Writing Great Metaphoricals

This website is a gold mine. You will find a huge amount of information about metaphoricals, selected and designed to help you write better. You basically cannot find this information any where else. Utimately, I hope it changes the way you write and think about communication.

1. Work it

Raymond Chandler is famous for his vivid, creative metaphoricals.

The handrail was as cold and wet as a toad's belly.

I lit a cigarette. It tasted like a plumber's handkerchief. (Farewell, My Lovely; page 106 trade)

They're goofy, but also vivid and fun. Anyway, I was surprised by Chandler's talent for writing other metaphoricals – the ones you don't notice. He's on a boat leaving shore and moving away from town:

Scattered points of light drew together and became a jeweled bracelet laid out in the show window of the night. (page 242).

That's a really pretty metaphor.

I felt nasty, as if I had picked a poor man's pocket. (page 136)

That's good metaphorical, helping the reader feel what the character is feeling. Chandler also had good variety in format, which should be common but isn't. (Which is to say, you probably don't have good variety.)

Why? I think Chandler was constantly looking for metaphoricals and thinking about their presentation. By working at them, he became good at them.

That's my experience too. And it can be your experience too. My first piece of advice is simple yet the most important:

Work at writing metaphoricals.

I will give you tools to help you work on metaphoricals. So keep reading.


By the way, I define "metaphorical" as describing one thing using a second thing. Similes and metaphors are the most obvious examples. (Definitions on this topic are a swamp, including that they are poorly suited for giving writing advice, so you will have to tolerate mine.)

Steps to Creating a Good Metaphorical

  1. Realizing a metaphorical is wanted/needed/useful
  2. Thinking of that metaphorical
  3. Checking that metaphorical
  4. Finding the best format
It's easy to focus on only that second step, which I have a few suggestions for. But ignoring the first step is literally a nonstarter, and the last two steps are the difference between good and bad metaphoricals.