Hidden Messages – How To Use Metaphors To Strengthen A Scene

As a young girl, I loved decoding secret messages or messages written in invisible ink. My imagination ran wild with adventures of saving the world and solving mysteries.

What did you expect from a girl who read every Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, Bobbsey Twins, and Hardy Boy books I could get my hands on?

Amazingly enough, I did not find the discovery of how to use metaphors in writing as enchanting or adventurous. At first it seemed abstract. Until I learned more about metaphors from Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren at the Deep Thinkers Retreat in Florida (now called the Wordsmithing Retreat).

What is a metaphor?

A metaphor is something representative or symbolic in a scene to deepen the meaning.

Here are some tips I learned from the pros:

*Identify the emotion for the scene. In order to find a metaphor in the scene, you must first know what emotion your point of view character is experiencing. The metaphor should reflect this emotion.

*Identify objects in the scene that could help portray this emotion. Make a list of all of the objects in the scene  without censoring. Everything makes the list.

*Identify Sensory Input In The Scene. What things can the character feel, taste, touch, and hear? Write these down as well, they could also prove useful.

*Identify The Weather Elements. Temperature, wind, sky, sunlight, snow, rain, etc. All of these have the ability to be incorporated into a metaphor.

*Select one metaphor to show the emotion in your scene using the components listed above. More than one metaphor can weaken is usefulness, so stick with one.

I’m sure you are now going, “Ah, yes. Now I’ve got it.”

Not.

The best way to show you is to give you an example and use the steps above.

Story Clip Example:

Gone. No more cuddling. No more baby scent. No more Sammy. Kara knelt next to the overturned earth. With arms clutched around her waist, she rocked back and forth. Tears streaked down her face and dripped to the ground, sinking into the dirt. The gray of evening slipped into night unnoticed. Her baby couldn’t spend his first night in the ground alone. 

Emotion:  Grief/Emptiness

Objects in the Scene:  Ground, trees, headstone, dirt, grass, moon, clouds, walking path.

Sensory input in the scene: hear the howl of the wind, smell of overturned earth, damp ground.

The Weather Elements: Brisk fall wind, night, cloudy sky, temperature 60s, damp.

Select A Metaphor Using The List To Portray the Emotion: The wind howled through the trees, their barren limbs bent towards the earth.

Corrected Clip Adding In Some of the list:

Gone. No more cuddling. No more baby scent. No more Sammy. Kara knelt next to the overturned earth. With arms clutched around her waist, she rocked back and forth. Tears streaked down her face and dripped to the ground, sinking into the dirt.

The wind howled through the trees, their barren limbs bent towards the earth. The gray of evening slipped into night.

All unnoticed.

Her baby couldn’t spend his first night in the ground alone. 

There are probably some stronger ways to put in a metaphor, but this is one example to give you an idea of how it works.

What tips have you learned to help in your use of metaphors? Or What is your favorite metaphor from a book or movie?

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About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

6 thoughts on “Hidden Messages – How To Use Metaphors To Strengthen A Scene

  1. Great example! I wish metaphors came naturally. lol

  2. Melissa Tagg says:

    I took Rachel’s class on metaphors and symbolism at ACFW in 2010. It changed the way I read and write scenes, for sure. I think some of my favorite metaphors are the ones that just seem to happen in scenes. Sometimes I’ll find myself overthinking it and ending up with a really awful attempt at a metaphor. Hahaha…I remember her saying that a good metaphor doesn’t distract or pull the reader out of the story. In fact, some readers won’t even notice it–and that’s fine. It’s better for them not to notice than to be distracted. And for the ones who get it, the story will be all the richer.

  3. Did I tell you I was going to print this out? Great check offs for a scene.

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