12. Resonances: Friend or Foe?

1. She looked ill.
2. She looked like she had food poisoning.

#2 was more vivid; I craved using it. But the associations to "poison" were wrong for that story; it implied she was being metaphorically poisoned, which didn't fit the story at all. So I had to use #1.

1. My hand is the elephant in the room.
2. My hand is the Tyrannosaurus in the room.

I just needed something large to avoid the cliche, but the associations to Tyrannosaurus were wonderful. I used #2.

When you use metaphoricals for mood, you open a Pandorian box – your reader is invited to look for metaphorical meaning in everything you write. So you, as responsible author, cannot stop with just your intended meaning. Instead, you have to look for other possible meanings you might unintentionally be creating.

Consider resonances.

You are trying to have good resonances; you are trying to avoid bad resonances. This is part of checking your metaphor (Step #3). Once again, naive, careless confidence is not a formula for success.

I once read an ad for automotive brakes claiming their brakes "went the extra mile". Um, that's the wrong image for brakes – I don't want my brakes going even an extra foot. There had to have been a better choice for a metaphorical. And that unfortunate image is harmful even if it's just rumbling around in the reader's unconscious.

He reached out and took the tiny baby from Cathy ... His arm shook as he laid her against his chest. Her warmth seeped through his T-shirt. (The Next Girl, Kovach, page 95 paperback)

The two words warmth and seeped don't quite fit together – liquids seep; warmth travels, spreads, or flows. So this is a lexaphor, but . . . which word is the lexaphor?

I first read it as warmth being a lexaphor/euphemism, with seep literally applying to the liquid babies commonly make, often while being held. I had to read it three times to make sure that wasn't the meaning.