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.