Metaphors, Part 2, Types of Metaphors

A freshly phrased metaphor used in the correct spot in our narrative can not only touch our readers’ emotions and add depth to our story, it can also paint a more vivid description. In this post, I’ll touch on three types of metaphors, though many more types are out there in the literary world.

The Absolute Metaphor.

Definition: The tenor (subject of the metaphor) has no connection  with the subject’s vehicle (image used in the metaphor).

Example: John is a ticking time bomb.

There is no connection between John and a time bomb. He won’t literally explode. John’s metaphorical explosion, however, might be building to a fit of rage. So there is the connection–an explosion of rage and a bomb’s explosion.

The Mixed Metaphor

Avoid using this one.

Definition: A mixed metaphor combines two or more metaphors that have no logical connection to each other.

Example: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch and swim away.

Chickens hatch, but they don’t swim. Thus, I mixed two images, chickens and fish. We see no logical connection between them.

Robert Frost, circa 1910

The Extended Metaphor

Definition: These metaphors extend for longer periods in a sentence, paragraph, or page by using two or more parallels between two unlike things. They’re often found in poetry.

Example: Robert Frost’s poem, “The Runaway.”

Frost uses a horse experiencing his first snow and the fear that he experiences to  represent a fearful child who has run away from home with no one to  comfort him.

To read this poem and hear it read, visit this link: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-runaway-11/

I hope this little series on metaphors has been helpful. Thanks for visiting!

Metaphors, Part One, Anatomy of a Metaphor

Figures of speech add spice to our writing. And they’re fun to write. What is a figure of speech? It’s wording something in such a way that it shouldn’t be taken literally. For example:

John is a ticking time bomb.

John isn’t literally a ticking time bomb, but metaphorically he is if he’s about to “explode with rage.”  

Metaphors are the strongest of all figures of speech, and they come in many types. If they’re written well, they’ll draw us deeper into our story because they’ll touch our emotions.



What is a metaphor? A metaphor compares two different things, saying one thing (or person or place) is something else.

Using our above example, let’s analyze a metaphor. It consists of two parts, the tenor and the vehicle. These terms were coined by famous English poet and rhetorician, I.A. Richards (1893-1979), in his work The Philosophy of Rhetoric.

John is a ticking time bomb.

Here, John is the tenor: the subject of the metaphor. And he’s compared to the vehicle, time bomb: the metaphor’s image.

We’ll delve deeper into metaphors next week.