By Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
Sample sentence: This seemed a long way from the moment in which Gregor clearly saw through me as a fish out of water, acting out an unnatural scene.
How many metaphors did you count? I got three:
- He saw through me (meaning, I was transparent to him).
- He saw me as a fish out of water (meaning, he saw that I was out of place).
- He saw me as an actor in an "unnatural" scene.
When this happens, the reader is at a loss to know which metaphor to go with. While in this case he may not literally envision each of these, the use of three metaphors blurs the emotional "image" of the relationship between these two characters.
What's a good metaphor? One that gives you more than one tangible image to hang your observations on. For example, let's say you go with the initial image of the window. You might say: "This was a long way from the moment in which Gregor clearly saw through me, stripping away any pretense of curtain or color."
In selecting a metaphor, think about what the images that go with it mean—how they look, sound, taste. Chose one that sends a single message to the reader's mind, such that each image you add enhances or focuses it. In the sentence above, Gregor sees through our hero as if he were a window without curtain (concealment) or color (disguise).
Check out Maya’s previous posts in this series, “On Being a Professional Amateur," and don’t forget to sign up for the RSS feed so that you won’t miss the next one!