I’ll be posting a new lesson every day (Monday-Friday), to help people who are stuck at home because of the coronavirus situation. These mini-lessons will give you a useful daily routine, and might just keep you sane! Stay safe.
Look at the two passages below and decide which one is good and which one is bad.
a) Her umbrella was batlike. She looked up at the sky. What a bright and beautiful day!
b) Her umbrella was batlike, flapping and buffeted in the wind. Lightning flashed, silhouetting the looming mansion high above her on the cliff.
Answer: of course, b) is the good one and a) is the bad one. But why?
The simile of ‘batlike’ contributes to the dark and spooky scene in (b): it is ‘sympathetic’ to its context, if you like. By contrast, the use of ‘batlike’ in (a) actually works against or contradicts its context. Bats don’t go out in the daytime, especially when it’s a ‘bright’ day!
Therefore, a good metaphor is one that is sympathetic to its context or ‘extended’. If you can successfully extend your metaphor, then you are beginning to write a ‘dual narrative’ – two stories being told at the same time, creating the sort of symbolic or supernatural effect that can make you a successful writer of the gothic, horror, fantasy or magical realism (or your money back)!
Two stories at the same time? How come? In passage (b) above, we have the simple narrative of a girl in bad weather, and then we have the more supernatural narrative of a girl being harassed by a bat, a malign storm and the suggestion of a ‘looming’ evil.
Look at the passage below. It actually uses metaphor and connotation to create a ‘triple narrative’. But what are the three stories being told at the same time?
The wind came up behind him and placed an invisible hand upon his shoulder. He shuddered and thought of his recently deceased father. There was a rushing sound and he imagined he heard words whispered at his ear.
If you’re not sure of the answer(s) or would like to check your answer(s), please do feel free to email me (Adam): adz_d2003 @ yahoo.co.uk – deleting the two spaces either side of the @ sign.
If you enjoyed this mini-lesson, do share it with others.