Friday, May 21, 2010
Metaphors Are Fun, Creative and Therapeutic
Carl: Oh yeah, yeah. Like maybe, the cabin is the place inside each of us, created by our goodwill and teamwork.
Lenny: Nah, they said there would be sandwiches.
The use of metaphors enriches a writer's story. Metaphors are the cherry on top of a banana split. Some people eat the cherry first, but many save it until last. The metaphorical cherry is the very last tantalizing bite of a delightful desert.
Hugh Laurie is the king of TV medical metaphors. "The liver is a cruise ship taking in water. As it starts to sink, it sends out an SOS. Only instead of radio waves, it uses enzymes. The more enzymes in the blood, the worse the liver is. But once the ship has sunk, there's no more SOS. You think the liver's fine, but it's already at the bottom of the sea." (Dr. Gregory House in the "Locked In" episode of House, M.D.)
The website Metaphorology speaks of some psychologists who have been using the term "metaphor therapy," and they help patients choose better metaphors. For example, a dentist who felt timid, and was unable to express himself in a group was likened to soft clay.
With the therapist's guidance, he questioned this metaphorical view, and replaced it by seeing the clay harden into something else. Steel was the new metaphor he decided on; battleship steel, to be specific, and he even imagined the rivets in it. Within days, he went to a convention with hundreds of other dentists, and when an issue came up that was important to him, he spoke up. He never did this before, not even in a small group.
Metaphors speak for themselves. Aristotle describes a metaphor: Those words are most pleasant which give us new knowledge. Strange words have no meaning for us; common terms we know already. It is metaphor, which gives us most of this pleasure. (Aristotle's work on persuasion the Rhetoric)
In other words, metaphors should strike up a memory, bring a smile, or add depth. A tool that is well used by many writers and overused by others. An overused metaphor is eating sugar by the spoonfuls. The sweetness coats the tongue and causes gagging sensations.
Try one of these exercises and post your results in the comments section. Describe yourself using a metaphor. Describe your weather using a metaphor. Describe the dearest person/thing in your life right now, this minute, using a metaphor.
Photo of Lenny http://www.flickr.com/photos/aagius/3356367280/
Photo of House http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hugh_Laurie_Actors_Guild.jpg
Photo of Banana Split http://www.flickr.com/photos/milomania/1744432537/