Monday, March 28, 2011

Metaphor - A Writing Prompt

The power of metaphor cannot be overstated.  Metaphor is soulful work for the "truth" of the image you select represents something you experienced, not just as a writer, but as a human being. For that reason the image possesses a universal quality, like Emily Dickinson's bird in her famous poem, "Hope".

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Aristotle described metaphor as: "The act of giving a thing a name that belongs to something else." Using metaphor is the writing prompt for our April 16 read-around of the Women's Writing Circle. I would suggest you use metaphor to describe universal concepts: for example, love, desire, jealousy, hope, grief, depression, sickness, betrayal.

One of the great challenges as writers is offering the reader charged and transcendent images.  In my memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, I used forsythia as metaphor for the fleeting nature of love.  John had planted those bushes, yet how could they bloom so brightly when he was gone?  Like love, the forsythia flowers burst into a wall of sunshine, only to quickly wilt and fade. . . gone in a heartbeat. 

Memoirs focus on our most intimate and significant moments and experiences. They are neither random nor lacking in purpose. Memoirs are integral to our spiritual journey of self-understanding, healing and wisdom. We must be attentive to the images, which should carefully be chosen to reflect the larger theme of our story.

Metaphor is tough, but it is the resonating ingredient in our story's recipe.

As always, if you prefer to bring something else to the Circle, please do that.  It costs $5 to participate in the read-around. See you April 16 at Wellington Square.

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