Literally Illustrating Metaphors
This is the second installment of The Curious Creative, weekly short creative writing exercises for the busy person interested in exploring her creativity. For a complete description of the rationale, click here.
Last week, you played with producing a metaphor from amoving image. This week, you’ll do the opposite. You’ll be given a metaphor and move backwards to create the image. Find your art pencils and get ready to draw! Note: stick figures and cave art are totally acceptable! This is not about how great an artist you are. Remember, these exercises are for the busy Curious Creative, and should take no more than 10 minutes of your time. Of course, you can increase that time if you feel more playful.
My dear friend and former colleague, Stacy Chestnut, once shared with me a teaching idea called, “The Interpretive Card.” In this activity, students flip an index card over and over as they complete an analysis of a piece of figurative language. The physical exercise of repeatedly turning over the card aids the mental process of going back and forth between the right and left sides of the brain, resulting in a more complete understanding of the figurative language.
One thing I have taken away from this exercise is how useful it is for my students to actually draw what they see in their mind’s eye, whether for a metaphor or a new vocabulary word. Forcing them to picture an image often fills the gap where an otherwise superficial understanding would be.
For writers, visualizing while we create helps us form more accurate and thus evocative figurative and descriptive language.
For those of you who are teachers, or would like to do a fun language analysis exercise yourself, I will share “The Interpretive Card” directions at the end of this post.
Draw a literal picture of one of the following examples of figurative language (or choose a different metaphor you love). If it were possible, what would it actually look like? I have included two examples, one by a professional artist and one… by me.
|"if you are to|
you have to throw it about
like a herd of
- “An old man whose black face shines golden-brown as wet pebbles under a street light" -Levertov
- “dogwood...whose roots are my mother's hair.” -Charles Wright
- “dead leaves and dead grass like a starry sky from inside out.” - Charles Wright
To build community and support, please take a picture of your drawing and share it in the Comment box below.
- Read the excerpt. Find an example of figurative language.
figurative language: a form of language use in which writers mean something other than the literal meaning of their words (metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, imagery, symbolism, etc.)
Copy the example next to #1 and include the page number.
- Draw a picture that represents the denotation (literal meaning, dictionary definition) of the picture.
- In your own words, explain what type of figurative language is being used, and what it means. What is the author/speaker trying to express?
- Find another part in the same excerpt with the same tone, and copy the passage here. Include the page #.
- What is the effect of this language on the reader and/or the larger text? Why is the author using this language here?