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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Compose Through Metaphor

“Metaphors are the gate-crashers of the spirituality static quo.” Joy Sawyer

Author C.S. Lakin has been posting an interesting mini-sequence discussion re theme at under her category The Heart of the Story. She noticed that the movies she chose for her discussion were huge hits because of their deep underlying themes, which the viewers did not necessarily notice at first glance. Yet because the themes “were so rich and deep” the audience took to them in spite of poor acting. She has inspired me to take on a longer blog sequence on metaphors and examine ways that ordinary images can create impact.

Metaphors are meant to help us see life through a fresh perspective. When they tap into theme and character and setting and atmosphere they have the ability to gate-crash through our pre-conceived clichéd views. Even clichés were at one time a fresh perspective—so innovative in fact that they eventually became overused.

And we don’t need to jettison familiar images. In fact metaphors often work better through familiarity but need to be slightly angled. Sometimes the image must loom large in order to crash through numbed thinking. Other times it only needs to be a soft reflection that catches us up enough to pause and take a deeper look.

Waiting For Midnight, by Merrie Destefano, is a brief collection of short stories and flash fiction that highlights the power of image and metaphor and theme in unexpected ways. By altering the anticipated viewpoint character or the setting we step into the story one side up, but come out the other end as if we were in house of mirrors. 

For example, in her flash fiction piece Breathtaking we immediately identify with the character’s desperate struggle to simply take a breath—to fill out the form—to remain calm instead of anxious in the emergency room—to remember. How many other images of trying to simply breathe pass through our imagination as we struggle along with this person wondering what is really causing his anguish. And then the mirror metaphor shifts.

“No. Not poison. My sweat on the floor, my blood, my skin. It was my own
              designer disease, all brand new and deadly—

              And, unfortunately, highly contagious.”

Journal Prompt:

Take a brief scene from your novel, either in dialogue, or internal monologue, and twist the end into something opposite.

What impact would that have on your character’s situation emotionally, spiritually, or mentally?

Even if you cannot use the shock difference at this moment, is there a way you can introduce the possibility of another outcome?

Share: Did your opposite effect turn into humor or shock?

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