Monday, July 09, 2012

How to Write Southern - Part 2 - Metaphors

This week, you're enjoying a seven-day discussion of How to Write Southern. Yesterday was Part 1 - Dialect. Today is metaphors and similes. Remember. . . this is not an I'm-Southern-and-you're-not post. It's more of how to pay attention to locale, culture and voice to pull off your story's geographic specialty.

Watch the metaphors and similes.

 In the South, especially the rural South, we were raised on stories. We can be late to work and turn it into a tall tale to last until lunch. However, what's unique is the fact we make up our own metaphors and similes as we go. After all, we're storytellers from birth. Why use a cliche when an original version sounds so much better?

If I say, "The bigger the hair, the closer to God," does that not paint a picture about the woman in question?

In Carolina Slade's second mystery, Slade's best friend Savvy tells her, "Hon, you're gooder than grits," when Slade tells a white lie on her friend's behalf. Look at how those few words spray a variety of thoughts through your head about Savvy's feelings, upbringing, and loyalty.

What's the difference between a metaphor and a simile?

Daily Writing Tips is my favorite daily dose of grammar and writing style. Founded by some pretty sharp writers, editors, and linguists, it puts writing rules in memorable layman's terms.

A simile is a metaphor, but not all metaphors are similes. Per Daily Writing Tips: Some metaphors are apt. Some are not. The conscientious writer strives to come up with fresh metaphors. Metaphors used too often are called cliches.

Metaphor: In a literary sense metaphor transfers the sense or aspects of one word to another.

Simile: A type of metaphor in which the comparison is made with the use of the word like or its equivalent

Bananas, Bingo Cards, and Toilet Paper - Using metaphors to define character

Carolina Slade is known for her metaphors, which is a strong part of her character. Many readers have responded about her sayings. These figures of speech take a moment to conjure, but once you nail one, it paints the most wonderful pictures for your reader. (**note that metaphor in that sentence?)

When speaking about filing for divorce and breaking the news to her mother, she says, "I felt like the bruised banana in the bunch -- still edible but not as pretty as the rest."

When the antagonist, Jesse Rawlings, comes on to her in her office during a meeting being recorded by the agents, she thinks, "After seeing the ease at which the farmer could spin a tale, I realized I'd been played like a bingo card . . . by both the agents and Jesse."

And during a particular frustrating moment, she professes, "This investigation is wearing me thinner than cheap toilet paper."

Metaphors can tax your creative genius, because only the cliches roll off your tongue.

A common fault of writing, however, is to mix metaphors.An example might be: "This gig is as simple as falling off a piece of cake," thus confusing "simple as pie" and "piece of cake." While you might not envision yourself mixing metaphors, one day it'll happen. Actually, you might mix a metaphor on purpose to tell a joke, make a point of ignorance, or show someone's flustered moment. Just recognized it as such.

Metaphors can tax your creative genius, because only the cliches roll off your tongue. The great turns of phrase take deep thought. I quit counting the times I stopped writing, ran into the den and told my husband to mute the television. "I need a metaphor. Slade has something special to say." We then spin all sorts of wild and crazy comparisons of items, actions and description until we find one that snaps in place and clicks.

Metaphors take a moment to conjure, but once you nail one, it paints the most wonderful, memorable pictures for your reader.

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