Here’s a prompt I got from Discovering the Writer Within: 40 Days to More Imaginative Writing by Bruce Ballenger and Barry Lane. It won’t generate a poem or a whole piece like my synesthesia exercise, but it will produce a clever line or two for an essay. I don’t make a big distinction between similes and metaphors in this exercise, though I think they have different emotional impacts. (Metaphors, without the inter-mediation of the word “like” are more immediate, atmospheric and magical, hence better for stories of that nature. Similes are better for essays, but work fine in stories, too.)
Step 1: Put a line down the center of your page and fold in half.Then write down a random list of abstract concepts. Then flip the page over and write down an equally random list of concrete things that you can see, taste, touch, hear or feel (try not write things that relate easily to the first list). Like so:
Bitter cucumber tip
Step 2: Next, fill in the blanks of this sentence below using one word from the abstract side and one word from the concrete side.
____(abstract noun)_________ is (like)____(concrete noun)__________.
When you do this, don’t pick things that match — pick something that seems oddly mismatched or is truly random. This is important, because metaphors have more power when they take big leaps. If the leap is too small, there’s no snap. If the leap is too big, it’s called a conceit (which is a no-no for some — but I’m not a big nay-sayer).
Step 3: Now write a sentence that helps to explain.
- Love is like cayenne pepper. A little bit goes a long way.
Here’s one a student wrote years ago:
- Love is like going to the moon. It takes a long time to get there, but when you do, the earth looks very different.
Give it a try and have fun. Please feel free to reply with surprising outcomes.