We drove past many huge billboards for caves in the Black Hills, South Dakota, but until we explored one, I would have never known how cool and tingly my skin felt at 48 degrees in the cave when it was a scorching 96 degrees outside.
That’s what writing an extended metaphor is like. Rather than comparing your topic to several different symbols or metaphors, like the many billboards we saw, you plunge your reader deep into ONE symbol and let him experience it fully.
1. Introduce Your Metaphor: Let’s say you need to write an article about New Years Resolutions. Choose ONE symbol to compare resolutions to. Let’s use the cave as an example:
- “New Years Resolutions can take you into deep, dark and lonely places. ‘What was I thinking?’ you ask yourself when you encounter that first 30 minute work out.
- “It’s like crawling down into a cave. At first the rocks scratch your skin and the tight tunnels leave you feeling a little breathless and claustrophobic. But when you emerge into a cathedral-sized cavern, you get a sense of wonder and awe. That’s how it is with your resolution. At first it’s tough. You may want to turn back. But push further; delve deeper. You’ll come out into a space and a freedom you never knew existed.
Plunge your reader into the full experience of the ‘cave’. Compare using all the senses. I mentioned touch (rough stone) and feel (tight spaces) and sight (wide spaces).
2. Go Deeper into your Metaphor: Now go deeper and further in that same metaphor to visualize the rest of your points.
For example, I if I want to refer to discouragement surrounding resolutions I might add this: “The distance in a cave is deceiving. The stalactite that appears tiny and close-up is actually 100 feet tall and an arena away. Plodding towards your goals can be deceiving too. You think you’re nearly there only to discover you’ve hardly made any progress. However, as you keep hiking you will come across incredible stone formations and colors. In the same way, as you continue in the discipline of reaching your goal, you’ll experience beauty along the way.”
3. and Deeper Yet:
Let’s say my next point is regarding the loneliness of resolutions. I would continue using the cave symbol like this: “The darkness is tangible in a cave. Panic can set in when all you can see and feel is a curtain of black ink. And so it is with your resolution journey. One can feel lonely and detached. Keep your friends posted as to your progress. You will need the encouragement. ”
Remember: Stay in the cave! Stick with one metaphor and mine it to bring out all the points of your article. Keep your reader submerged until you’ve finished exploring.
- It’s not so much the metaphor that’s important. Rather, it’s the consistent use of one metaphor that’s unforgettable. Explore one symbol fully for maximum impact.
- See the following links for examples of extended metaphors, one contemporary and one from classic literature.
- Many poems are extended metaphors, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost is a classic example. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/extended-metaphor.html
- Lincoln’s speeches, Shakespeare’s works and the Bible (see Psalm 23) are full of powerful extended metaphors.
“Every Story Needs a Little Salt”