Let’s Compare Apples and Oranges: Tuesday Tryouts

06 Nov

7:39 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to Ally Ally Oxen Free by the Kingston Trio… that takes some of you back, doesn’t it?

Hello, all. I hope our New Yorkers and New Jersey Shorers are hanging in. It was good to see you posting.

We are going to have a different focus for the next four, or five, weeks: narrative. So many of you participate in NaNoWriMo that I thought it might be interesting for you to have specific exercises to try as you go.

I do realise that this may result in a month of no poetry for us to read. Horrors! So, for those of you not participating, or those who want to keep the poetry going, you know you can find poetry anywhere. Take a part of any exercise I post and craft a poem. If the title of an exercise prompts a poem, go for it, because what do we say? So long as we are writing!

If you write a short fiction piece in response to any of the exercises, consider posting it, just as you do your poems. All writing welcome.

We will start easy, with metaphor. Writing narrative does not mean all literary techniques go out the window. Quite the opposite, and metaphor is one of your most valuable tools.

Comparison is as natural as breathing. You hear a train and it reminds you of the ocean. You caress bark and remember your grandfather’s knees. You look at tributaries and see your veins. One landscape melts into another. It’s as if each time you encounter something it is imprinted over all the impressions that came before it; each impression is transparent.
    The connection between two things can be obvious or subtle. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times the similarity is experiential or has to do with function. It is possible to find some similarity between [almost] any two things.‘ [Bonni Goldberg, Room to Write]


Draw comparisons between two things. Choose at least one from your surroundings. The other can be an object, a person, or an abstract concept like jealousy, love, fate. How many ways can you compare them? Go for at least twenty-five. Stretch yourself. If you have difficulty, try another pair. One of the things might come out of what you have written for NaNoWriMo, so far, or have in mind to write.

Create a metaphor . . .
simile: indirect comparison? metaphor: direct comparison?
NO! A metaphor provides the identification of two unlike things.
x=y. The two things are not being compared, one to the other; the two things are each other.

Category metaphor

Comparison allows us to distance ourselves from the subject and allows, therefore, more direct comment. Examine a group. It can be your peers, your family, characters from your novel idea… Then pick a category: vegetables, gardening tools, types of cereals, holidays, birds, any category that comes to mind. Develop character sketches for each member of the group based on elements within your chosen category. For instance, if you choose vegetables as a category, write about what type of vegetable your character looks like or acts like and why. You will be surprised how much you will learn about your characters.

Animal metaphor

What kind of animal are you? What qualities does that animal embody that you identify with temperamentally? Describe yourself as this creature. How does being this animal affect the way you write? You may also apply this to a character. Again, it aids in development.


Consider what kind of weather corresponds to one of your characters: snow, lightning, rain, fog, a summer storm, whirlwind…how far can you take the comparison: mood, thought pattern, appearance, what the character likes to do for fun… Have you noticed, in novels you read, how often the author describes the weather. Authors often use the weather as a parallel to what is happening to a character, or to the plot.

Give these a try. It might be messy and sprawly, but words you will have. Consider posting one of your comparisons, so we can see what everyone has come up with. Poet people not into narrative, you can take this exercise almost exactly the same but you won’t apply it to a character and you will produce a poem, yes?

Above all, have fun. I shall see you Friday for the prompt roundup. Thursdays are dark until January, unless you have a question you want me to explore. This goes for narrative as well, particularly in the area of structure. Next Tuesday, we might have a more out there exercise in metaphor, or we may start playing with structure… or point of view. There’s so much. In fact, if you would like me to see whether I have a narrative exercise that addresses a particular aspect of fiction, let me know.

Happy writing, everyone.




Posted by on 06/11/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

31 responses to “Let’s Compare Apples and Oranges: Tuesday Tryouts

  1. vivinfrance

    06/11/2012 at 9:12 am

    A metaphor is like a simile. (A WordPress quote which always makes me smile) Because it’s not, quite, as you so cogently explain.

    I fancy doing a bit of fiction. It may take a while!

    • margo roby

      06/11/2012 at 9:14 am

      That’s okay, ViV. I’m not going anywhere. If this works well, I may salt narrative through the year, although there is always November.

      Winter’s a-comin’!

  2. vivinfrance

    06/11/2012 at 10:18 am

    I fully intended to start on a story, but up came a silly narrative poem of 9 rhyming couplets which I don’t intend to put on my blog. The story will come, some time!

    • margo roby

      06/11/2012 at 12:55 pm

      I gave up telling my brain what I wanted to do, a couple of years ago. I start and then go where it wants me to.

  3. barbara_

    06/11/2012 at 1:12 pm

    Okay, I’m playing, but not.
    (Last time I came even close to finishing a NaNo novel, I got stuck in dialog mode and COULD NOT escape. And it was not even good dialog, just people endlessly talking about not much.)

    • margo roby

      06/11/2012 at 2:34 pm

      That’s what I like about you, Barbara. I’ve done the same with Joseph’s prompt [which I’ll post tomorrow]. I was so happy to have any kind of response that I’m posting despite the poem only having one connection to the prompt.

      • barbara_

        07/11/2012 at 5:46 am

        I’m always mashing prompts, or cross-pollinating or something. The one I did for Poetic Asides yesterday, I wouldn’t have written without this plus the WWP prompt (for which I was reading another poet). It would be hard to recognize any of the sources, but they gave me a poem I like.

        • vivinfrance

          07/11/2012 at 8:15 am

          AND SO DO I (like your poem, and mash-up prompts, I mean)

  4. margo roby

    06/11/2012 at 2:40 pm

    Let’s not even discuss dialogue… shudder…

  5. vivinfrance

    07/11/2012 at 4:56 am

    There’s no dialogue in this, unless you count a protagonist talking to herself:

    • margo roby

      07/11/2012 at 7:37 am

      I’m excited, ViV. My first piece of fiction for the site! On my way.

  6. Sara McNulty

    07/11/2012 at 6:38 pm

    This as a true challenge for me. Thanks! Mine is up.

    • margo roby

      08/11/2012 at 8:20 am

      Anytime, Sara! Wait until you see next week’s.

  7. Misky

    08/11/2012 at 4:08 am

    I’m really at a loss here. You’ll just have to accept the fact that I’m thick as a brick; my brain doesn’t work like a normal one. I just spent over 30-minutes at Wikipedia trying to understand what ‘narrative’ actually means, and I’m none the wiser. I read Viv’s, Barbara’s, and Sara’s Moon comparisons … and I can’t find anything in common between them that helps me understand what’s required. I’ll just give this one a miss.

  8. Hannah Gosselin

    10/11/2012 at 1:41 pm

    Hi!! I went the poetic route…mostly because I’ve dedicated November (for the most part), to being more acquainted with brevity. That started when I was five days behind on the Writer’s Digest PAD and I discovered that I’ve missed writing haiku…this one is not a haiku and no, I haven’t been committed to brevity in my comments! 😉

    Thank you, Margo…this is a great post and I’m glad for the clarification and tips for writing true metaphor.

    • margo roby

      10/11/2012 at 3:48 pm

      Hannah, you are a light in my life. You just keep making your comments any length you like.

      • Hannah Gosselin

        10/11/2012 at 6:34 pm

        So super kind of you…this makes my day, Margo! 🙂

  9. JulesPaige

    10/11/2012 at 2:24 pm

    This is short enough – I hope you don’t mind that I post it here:
    I believe this fits the theme of comparison –

    A Pound of Flesh

    news flash –
    literally and figuratively
    first thought was,
    “It is balloon!”
    I just don’t see the
    natural curve
    of the run-a-way
    that pours out of
    her hourglass figure….

    • margo roby

      10/11/2012 at 3:49 pm

      No problem, Jules. I love the image of the last two lines.

  10. Annette Mickelson

    11/11/2012 at 11:49 am

    This was a fun prompt, Margo. I went with categories…

    • margo roby

      11/11/2012 at 11:57 am

      It is fun, isn’t it, Annette? Can be good therapy too :-)! Just think of the things one can write given this type of metaphor.


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