How to Strengthen Limp Metaphors when Writing

“The man and woman who had never met were like a pair of butterflies who had also never met”

“He played the oboe beautifully, not like the way a sick cat squeals”

“The rock looked like something no one had ever seen”

All of these are weak metaphors.  A metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things.  A simile is a metaphor that uses the word like or as. 

The first one is a weak simile because it does not compare two unlike things.  Both the people and the butterflies are strangers to each other.  A stronger metaphor would use the second object to introduce an idea that reinforces the fact that they do not know each other. 

The second compares two unlike things, but does not send the intended message.  The oboe is supposed to sound beautiful, but when compared to a squealing cat, even if put in the negative, it gives the sentence and the idea of the oboe’s music sound repulsive.  A stronger metaphor would use an object that implies beauty.  Also, more advanced vocabulary could improve the level of writing of the sentence. 

The third metaphor is incredibly vague.  Even if no one has ever seen a rock quite like this one, saying so neither describes it nor introduces a deeper idea.  A better metaphor would compare the rock to an object that was not well understood. 

Keeping these ideas in mind, the metaphors can be strengthened by adding objects that support the idea.

“The man and the woman were strangers, two lone wolves that happened to cross paths.”

This improved metaphor does not restate that the man and woman have never met.  It can be made less redundant by adding the comparison of a lone wolf to describe their relationship.  A good metaphor is specific, usually not working in all situations.  However, a more particular metaphor will work best in its intended idea.

“The enchanting sounds that came from his oboe sounded like the song of a small, angelic dove”

The metaphor now compares the oboe’s music to something equally serene, like the sound of a dove.  Both the sound and image of the dove imply the beauty of the music.  A strong metaphor will use an image that adequately describes the subject in every way possible.

“The bizarre stone was as unknown to us as calculus to a small child”

This metaphor shows the true complexity and mysteriousness of the rock.  Though calculus itself is understandable, a normal child’s knowledge of it is close to nothing.  This illustrates how little the people know about the rock.  This metaphor works because it compares two unlike things by showing examining their similarities. 

The most important thing to remember while writing a metaphor is to make sure that by comparing the objects, the intended idea is illustrated and the object in no way stops the idea from being proven.