Figurative Language and First Drafts

I love:  figurative language.

It’s fun!

The most familiar forms are simile and metaphor.   A simile is a comparison between two different things using “like” or “as.”


 Fred groaned.  They all looked at the flat tire, which spread out beneath the Mystery Machine like a pat of melted butter. 

 A tire is nothing like butter, but it kind of is when it’s flat.   This gives the reader a distinct picture of the tire smooshing out on the pavement under the car.  Or maybe it doesn’t.  Give me a break, I had a three-hour screening interview today and my brain is fried.

Here’s another one:

 Joker’s unexpected blow takes a poisoned Batman down as easily as a baby knocks over a tower of blocks.

 Normally Joker couldn’t make Batman flinch, but if he poisoned him…well, the baby itself might be able to knock him down.

A metaphor implies that one thing is the other. The tenor is the object of the metaphor, and the vehicle is the thing it’s implied as being.  Generally the two things have something in common.


 Deep in the closet, Buffy heard the door handle turn, and her heart became an electrified frog in her chest.  She clutched Mr. Pointy.  

 We know Buffy’s heart really isn’t a frog, but an electrified frog will jump and quiver the same way your heart would if someone were coming into the place you were hiding.


Just the same as a major organ, only different.

Image: Photography by BJWOK /

The bigger the gap, the stronger the metaphor, although two that have nothing to do with one another can result in a mixed metaphor.  These are unfortunate clunkers that are best avoided.

I’ll paraphrase one I found online:

 Hector has a lot of black sheep in his closet

 No no no no no.  You have skeletons in your closet.  And you have black sheep in your family.  Both of these refer to things a person might be ashamed of.  Put the two together like that, and it sounds like Hector has a rather unsavory hobby.  Come to think of it, that one might actually work!

In literature, you can find a more extended metaphor known as allegory, in which a person or object in the narrative is representative of something outside it, such as a theme or idea.   The object can be a personification of an ideal or moral.  George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a very famous example of allegory, where the animals represent Stalin’s regime prior to the second World War.



Some people love them. They hate editing because it’s so fiddly.  No, I hate the first draft.  If I know what is going to happen, it’s sometimes easier, but other times it’s like pulling hens’ teeth.  See? My similes are showing!

Rose’s Hostage practically wrote itself.  It ended at 116,000 words, roughly.  During the first rewrite, it ballooned (is that a metaphor?) to 125,000, a number only Tolkien could get away with.  It took five or six more edits to get it back down to 97,000.

It was probably easier to do because I had already written it in another, unpublishable iteration.  Few have read that one and that is the way I like it.

My current WIP, which I will hereafter refer to as Oh God I’m So Stuck, or just Stuck, has a beginning, a middle and an end.  I already wrote the last four paragraphs and a bunch of skip-around scenes.

I know what happens.  I know all the characters.  The entire story is in my head, but it’s not straining to get out the way RH did.  It’s awfully hard to concentrate when you’re job-hunting and the Pocket Bike from Hell is revving across the street.

Shut up, kid. Shut up, up, up.

Image: geludead/stock.xchg

4 thoughts on “Figurative Language and First Drafts

  1. Ha ha! I love the idea of “a lot of black sheep” in the closet. Not the image the author was going for, but very pleasing in a surreal sort of way.

    Oh, wow. Your book is called Stuck for short, too. Fancy that. I don’t have pocket-bike kid as an excuse, though. *sympathizes*

    • Ha ha, yeah, that one made me laugh when I found it. It would fit the right character!

      It’s partly pocket bike kid, partly stress and partly just being undisciplined, I think. After getting laid off so abruptly, I have had to revamp my entire daily routine, which messed with my focus. Here’s hoping the daily A-Z will get me back on track.

      It’s raining right now so PBK had to stop. Ha!

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