer.
  • Use your metaphor to help your reader understand how you think and feel about what you are describing.

Lesson Summary

A metaphor is a type of imagery that compares two things by setting them up as equal. A metaphor is used to create a strong image and to cause a reader to think of things in a new way. Use of metaphors is a good tool to make your writing more vivid and interesting.

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