Metaphor:

(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“The metaphor is the miracle of higher civilization.” John Fowles”

If you look long enough you can usually find a proper name or a metaphor that will bring those dull but necessary facts to life.” William Zinsser

“Any metaphor, as beguiling as it may be, is a possible experience, and the difficulty lies not in its invention (a simple thing, attained by the mere shuffling of fancy words) but in achieving it in a way that astonishes the reader.” Jorge Luis Borges

“Bright winds lift each metaphor; clouds lift from a forest of writing brushes.” Lu Chi’s Wen Fu

“Every metaphor conjures an inexpressible but felt background, ties the imagined to the fully experienced.” John Gardner

“Metaphor—expressing one thing in terms of something else. Usually, the ‘one thing’ is a complex idea, and abstraction, and the ‘something else’ is a concrete expression of the abstraction in analogous terms.” Philip Gerard

“We came upon the metaphor, that resonant conduit . . .” Jorge Luis Borges

“We came upon the metaphor, the invocation by which we disordered the rigid universe.” Jorge Luis Borges

“Metaphor, linking distant things . . .” Jorge Luis Borges

“Today metaphor is facile in any style, and its glitter—star of interior epiphanies, our gaze—multiplies in mirrors.” Jorge Luis Borges

“When you use a metaphor, do not mix it up. That is, don’t start by calling something a swordfish and end by calling it an hourglass.” E.B. White

“The writer sensitive to language finds his own metaphors, not simply because he has been taught to avoid clichés but because he enjoys finding an exact and vivid metaphor, one never before thought of, so far as he knows.” John Gardner

“The understanding that comes through the discovery of right metaphors can lead the writer to much deeper discoveries, discoveries of the kind made by interpreters of dreams—discoveries, that is, of how one dark metaphor relates to another, giving clues to the landscape of the writer’s unconscious and, through these clues, hypotheses on the structure of reality.” John Gardner

“Avoid two metaphors to describe the same thing. Sometimes, two clever images might occur to you to describe an object. You have to be ruthless and select the one you think is better. A repetition is always a weakening; it has the effect of projecting the author’s doubt, his uncertainty that the first description is good enough.” Ayn Rand

“A metaphor is a comparison embedded in a word or phrase without the addition of like or as.” Jacques Barzun

“The greater part of the vocabulary of any complex language is a mass of forgotten metaphors. For language grows in response to needs, and the readiest way to name new conceptions is to adapt concrete words to abstract purposes. To do this is to speak by metaphor—as when Socrates is called the gadfly of Athens.” Jacques Barzun

“The interplay between live and dead metaphors, and live and live, and live and rescuscitated, constitutes the subject of most discussions of metaphorical writing.” Jacques Barzun

“The injunction ordinarily is: do not join to live metaphors that raise conflicting images.” Jacques Barzun

“For the fully conscious writer, it may be useful to distinguish among three kinds of metaphor: (a) the ready-made single-word expression that spreads suddenly in some professional group or other—the jargon of people who do paper work; (b) those produce ad hoc for headlines, captions, and the like, and usually not repeated elsewhere; and (c) the latent metaphors in good ordinary words, which misuse galvanizes into fresh life.” Jacques Barzun

“The visual power of metaphor, it should be noticed, is as available to novelists as to poets. Often an important gesture or complex of gestures (the man who walks through a hostile crowd like a tired plowhorse, the man who jerks up and looks at his alarm clock like a startled chicken) cannot be captures so efficiently by any other means.” John Gardner

“Rhodes, like many good writers, depends at least as heavily on metaphor as on the naming of significant details. The main point to be noticed here, however, is that nothing in Rhode’s vision is secondhand: what he offers he has taken from life experience, not from Faulkner or, say, Kojak.” John Gardner

“The most important thing is to be good at using metaphor. This is the one thing that cannot be learnt from someone else, and is a sign of natural talent; for the most successful use of metaphor is a matter of perceiving similarities.” Aristotle

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