Tuesday Tryouts: Here’s a Metaphor, There’s a Metaphor

20 Nov

8:25 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Sweet Baby James by James Taylor

Hello! I enjoyed the pieces that came out in response to last week’s narrative prompt, and even more, the fun you seemed to be having. Today we shall continue our reveling in metaphor. Remember what I said about metaphor:

A metaphor provides the identification of two unlike things. X=Y. The two things are not being compared, one to the other; the two things are each other. Metaphor comes from the Greek metafora: to transfer to. When using a metaphor, you are transferring the properties of one thing to another. “Juliet is the sun”. Not Juliet is like the sun, hot, bright, yellow… but Juliet IS the sun, the centre of Romeo’s universe, the giver of life and nurture.

Today’s exercises are a lot of fun. Do as many as you wish. Make your own versions up. When I do these, I find it easier to write prose first. Then I look for the line breaks and work the prose into a poem. You may either write and leave in prose, write and work into a poem, or write straight into poetry [you wild poemers, you]. Whichever you do, post for us to read.

One thing you will notice and wonder about is how an audience is supposed to know what your metaphor is about. Remember that in writing fiction, an author has context into which he places the metaphor. Readers don’t stop and wonder what the heck is going on. They know the relationship is a sunset, and why. For your pieces, add the short bit that describes the exercise, if you want.

1] Describe a body of water as seen by a teenager contemplating suicide. Do not mention death, suicide, or the teenager doing the seeing.

2] Describe a building as seen by a man whose son has just died in a war. Do not mention the son, war, death, or the old man doing the seeing.

3] Describe the night as seen by a young (wo)man whose first child has just been born. Do not mention birth, children, or the parent doing the seeing.

4] Describe a bridge as seen by a middle-aged adult who just can’t seem to do well in her job. Do not mention the job, or the adult doing the seeing.

5] Describe a forest, or some other natural scene, as seen by a woman whose detested husband has just died [yes, you can switch genders]. Do not mention the husband, the death, or the woman doing the seeing.

The tricky part is not sounding clichรฉ, but that is also the addictive part of playing with these.

I have a draft of one that is on its way from the initial freewrite to a possible poem. The exercise works well if you set yourself a time. Choose one. Set the timer for twelve minutes and write. I find the time limit keeps me from overthinking and pulls out some things my rational brain might not offer. In response to the first:

Blue silk ripples beckon with white
fingers. Slender white fingers curve
and motion as water circles my ankles
surrounding me, pulling me in with her arms,
pulling me in. Ceaseless shudders and slaps
of wavelets, the murmurs ceaseless. The water
sucks greedily, waiting; she said she would
wait. Draining, straining, the white fingers
beckon; water pulls greedily and I see
long hair tangling; pond weed catches,
pulls, holds forever. Water reaches, pulls
me in enfolding, holding, ceaseless.

On that cheerful note, I shall leave you until next Tuesday when the Tryout will be a narrative exercise based on an image. Those who celebrate Thanksgiving, have a wonderful time. The rest of you can have a wonderful time, too :-).

Happy writing, everyone.


Posted by on 20/11/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , ,

26 responses to “Tuesday Tryouts: Here’s a Metaphor, There’s a Metaphor

  1. barbara_

    20/11/2012 at 10:11 am

    Getting ready to head over to the hospital. My Bro’s getting prepped for a new kidney right about now. Waiting room should be good for writing.

    • margo roby

      20/11/2012 at 1:13 pm

      The waiting room will be very good. You might adapt the prompt and make it something you really relate to, at the moment. Or, let it take you somewhere else, so the time moves quickly. Thinking of you and your brother. Mine, silly thing, is over in Afghanistan for six months. I have thought more of John in the past month than I have in years.

      • barbara_

        20/11/2012 at 1:28 pm

        Isn’t that the way? We live across town from one another, but as long as everything’s normal we don’t see each other a dozen times a year. Had Thanksgiving dinner reservations: he’s not going to be interested in turkey.

  2. Misky

    20/11/2012 at 10:55 am

    Not sure why this came so quickly. I swear I’m not feeling suicidal…

  3. markwindham

    20/11/2012 at 3:21 pm

    Metaphor ? Ugh. Not good for my overly literal mind.

    Anyone sees Viv tell her to meet me for tea and we will discuss water as water and trees as trees.

    • margo roby

      21/11/2012 at 6:43 am

      But, it’s good for you… like spinach.

      I’m not natural with metaphor, so one thing I like about this exercise is that it leaves me no choice. I figure if this takes me out of my comfort zone, my regular writing will benefit from the stretch.

      You’re not telling me you’re not up to it, hmmm?

      • markwindham

        21/11/2012 at 8:52 am

        ๐Ÿ˜‰ wow, throwing down a gauntlet. I am sure I will make an attempt if time allows. Drove to my sisters in VA yesterday, heading up to dad’s in Maryland today, back home probably Sunday. Hoping for some down time to write, but we shall see what is allowed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. barbara_

    20/11/2012 at 4:42 pm

    got a little

  5. val dering rojas

    20/11/2012 at 5:31 pm

    Oh, I’m game for this. I need a jump-start today.

  6. Hannah Gosselin

    20/11/2012 at 7:51 pm

    Hello, Margo and everyone else as well!!

    These are great starters…was just the magic needed!!

    Thank you, Margo. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • margo roby

      21/11/2012 at 6:44 am

      My pleasure, Hannah.

      I will read when I get back :-). We are heading out the door!

  7. rosross

    21/11/2012 at 12:37 am

    • margo roby

      21/11/2012 at 6:45 am

      We all seem to like the water for this one, Ros. I’ll be reading when I get back from Thanksgiving.

  8. barbara_

    22/11/2012 at 10:59 am

    I have restless leg syndrome, which does not feel like anything else. Does that make it a metaphor?
    (That made more sense when I first thought it)

    The Bro is still in ICU, but may be up to pumpkin pie this afternoon. New kidney is performing renal functions like a copper penny hydrant. Fingers crossed Thanksgiving, knock on wood

    • margo roby

      28/11/2012 at 7:52 am

      What? What! I have had RLS since I was a teenager. It’s a wretched wretched thing to have. I’m on the strongest drug my doctor will allow and I still have bad spells.

      Now I am deconstructing what you said in light of my metaphor definition. No. Or, yes. Grin.

  9. markwindham

    24/11/2012 at 1:26 pm

    • margo roby

      28/11/2012 at 7:52 am

      Have I been over? I love traveling without my computer but, oh, the fallout when I return.

  10. JulesPaige

    28/11/2012 at 5:38 pm

    I am not even sure it this exactly fits here. Written for We Write Poems 133 (the link is on the poem site) – But you are using different things to describe other things: mixing metaphors; ‘changing poetic sensibilities’


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