It’s Writing Wednesday.
Members of my online critique group know I am not a fan of metaphors. I will ‘call them out’ on a poorly written metaphor. One writer in particular had the habit of using them instead of description. Once he figured out they are not a substitute for narrative, his writing improved tenfold.
I rarely use metaphors. It is very difficult (in my opinion) to write a serious metaphor. So, it must be even more difficult to teach how to use them.
God Bless, Teachers! I marvel at the job teachers do like an OCD clean-freak marvels at what a three tier bin at The Container Store can do. (Disclaimer: Used only as a demonstration to explain metaphors. No nouns, verbs or adjectives were harmed in its making.)
I found a website featuring the best and worst of analogies and metaphors by high school students. These are real, folks. I am going to try and put together the scenario to figure out how these little beauties came to be. Just for fun, I will decide whether I would’ve let it slide in my classroom—if I had one.
- Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.
This cracks me up. I imagine Gene the pocket-protector-wearing math genius writing the first half of the sentence: “Her eyes were like two…” Using his dominant left-sided brain, Gene works through the puzzle as he would a polynomial. He quickly writes the second half of the equation “…brown circles with big black dots in the center.” The words “were like” is an equal sign and both sides of the sentence need to balance, right? Of course! Eyes = Circles and dots! No argument there. No credit, either.
2. He was as tall as a 6-foot tree.
This one made me chuckle. In my mind, this student is a big, jolly jock named Dirk. Our hulking letterman believes numbers tell you what you need to know about a person. Batting averages, yards gained, touchdowns scored. Dirk’s looking at his screen thinking of writing a metaphor about a tall man, but he’s puzzled about how to describe such a person. Ah ha! I got it. Give the readers something they can use—a stat. Dirk smiles and types in the rest of the sentence. Who can argue with logic like that? I can’t. Alas…still no credit.
3. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
Here you have your typical teenage boy named Harry Hormone. This distractible fellow is forced to write a short story for his English class. Harry’s mind is not on the story. He writes, “John and Mary had never met…” He pauses. Flashes of a cheerleader in her short skirt fill his mind. Pom-poms flying, she does a flip and then the splits. Holy cow! That was exciting. Young Mr. Hormone looks at the screen. Ugh. He’s got to finish the assignment if he ever wants to get back to the magazine hidden behind his math book. Harry remembers his English teacher told him to expand on his thoughts to bring his writing to the next level. “Ah! Expand! What are two things that haven’t met?” He glances around the room and sees a hummingbird on a motivational poster above the teacher’s desk. “Got it!” He smiles–not because of what he’s written, but because some cheerleader just dropped her pencil and has bent over to pick it up. No credit.
4. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
At first glance, this appears to be lazy writing. I picture a Goth girl named Tiffany (she goes by Tiff) with black hair and lipstick to match. Tiff is slumped in her chair as she begins to write a murder mystery about the cheerleader who just dropped her pencil in front of the class. Goth girl rolls her eyes and tries her hand at ‘irony’. Yeah, I’m giving her partial credit.
5. The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.
Ha! Howard High-Strung wants to please the teacher. He wants to be perfect, but he’s just not creative. Howie is staring at the screen, trying to come up with something…anything. “I’ve got it. Plus, I get to use ‘inanimate’ in a sentence. Yes, she’s going to love this.” Well, the kid’s going to need therapy, but sorry, no credit.
6. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.
This struck me as hilarious. It’s the type of metaphor I would’ve used in high school; therefore we’ll call her Susie Smart-ass. It’s not a good metaphor. In the fact, it’s jarring. However, it does its job. After all, you can picture those picket fences, can’t you? Partial credit…Naw… I’m going to give Susie full credit. I like the way this kid’s mind works.
7. She was as easy as the TV Guide crossword puzzle.
Brilliant! This would get a gold star from me. Does it leave any doubt in your mind how easy this girl is? I love it! This was from Freddy Flamboyant. He’s over-the-top flashy in everything he does. Teacher wants metaphors? Not a problem. Freddy’s got a million zingers that he uses on his friends all the time. Full Credit and gold star.
8. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
Oliver Obvious had a word count and an assignment to use metaphors in his essay. No credit, Ollie.
9. Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like “Second Tall Man.”
This is another gold star winner. I think it’s wonderful. I wish I would’ve thought of it. You get the point and you don’t have to wrack your brain to figure out just how that date went, do you? This kid, we’ll call her Patty Pulitzer is a writer-in-the-making. She’s got a box full of poetry and several screenplays she intends to finish someday hidden under her bed. Credit. Gold Star.
So without further ado, I leave you. I enjoyed these as much as seeing a humming bird that I haven’t met, fly out of a six-foot tree and crash into Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth making her look like hungry fighter.
If you want to read some more of these priceless beauties, here’s the link: