Friday, October 01, 2010


This collage page from one of my journals uses art as a personal metaphor, one I put together for the beauty I find in writing. My computer is nowhere near as gorgeous as a peacock feather, but the feather represents both how I see and what I try to do with my writing instruments. Behind the feather is a torn fragment of a watercolor I painted that I wasn't happy with, to symbolize my vision of the story (and my eternal conflict trying to realize it.) The rough dark page is the world beyond my story; the audience I can't see, the void I want to fill.

Would you have known that if I hadn't explained it? Probably not. Does not knowing what the page means to me personally diminish your enjoyment of it? It could, but it doesn't have to. I think it depends on how you relate to symbolism and how often you engage your sense of wonder and curiosity.

It would be great to publish books as colorful and creative as my personal journals, but because everything I write as a novelist is published in black and white, words are my only medium. Metaphors are both paint and brush, mortar and brick, courier and message. Very often we respond on many levels to a story, and not all of them register right away, if at all. In an open mind, metaphors can gain access to many different levels.

Sometimes metaphors are intensely personal, and without shared experiences, can be inexplicable. For example, while trimming trees last weekend we accidentally made this preying mantis temporarily homeless. We moved the mantis out of harm's way to a smaller tree, and now every time I mention a mantis to my guy, he'll remember everything that happened when we saved this one. If I use the mantis as a metaphor while talking to my mom, she'll just think I'm talking about a bug.

Metaphors invoking very common shared experiences can be recycled so much that they morph into a cliche, and it's easy as pie, and like taking candy from a baby to overuse them. Creating your own personal metaphors means really thinking about how your story symbols relate to the experiences of others, and what sort of response they will invoke in readers who have a good working sense of wonder. Employ your senses (colors, sounds and tactile sensations are good metaphor building materials, as we all share the world on the same basic sensory level.)

See? Piece of cake.

Related Link: Literary has a good post here defining different types of metaphors and gives some examples, if you're interested in reading up on them.


  1. I just decorated a notebook for a new story so am happy to see that you do this too. The peacock feather cheered me up this morning, so thanks.

  2. Good advice - it's so easy as a writer to fall into the trap of relying on cliches rather than a well worked metaphor that captures a unique perspective.

    On a related note - this August my husband found a praying mantis in the middle of our driveway. My son caught her and kept her for a week in an insect keeper, feeding her live crickets and taking her into school to share with his classmates. She was absolutely fascinating. We returned her to a tree and watched her climb upward until she blended into the leaves.

  3. Debra Young12:21 PM

    Thanks for this wonderful, thought-provoking post. I'm in the midst of developing a new story idea into a novel. This post has just added another dimension to my theme. d:)

  4. This was a very well-written post on a great topic that not many writing-bloggers have touched base on. Your journal is simply beautiful, you are indeed very creative. :)

    I love metaphors because they can stand for different things. A simple concept can stand for a whole other more complex idea. And with writing, the possibilities are always endless!


  5. The presentation of your peacock cover made me question what you would do with a peahen feather. In my interpretation, the peacock feather is prominently featured in a heavenly background with an earthy border that, in my mind, places the male bird in a position of superiority in comparison with the earthy things of life.

    If you had the peahen feather, how would you present it?

    This isn't a question that you need to answer on the blog, but rather a question that all of us as fans, writers, aspirers, and co-existents should answer if we are open people examining the opposite side of the coin.

  6. Anonymous11:52 AM


    Reading your blog makes my brain happy.

    Your way of presenting beauty in nature and texture and fabric is a gift not everyone has.

    I hope someday you'll be able to publish a tactile, texture rich journal which reflects the personal journals you create for yourself.

    They are truly art.

    Your blog is the pause that refreshes.