Use Metaphors and Similes to Find Nonfiction Writing Ideas
Two writing methods useful to spice up your writing and make it more fun is to use a metaphor or simile to illustrate a point in your writing.
METAPHOR OR SIMILE DEFINED
Both a metaphor and a simile are statements of comparison between two different items that share one aspect or trait in common. Unlike analogies that use five or six points of comparison, a metaphor or simile uses only one and lets the reader extend the thought on their own.
A metaphor uses the wording, “X is Y.” For example, “Life is a banquet.” The reader thinks about a banquet, picturing all the food, people, fun, and activities and then relates those images back to life, with the reader seeing the similarities. The point(s) of comparison are implied but rarely explained.
A simile uses the wording, “X is like Y” or “X is as Y,” with the comparison being explicit, that is, with more of an explanation. For example, one of the famous line from Forrest Gump is “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you will get.” That simile actually gives an explanation in addition to the simile itself, just in case we do not realize that a box of chocolates usually have different flavors or types contained within.
In selecting the right metaphor or simile, make sure the point you are making with that figure of speech matches exactly the tone and topic of your writing. A mismatch will either sound strange or become unintentionally funny, neither of which would be a good reaction.
These comparisons are trickier to come up with than, say, examples, but they can add spice and interesting content to your writing when you get them right.
WHEN TO USE METAPHORS AND SIMILES
Use them when you have found one that really fits the writing situation. Do not overuse them, as their use should be a little added spice. Too much and the spice becomes overwhelming.
With that said, if you are trying for humor, an excessive number of metaphors and similes could work in your favor, but again, be careful to get them right.
Here is another metaphor: “Life is a bouquet of flowers, varied and beautiful.”
Here is another simile: “Life is like a picnic: it is best when shared.”
QUESTIONS FOR DETERMINING USE OF METAPHORS OR SIMILES
1. Do you have a point being made that could really benefit from one of these?
2. Do you have a metaphor or simile that you would like to use in the writing? Find the right place to put it, making sure it fits exactly.
3. Do you need to give credit to an author for providing the metaphor or simile or is it considered common knowledge? Do check this out and give credit where credit is due.
4. If you feel you need to put a metaphor or simile someplace in your writing but cannot find one that someone else said, then come up with one of your own. Focus on the point you want to make with the figure of speech and then think. If one does not come to mind, think about something else, and let it come to you unheeded.
Using metaphors and similes can add spice and fun to your writing, but only if done well and sparingly.