Voice is the key to using metaphor. People tell me they struggle to come up with the perfect metaphor for a situation. I use things I’ve observed, and examine them through my character. Because everything in life is a metaphor!
Here’s an example: last night I dreamed I got a new dishwasher, and it was so big that I felt like I could never have enough dishes to fill it. I loaded it as best I could, but dumped in dishes that still had food on them. Specifically, there was a piece of salmon that I’d barely eaten. But I didn’t realize until it was already in, and going through the cycle. I watched the fish floating in the dishwasher with all the other food (the front of the dishwasher was clear, like an aquarium), and I thought it was interesting that the fish had been returned to swim in water in the end. The cycle of the dishwasher completed the circle of life (yes, I’m even like this in my dreams.) Then I opened the dishwasher, because I realized that I hadn’t put dishwashing powder in, and because I was hungry and wanted to eat the fish (can you imagine?) The water poured out with all the food, including the fish. I don’t remember if I ate the fish, but I wasn’t upset about the mess.
Clearly, there is rich opportunity embedded here. (Not even embedded! It’s right there on the surface.) All I need to do is become my character, and let him or her have this dream (or part of it, anyway.) If the person is sad about himself, it will be a metaphor for the futility of his life. If the person is frustrated with society, it will be a metaphor for the futility of dealing with “the system.” If the person is happy, it will be a metaphor for making the best of things (they will be happy that they salvaged the fish.) If the person is disenchanted with politics, it will be a metaphor for confronting widespread corruption. If the person is in an unhappy relationship, it will be a metaphor for his or her feelings of inadequacy. If the person is in the mob, it will be a metaphor for swimming with the fishes. Get the picture?
When you read a metaphor in my books, chances are that whatever the character is experiencing happened to me. I just changed the processing.
Everything is a metaphor, just waiting for us writers to jot it down. Remember that, and everything else will fall into place. Even if you’re not a writer, noting metaphors in life will lift your spirits, and provide material for cocktail party conversation.
And what does my dream say about me? It says that I was loading dishes right before I went to sleep. The bottom rack had also been stuck, and I’d messed with it for awhile before getting it to roll out. It also says that I eat a lot of salmon. Once I read that you can cook salmon in the dishwasher by wrapping it in foil and running through a cycle (sans soap, I imagine.) Maybe my subconscious was trying to get me to do that. I always meant to try it. But when it comes down to it, I throw together the same meals repeatedly rather than try new things, because I don’t have the patience for cooking new recipes. I’d rather be metaphorically writing.
Bye for now.
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