Writing Extended Metaphors

“Metaphorical Monsters Devour Literal Language”

If students have difficulty understanding metaphorical language in reading, and in the use of figurative language in writing, the following discovery exercise eases students into writing extended metaphors with virtually guaranteed success. You will also recognize the potential for teaching vocabulary and grammar.

This sequential lesson allows students to create metaphors technically without having to analyze figurative language. Some students gain a better understanding of this language form, and every student is pleased with the immediate results of having "created a monster."

I learned this technique from a children's-literature instructor in the 1960s. I have her to thank for success in this lesson with children and adults in both first and second language.


1. Ask students to name Animals to create a list of 20 or so on the board.

2. Next, create a list of Inanimate Objects which have movement. (Think of weather phenomena, land features, and astral bodies.) Partial lists of Animals and Inanimate Objects might look like this:

Animals
Objects
horse
cloud
snake
flood
monkey
sand
fish
river
alligator
smoke
mosquito
moon
kangaroo
rain

3. Choose one Animal and one Object. This choice can be made randomly with no thought of similarities or differences. Write the two at the top of a planning page.

monkey
moon

4. List Colors that both the Animal and the Object can be:

golden
brown
silvery
orange
dark
pale

5. List Action Verbs that both Animals and Objects can do:

rise
fall (down)
slide
hide
sail
shrink
fly
grow

6. List Passive Verbs, things that can be done to both Animals and Objects:

be seen
be found
be caught
be remembered

7. Combine the two chosen Animal and Object words with a hyphen to create a "new being" or "monster." Try out different combinations and choose the one that sounds better. They are no longer separate; they make up one creature.

Monkey-Moon
Moon-Monkey

8. Write four or five sentences about the new creation. The colors and verbs from the lists are the vocabulary for the metaphor. Write the sentences as a paragraph, a story, or a poem. Examples:

“The golden-faced Monkey-Moon flies across the dark sky.”

“The silvery Monkey-Moon is caught in the tree and slides down the branches to hide in the night.”

9. When students understand the process, they choose two words from the lists and write their own metaphor.


Here are some of the results that came from my classes.

Lightning-Monkey

Lightning-Monkey moves like a flash
Leaping fast across the trees
Loud as thunder that strikes at night
Falling down like a bright sparkle
The Lightning-Monkey will go into a rage
And strike you down.

Comet-Panther

The black and yellow comet-panther appeared suddenly with his shiny orange glow in dark eyes. Soaring through the air, he is ready to destroy anything in his path. With his loud howl and mysterious ways you will surely be curious. Hanging over you with his fierce eyes, the comet-panther will make you wonder if he will creep up and kill you. Then he can disappear into the still, quiet, dark night.


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