Visual metaphors often speak in silence. Their images impact emotionally and mentally. All our senses are engaged. Movie opening screen shots can communicate volumes of possibilities within a few minutes by taping into our universal feelings and engaging our curiosity. And yet while all audiences see the same imagery, we often process the material individually.
Sometimes it’s hard to get past all the introductory fanfare, but when we can observe up-close, as in a freeze frame, the metaphors explode. In a recent workshop students shared their observations on the opening scene in Phantom of the Opera, which is shot in black and white. While we all discussed and related to the ambiance and noticed the same details, each one found one or two images that held a primary impact.
For example, the ruins of the opera house were coated with cobwebs. Seems to be a natural connection, but as one student pointed out the cobwebs it took on a deeper meaning. Just as a cobweb is a concentrated and patient work of art, so was the Phantom’s training of Christine’s voice. Just as the cobweb is a lure for a spider’s meal, so was the lure to Christine to join the Phantom in his world. And also as the cobwebs clung to the fixtures after decades of decay, so did the Phantom’s story cling to the frail elderly visitors to the auction.
1. Look over your beginning scenes. What common natural images do you have in your setting? Make a list of them and then next to each one write a possible emotional metaphor. Choose one that can be threaded unconsciously throughout the novel.
2. Develop its characteristics so you will have the details ready when an opportunity opens to include them.