I need to write 3 similes or metaphors to describe something from memory – e.g. a person, an object, a feeling.
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Figurative language is an essential part of both poetry and daily experience. So much of what we describe is done through comparisons because they are used as frames of references. When trying to derive three similes or metaphors to describe something, I think the best way to proceed is to draw from your own experience in relating to what images pop into your mind when certain descriptors are asked. For example, being a baseball fan, I would say that beauty is, for me, Yankee Stadium. Being someone who travels, I would say discomfort is a 19 hour flight to Austraila. Being someone who loves Italian food, I would say that taste and cuisine is represented by fine pasta. These from my own experiences, and they provide personalized frames of references that can allow me to be able to compare anything to them, using them as similes and metaphors. For example, sitting at the dentist's office is like being trapped on a 19 hour flight to Australia (simile.) I think that while dinner was good, it was not like eating fresh pasta in Little Italy (simile). If I think my girlfriend is beautiful in her stature, I might feel that her beauty is reminiscent of Yankee Stadium (metaphor, and if I actually said that, she would kill me.) In any event, metaphors and similes can be created when you are able to identify things that hold meaning for you and relate them to other experiences as a method of both comparison and to highlight the events to your own personal sense of narrative.
Take suggestions from the great poets themselves. For instance, you have probably read some of Langton Hughes's poems. (Remember that with metaphors one of the elements being compared may not even be expressed.) In "Dream Deferred" the title itself is a metaphor for aspirations that a person has.
In William Carlos Williams's poem "The Widow's Lament in Springtime," both parts of the metaphor are expressed in the first line: "Sorrow is my own yard." As the poem continues, some of the parts of the metaphors [unstated comparisons] are not stated, such as in thiese lines:
Sorrow is my own yard/ where the new grass/flames as it has flamed/often before but not/with the cold fire/that closes round me this year.
For one more example, here is a short poem by Seamus Heaney that contains metaphor also:
His hands were warma and small and knowledgeble./When I saw them again last night, they were two ferrets/Playing all by themselves in a monlit field.
As you can see, the comparisons made are unique and intriguing. Try to think of an unusual comparison that, at the same time, points to an odd similarity. See the enotes sites on literary terms, and be creative.
- I am a rock
- I am like a swaying tree
- I am like a car going up a big hill
Think about your childhood and the things you did as a child. Then try to find something to compare your feelings or impressions or images to. For instance, when I was a little girl, I loved to ride my bicycle. I can remember a day when I had a terrible accident and skinned both my elbows and my knees. I might use this simile to describe how I felt:
My elbows hit the pavement and shredded like cheese in a grater.
Or think about someone you loved or who had a big influence on you as a child. For instance, my grandfather was a gruff old man whom everyone feared. I might use a simile to describe him:
He was as mean as a snake.
Or my father's face before he shaved:
His chin was as prickly as a cactus.
I hope these help.
Figurative language is actually fun to use once you start thinking in those terms. If you're working hard and getting a lot accomplished, you can say you're a machine. If you're tired at the end of a long day, you can say you feel like a wet noodle by the end of the day. Metaphors are generally stronger than similes, but both are easy to use. Good luck!
Try to keep in mind that they metaphors and similes you write should be original and not cliche. Too many times, students try using tired old examples of figurative language. For example I could say: My bulldog Stella makes me happier than a kid in a candy store. Old and overused--right? It's more powerful for me to say:My bulldog Stella is an emotional ATM. I can always go to her for a smile. Maybe not great, but it is original.
The first thing to do is select the person, feeling or object you'd like to focus on.
For instance, if you would like to write about a pet or a friend from kindergarten, you can probably easily think of a simile to use once you have the pet or friend in mind.
"I had a friend who was as fiesty as a riled up puppy."
"My first pet was a bird with a beak as sharp as a knife."
"My tenth birthday party was as loud as New Year's Eve in Times Square."
Look for something you might want to remember is the first step. If you want to remember where you put your car keys, you could say that the table is as green as grass, if you have put them on a green table. Then you might remember the simile, and therefore remember where you put them!
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