Saturday, February 25, 2012

Similes, metaphors, analogies, oh my!


Confession time: I have the hardest time remembering what makes a simile, metaphor, or analogy. I'm like a child who has to be reminded over and over again to wash his hands before dinner. See? What was that?

Maybe it's one of my weird character flaws. Like how I punch people in the arm when I have an idea. If you're one of those writers who always remembers the definitions, I'm as jealous as a headgear-wearing girl on prom night. Whoa! Another one :/

I'm hopeful that even though I don't always remember the definitions, it'll be ok as long as I use them correctly. *fingers crossed*

Here's a brief reminder for those of us who need it:

Simile

A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as (brave as a lion, crazy like a fox, or this one from my son, "High school is like life--it's what you make of it" )

Metaphor

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison ("a sea of troubles" or "all the world's a stage" or this one from my son..."that dirt bike's the bomb"). Just for fun, check out In Praise of the Bad Metaphor.

Analogy

Similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar. Some analogies are similes, and some are metaphors. Need examples? Click here or here.

Will I finally remember these definitions? I'm as hopeful as a football player on game night!

Make me green with envy--do you always remember what's what? And what's your favorite analogy? Mine's from Water for Elephants (...smashed his head like a watermelon). What an image, huh?


37 comments:

  1. Hah! That's a good one, Julie. I don't remember the definitions of ANY terms I learned in English class. But I do know how to use them. And that's what's important, right?
    Your post reminds me of when I wrote for a particular educational publisher whose guidelines said to try to use metaphors, similes, and analogies in the passages. My first thought: "You kidding me?" Did I look them up to see what they were? No. I just wrote my passages and hoped they were in there somewhere.
    And I think that's pretty much what we do as writers: do our best to tell a good story and hope all the literary techniques are embedded in there somewhere.
    Thanks for posting and have a great weekend.

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    1. Linda, that's perfect! Maybe it's even better that way, so we don't obsess over that sort of thing.

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    2. Oh, and I'm trying this "reply" feature instead of direct emails. Not sure which one I'll like better :D

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  2. I kept them confused through school and beyoned. Then the only reason I learned and remembered the difference between a simile and a metaphor is because it became a part of my curriculum and I had to teach it to children. I guess it's true. You learn something if you have to teach it to someone else.

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    1. LOL! Maybe that's why my son remembers...he has to keep teaching ME. Thanks, Catherine!

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  4. I have a hard time remembering too! But boy do I have fun writing them :)

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  5. And here I thought this memory-lapse thing was just one of my own personal peculiarities. :)

    Nice review. Thank you ...marsha

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  6. I remember similes because they're 'similar' to, (like). I remember metaphors because they're the other one. Analogies? Meh :-)

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    1. Brilliant! How is it that I've never heard that tip? Unless I heard it and I forgot :/

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  7. Ok, so I'm learning that my "reply" to a comment doesn't directly go to the commenter. *boooo*

    So for now, I think I'll continue with my direct comments through email. Thanks guys for stopping by!

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  8. Thanks, Julie. I'm like you, hoping I'm using them right because I forget too. I hope there won't be a quiz. I'm out of memory pills;)

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  9. I've always used the similies/similar/like hint to remember these too.

    I've got a few places in my ms where I've written (find a similie that's not a cliche!) - these are not my strength!!! :)

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  10. I used to way overuse similes and metaphors. I was told to tone it down. It contributed to the purple prose habit of my early years. :) I love that little diagram. Hilarious!

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  11. I love refreshers. Thanks, Julie! :D

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  12. I really learned about metaphors by reading Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. He is the master.

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  13. And you will be coming to teach all this to my class before standardized testing.

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  14. Like Sarah, I remember the difference because similes are similar while metaphor says something is something else.

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  15. I keep pouring over old English textbooks to beat these into my head. I do understand them, the memory just so thin--

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  16. Super post. I'm iffy on analogy but just recently got metaphor compared to simile and have a fun idea for a regular blog post with lots of metaphor in.

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  17. I'm still fixated on you punching people when you have an idea. I have to remember to bring arm pads next time... ;D Great post. Good clarification.

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  18. I love similes and strive to use them as much as possible. I used the melon one in my own book way before I ever WFE. I love similes so much that whenever I come across a good one, I jot it down in my iPhone in a note I call "...isms". One of the greatest writers of similes is author Greg Iles. Here is one of my favorites from The Devil's Punchbowl: "He seizes my other hand, like a pastor imploring me to accept Jesus Christ as my savior." Perfection!

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  19. Hi, Julie. Pardon me a moment while I make a brief note to myself. *speaks while writing* When you meet Julie M., hug her once but quickly move away. She's a hitter.
    ;)
    You know, I can write a little bit, but I think I would be a terrible English teacher. I know the rules, but have a heck of time remembering how they are defined, etc.
    I hope life is treating you well, my friend. *waves*

    -Jimmy

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  20. You made this lesson so simple. I needed you when I taught English to high schoolers! I followed over from Alex's blog. I did his CASSFIRE TOUR post today. It has the merit of laughter (I hope!) Roland

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  21. Great reminder! And the best part of all? Maybe this will help people remember to use them in their writing, just to add a little more flair. I always love to read a good simile OR metaphor.

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  22. A great reminder. I admit...I look up the definitions from time to time. I often check certain grammar sites, too.

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  23. okay, I have to admit when I teach poetry to my kids I have to look up those very same concepts because I can never remember...I try to use them in my writing and do better at times than others...

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  24. I love using similes and metaphors, but I try to use them sparingly. Analogies, though, are a bit tricky. Thanks for the refresher! Helping my kids with their homework is as beneficial for me as it is for them--I get to re-learn everything I'd forgotten. :-)

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  25. Thanks for the reminder!
    I have no trouble with metaphors, but similes vs. analogies? It's also difficult for me!

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  26. Just cause I write them doesn't mean I have to know what they are, right? Okay, maybe I'll remember them now. My head hurts now. :)

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  27. I have a HORRIBLE time with this kind of stuff. I can write it, and know when to use it, but I can't categorize it or classify it to save my life. Great post!

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  28. I love similes, metaphors, and analogies, but I always hesitate before defining each of them.
    P.S. I love that you punch people in their arms when you have an idea. That's endearing somehow. : )

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  29. I always remember similes, so that makes it easier to figure out the other 2. Really, you just have to know how and when to use them in your writing.

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  30. Wonderful post! This will certainly help when I try to "prettify" my manuscript rewrite.

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  31. I always get them mixed up too, but that doesn't mean I don't know how to use them. ;)

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