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Monday, November 16, 2015

Week 46: Return to Your Metaphors and Similes

This year's posts have been like a mouse nibbling at cheese. Each week, a different lesson on writing, until the whole book has nearly been consumed, one morsel at a time.

This week's lesson, Wilbers has us reconnecting with our metaphors and similes throughout our work, like the mouse returning to his feast. It's something "... every good essayist or storyteller knows" how to do.1

We are warned though that this technique works well when you have three criteria: "they're simple, apt, and novel."2 When they are forced, however, it can be a distraction. Cliche metaphors may even be glossed right over by your readers.

John Mather, senior astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center used this technique giving us insight into the evolution of the formation of galaxies:

"We thought galaxies formed just like they are. But now we think they grew, they assembled themselves from smaller pieces. It might have been like rain on the side of a hill. First you get little rivulets that flow together into a larger stream."3

Or Thoreau's famous passage from Walden:

"A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile trees next to the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows."4

Now that we've had a taste of this concept, try your hand at it:

1. The wind had been through/the valley/ leaving everything cold/ and gleaming/ like bells.

2. The sheer weight of one of these icy leviathans, some of which grew to a thickness of two miles, flattened the crust of the earth.5

1 Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 255.
2 Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 256.
3 Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing, pg 258.
4 Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing,  pg 258.
5 Wilbers, Stephen, Mastering the Craft of Writing,  pg 257.


  1. Great post. Love Thoreau's quote, I'll never look a lake the same way again!

  2. And great simile..."like a mouse nibbling at cheese." :)