What is a metaphor and why is it used in communication? A metaphor is essentially a figure of speech which, for dramatic effect, refers to one concept by talking about the other. It can give clarity to an idea or unearth hidden similarities between two opposing concepts. Sometimes metaphors are used to bring important messages to light in a highly-charged atmosphere, as in the case of political debates or war battles. Other times they are used for entertainment, as in a comedy skit.
Metaphor is often used in business communications as well. A good example would be saying something like: My friend’s car is so ugly; she doesn’t even want to get out of her car. A business-owner could explain to their potential customer how the phrase ‘My friend’s car’ can communicate feelings of humiliation and disgust. A writer could create a story using the image of a woman stuck inside a bubble, waiting to burst – literally. The use of metaphors in communication is a powerful tool to communicate a message effectively. However, when it comes to creative writing, the best metaphor might be: two things connected to us by a chain, always interrelated and yet so distant that we cannot see them together.
In creative writing, the act of discovering metaphors helps to build the strength of the characters and plot of the story. When you use metaphors in your writing, you should not jump to the conclusion that the metaphor must be real. Think back to the metaphor in your mind and try to work out what the author was getting at. You should be able to work out how the metaphoric situation applies to real life situations. Many of the greatest writers started with a single basic idea but took that one step further by developing the story around it. It is no accident that many of the greatest works of literature are about the interrelations of people.
The importance of learning what is a metaphor and where to find great artistic inspiration does not stop with finding great literary inspiration. Metaphor has a role to play in literature in the way that it is used to enhance the plot and character development. When a character meets a new physical challenge or encounters great emotional emotion the writer can draw on what is a metaphor for that character. If the new character meets a new challenge which is similar to an experience the writer can draw upon what is a metaphor for that experience.
In addition to what is a metaphor most authors tend to fall back on what is a figure of speech. This can be a problematic mistake because it can lead to confusion and even embarrassment. One of the main reasons why we feel uncomfortable is because we make the mistake of thinking that what is a metaphor and what is a figurative speech act alike. The reality is that the figurative words have been around for a long time while the metaphor was developed over time. Figurative speech is fine as long as the speaker does not overdo it and do not use it in a way that is confusing or obvious.
The same thing can be said for what is a metaphor and what is a figure of speech. While one of them may be more appropriate for certain situations, the truth is they are not limited to any particular situation. A teacher using a chalkboard as a classroom teacher does not necessarily need to use the chalkboard image of a whale to explain what is going on; he can use any image that gives him the opportunity to explain the lesson in terms of analogies, similes, and other types of visual illustrations. Likewise a storyteller using a story board to tell a story does not need to use the whale image to explain what is happening; he can use any image that will give him the opportunity to make the story vivid enough to keep the audience interested in what is taking place.
The reason that we use metaphors in education is to help people understand concepts and ideas in a new light. What is a metaphor for me may not be an image that I can easily relate to or even interpret. However, if I am taught a concept, idea, or lesson through images then it becomes easier to understand because I can link the dots between one thing and another. Thus, when I hear or see a figure of a horse or car and I associate it with the concept that I already know, then I can better understand what is taking place. A teacher can also make a lesson more memorable by creating a metaphor in advance. Instead of just telling the class what is happening and then adding the word “metaphor” to the end like we often do, the teacher can describe the metaphorical meaning of what is taking place first by showing how the action relates to what is seen or heard.
Metaphor meaning can be applied both to everyday life and to literature as well. Many writers, most notably J.K. Rowling, have used similes to convey emotions and to give importance to certain plot developments. In her Harry Potter series, Professor Snape uses a simile when talking about how Lord Voldemort murdered Albus Dumbledore. The character of Quidditch is named after a game in which wizards fly across the field in a Quidditch match using a golden ball. The most famous example of a literary metaphor is probably The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald. There are many other literary works that use literary devices or similes.