Metaphors allow you to explain complex things in a simpler way. They are a powerful “visual” tool to tap into the subconscious mind. Many historic figures have crafted metaphors that are in our minds even to this day.

In this article you will learn the magic formula to craft spectacular metaphors.

Brainstorm Ideas

Creating metaphors requires knowledge so you can connect two different things.

You can find metaphors from places such as, pop culture, nature, animal world, sports… But the unending stream of metaphors is the human body. “Eyes are the window of the soul. On the tip of my tongue. She won my heart. Jumpstart your brain”

Metaphors can shape how we see something. Let’s take this metaphor as an example, “The Pope is the Father of the Church.”

The pope is the father. It means that if I’m catholic then I must be a child of the Pope. That means that I have certain attitudes toward parents and the church, which are probably correlated. I may rebel against both or I may be subservient to both.

What comes to mind when we hear…

  • Pope – Old man, speaks for God, tells people how to live
  • Father – Provider (or not) for the family; Someone to obey; Tells you what to do; Love you
  • Church – Building; A boring place; Confession; God’s house

Now, with the immediate links to these words you can make some assumptions.

You could guess that the Pope and Father have some similarities. Both tell you what to do. And depended on your previous experience with your father you will either behave or rebel (or some mixture of both). In other words, when creating a metaphor, you should consider the associations that person might have about the words and the cultural context.

This metaphor is trying to borrow the power of your actual feelings toward your father to create allegiance to the Church. In the past children would obey and blindly follow their fathers – consequently it was a good strategy to build blind obedience to the Church. However, today fathers do not have so much power and control over their children. And in many families, the father doesn’t play a role at all. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Church’s influence is decreasing.

Connectors

Connectors are words that connect your subject with your metaphor such as: like, as, sounds like, this reminds me of, that’s like… You might find metaphors without connectors. Here’s an example from a Netflix show called House of Cards:

“Such a waste of talent. He chose money over power – in this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who does not see the difference.”

Extend the metaphor

When you find a good metaphor, try to add details so you can make it more vivid.

“He’s like Scrooge”. “He’s so cheap even Scrooge wouldn’t stand him”

Here’s an example from “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.

Another great example is taken from the speech of Martin Luther King.

He starts out with the metaphor about cashing a check. Then, he advances onto the forefathers’ signage of a promissory note.

Next, he takes a strong stand against the nation’s failure to honor its promissory note. And closes out with some words about the bankruptcy of justice and insufficient funds.

In a sense, we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.

We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

Get Inspired

I’ll show you more ideas where to start when creating metaphors

X is the Y of Z

  • Tiger Woods is the Michael Jordan of golf
  • James Brown is the godfather of soul
  • Necessity is the mother of invention

Nature

  • Mountains: Facing tough challenges. Tough to go on top, easy to go down.
  • Waterfall: Incredible force. Powerless against.
  • Lakes: Calm. Fish. Boats.
  • Ocean: Deepest, most profound, largest wild life, difficult survival.
  • Sea Air: Salty
  • Paths: Someone has walked this way before.
  • Sun: Source of life. Warm. Optimism.
  • Forest: Unknown. Difficult to find way through. Quiet.

Urban/suburban

  • Lexus/Mercedes/BMW: Luxury cars, they make a statement that I have wealth…
  • Bus: Lower income transportation
  • Skyscraper: Symbolizes wealth, freedom, capitalism
  • Statue of Liberty: Freedom
  • Pentagon: Defense
  • Fire hydrant: Always there to put out the fires.
  • Police: Your conscience to keep you in line and protect you against evil.
  • Pyramid: Mystery on a grand scale.

Human body metaphor examples

  • Face the problem
  • Shoulder responsibility
  • Rule of thumb
  • Word of mouth
  • Iron fist
  • Keep an eye out
  • Lend me an ear
  • No stomach for it
  • Stick your neck out

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