A metaphor is an analogy identifying one object with another and ascribing to the first object one or more of the qualities of the second…. The tenor is the idea being expressed or the subject of the comparison; the vehicle is the image by which this idea is conveyed or the subject communicated. (A Handbook to Literature)
Metaphor and Simile
The simplest distinction between kinds of comparison, and usually the first one grasped by beginning students of literature, is between metaphor and simile. A simile makes a comparison with the use of like or as, a meatphor without. Thought this distinction is technical, it is not entirely triviial, for a metaphor demands a more literal acceptance. If you say, “A woman is a rose,” you ask for an extreme suspension of disbelief, whereas “A woman is like a rose” acknoledges the artifice in the statement . . . . (Writing Fiction)
The Cliche Metaphor
Cliche metaphors are metaphors so familiar that they have lost the force of their original meaning. They are inevitably apt comparisons; if they were not, they would’t have been repeated often enough to become cliches. But such images fail to surprise, and we blame the writer for this expenditure of energy without a payoff. (Writing Fiction)
The Far-Fetched Metaphor
Far-fetched metaphors are the opposite of cliches: They surprise but are not apt. As the dead metaphor far-fetched suggests, the mind must travel too far to carry back the likeness, and too much is lost on the way. When such a comparison does work, we speak laudatorily of a “leap of the imagination.” But when it does not, what we face is in effect a failed conceit: The explantation of what is alike about these two things does not convince. Very good writers in the search for originality sometimes fetch too far. (Writing Fiction)
The Mixed Metaphor
Mixed metaphors are so called because they ask us to compare the original image with things from two or more different areas of reference: As you walk the path of life, don’t founder on the reefs of ignorance. Life can be a path or a sea bu it cannot be both at the same time. The point of the metaphor is to fuse two images in a single tension. The mind is adamantly unwilling to fuse three. (Writing Fiction)
The Obscure and Overdone Metaphor
Obscure and overdone metaphors falter because the author has misjudged the difficulty of the comparison. The result is either confusion or an insult to the reader’s intelligence. In the case of obscurity, a similarity in the author’s mind isn’t getting onto the page. (Writing Fiction)
Work with a Reedsy Editor for Individualized Attention
Submit your work for developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, editorial assessment and more at Reedsy.com, where hundreds of experienced, awarded writers and editors are ready to read your work and help you make it the best it can be.
- The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present. Eric Kandel.
- Caughie, John. Theories of Authorship. 1981.
- “Cogito et Histoire de la Folie.” Jacques Derrida.
- Cognitive Neuropsychology Section, Laboratory of Brain and Cognition.
- Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Lynne Truss.
- The Elements of Style. William Strunk.
- Grant, Barry Keith. Auteurs & Authorship: Film Reader. 2008.
- A Handbook to Literature. William Harmon.
- Jeong, Seung-hoon and Jeremy Szaniawski. The Global Auteur: The Politics of Authorship 21st Century Cinema. Bloomsbury Publishing. 2016.
- New Oxford American Dictionary. Edited by Angus Stevenson and Christine A. Lindberg.
- The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Martin Puchner, et al.
- The Norton Introduction to Philosophy. Gideon Rosen and Alex Byrne.
- Sellors, C. Film Authorship: Auteurs & Other Myths. 2011.
- Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. Patricia T. O’Conner
- Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French & Ned Stuckey-French.
- Writing the Other. Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.