Marianne Musgrove is an award winning author of such titles as The Worry Tree and Don’t Breathe a Word. She is also a descendant of King Henry VIII’s librarian so books are in her blood!
She is touring the blogosphere to celebrate the release of her latest book, The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge – a funny, moving tale of two teenagers who dabble in the art of revenge only to discover it may not be as sweet as they first imagined.
Making the Most of Metaphors – by Marianne Musgrove
Before I had a book contract, I had a dream one night that I was sitting in a publisher’s office. The publisher leaned forward and said, ‘So, Marianne, how much do you want this?’. My response was to remove my right arm and place it on the desk between us. Apparently, I was willing to give my right arm to be an author!
This dream goes to show how deep metaphors run in the psyche of we humans. They help us understand ourselves and others, and for this reason, metaphors are one of the most useful implements in a writer’s toolbox. Used well, they deepen the meaning of a simple story, exploring ideas, characters’ motives and feelings. Over-used, they render a story forced and awkward. Under-used, the story remains one-dimensional.
Tip 1: Consider the age of your audience
Children don’t develop the ability to understand concepts until around the age of twelve. For this reason, relying on metaphors to convey the meaning of your story will go over the heads of younger readers. While it’s great to use metaphors, make sure the plot stands on its own merit.
Tip 2: First person versus third person
If you’re writing your story in first person, the age of the character will determine the degree of sophistication of their metaphors. If your character is young and you’re keen to use complex images, consider writing in the third person. That said …
Tip 3: The exception to the rule
In my new book, The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge, I’ve used the metaphor of ANZAC Day to explore the themes of conflict, forgiveness, and letting go of the past. The story switches between the first person perspectives of two thirteen year olds, Romola and Sebastian. Even though these characters are unaware of the significance of the ANZAC Day metaphor, the reader is able to draw similarities between the ANZACs and the conflict in the private lives of the characters.
Tip 4: Less is more
I suffer from excessive metaphoritis. Once it comes time to edit, I comb through my manuscript and note how many metaphors I’ve use in any given scene, usually cutting back the number. Try not to have more than one per paragraph. Metaphors should support and enrich the story, not the other way round.
Tip 5: Keeping track
After the first draft, I get out my coloured post-it notes and assign a different colour for each major metaphor. I stick the relevant post-it on the corresponding plot card wherever I’ve mentioned said metaphor. The post-its give me a sense of how spaced out the references are. If there’re all grouped together at the beginning, I revisit the manuscript and amend accordingly.
Images bring a story to life. Use them wisely and well!
— Marianne Musgrove