Tag Archives: National Novel Writing Month

Let’s Compare Apples and Oranges: Tuesday Tryouts

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: , , , , , , , , ,

  • creative commons license