MYC: Using Metaphor

Welcome to this week’s Master Your Craft post! Each Wednesday we’ll discuss pre-writing and drafting a new book from the BIG IDEA to QUERYING. Last week, we talked about revising your world building. This week, Gita Trelease and Gabrielle Byrne talk about how to create powerful metaphors.

Metaphor and simile are among the richest, most useful tools in any writer’s kit. The word “metaphor” comes from the Greek metapherein: meta, meaning “across, over” and pherein, meaning “carry, or bear.”  The word describes what a metaphor does: it carries meaning from one place to another.

A writer uses metaphor and simile to do the same thing, that is, by “carrying meaning” from one thing to another, a metaphor brings together two seemingly dissimilar things as a way of deepening the reader’s understanding. Ideally, the comparisons are surprising and help the reader see something they hadn’t seen before.

Simile uses “like” or “as” to highlight one aspect of similarity: “Pip’s uncle was like a burning-down house, angry and about to collapse.” Or, “Pip’s uncle was as angry as a burning-down house.” Here, I’m saying that Pip’s uncle was angry in the same way a raging house fire is angry, but that’s all I’m saying. A simile is specific and limited, because sometimes you just want to talk about one aspect of the two things you’re comparing.

Metaphor, though, sets up an identity for the reader (and often the writer) to explore. Using metaphor, I would say, “Pip’s uncle was a burning-down house.” Pip’s uncle = burning-down house. He is the whole flaming thing, not just a part of it. And once I’ve set that identity up, I can go further if I want, extending the metaphor: “Pip’s uncle was a burning-down house. And if you’d forgotten something inside, you weren’t never going back in to get it.”  I could even keep going, describing the burning house, how the fire started, what was destroyed—all the while still describing Pip’s uncle.

At the root, metaphor and simile are both powerful tools in the author’s arsenal, but both are just comparisons. So what makes them so powerful then, you might ask. My explanation is that writing a book is a little like a bachelor party.

Um, sorry Gabby, you lost me.

So, you know that bit when all the guys pile in the window and pretend-kidnap the groom and tie him to a chair and take him out and lead him from one place to another and the whole thing is a blast for everyone? Yeah, that. That’s what authors do. We go in and stealthily bind the reader to our story like a bachelor to his party chair. One loop for the characters they love, another for exciting plot lines, one for beautiful prose, and metaphors? Metaphors make great knots. They connect the physical and the emotional, or the emotional and the spiritual, using details that plumb the story’s heart. They tie the reader to the character in deep ways that can’t be easily undone.

Her hair rose in the wind, black ribbons that whipped the air, her anger holding back the storm.

  • Physical (black hair)
  • Emotional (she’s mad about something)
  • Spiritual (okay it’s a stretch, but the storm)

The best metaphors (IMHO) always draw from at least two of these areas. Added to this is that there are certain categories of things, that are intrinsically bound to our human hearts. Their very nature is emotional. Using one of these categories in your metaphor makes the knot that much stronger. I talked a little about these in the MYC post on fantasy world building (weather, food, housing, and religion/spirituality). On top of these universal categories, you may also have some “Bonus character quality” categories that are deeply powerful, because they act as reminders to the reader of the essence of the character/s in that scene. For example, a cook is going to use lots of food metaphors, but a soldier might use lots of battle/blood/loss metaphors. A seamstress might describe things using lots of sewing metaphors:

The sparks in his dark eyes gleamed, silver threads tugging her forward and meant just for her.

  • Physical (dark eyes)
  • Emotional (passion)
  • Bonus Quality (she’s a seamstress)

These character-specific metaphors can also work by comparing something that’s happening to one character, to a quality in another:

The needle of her intent sharpened against Billy’s guileless smile.

The comparisons can work alone (the sea was a cold embrace), or you can deepen them further with added details (the sea was a cold embrace, heartless and unforgiving). It can be fun to play with reader expectation at this level too, as in this simile:

Her teeth were like Desperado pearls, and I figured they were just as stolen.

Last but not least, the way an author uses metaphor can set up a tone for the whole book. A dark, psychological thriller might use dark and eerie metaphors:

She waited, holding her breath until she was certain the men had gone. Her feet pressed against the cold tile as a single beam of moonlight arched across the kitchen floor, a slow, silent bird diving toward dawn.   

While a quirky, funnier story might go with quirky, funny metaphors:

The new girl had a pancake face, wide and doughy, but sure to make a person happy by the time breakfast was over.

Playing with metaphor is a great way to get more energy and depth into your story. If you use them to explore your characters and your world, you’ll be sure to lift the whole manuscript to another level.

We hope you’ll come back next for next Wednesday’s MYC post to learn about Writing With Sensitivity.

Gabrielle Byrne’s debut MG fantasy, RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON, is due out in Winter, 2019 with Imprint/Macmillan. She’s represented by Catherine Drayton. Learn more about her at www.gkbyrnebooks.com

Gita Trelease writes YA fantasy. She was born in Sweden and has lived in France, Italy, and the United States. In her former life as a college professor, she taught classes on fairy tales, monsters, and Victorian criminals. Along with her artist husband, teenage son, and Maine Coon, Gita divides her time between a boarding school in Massachusetts and the wild Maine coast. Her current project takes place during the French Revolution: hot-air balloons and gambling, decadence and dark magic. Also, wigs. She is represented by Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

Save

Save

SaveSave

MYC: Revising A World

Welcome to this week’s Master Your Craft post! Each Wednesday we’ll discuss prewriting and drafting a new book from the BIG IDEA to QUERYING. Last week, we continued our series on revision with Dynamic Dialogue. This week, we’re diving in to how to revise your world-building.

Building a world is a lot like building a life. There are a lot of ways to do it. For me, when I’ve got pages and pages of ideas and details, and mythology, and STUFF written about my world, it can be difficult to sort out what’s important to keep, and what’s chaff. In the moments when I begin writing my story, I try to remember that the world is like another character. It gains power in relation to other characters.

What that means is that it’s the details that are important. Not just any details, but those which tie to the heart of the people in that place—the details that matter to the characters. A few well-placed details of the world, in relationship with the characters are much more evocative than a vast array of details that aren’t bound to someone’s heart. Compare these two approaches to sharing details of a world:

Example 1: The table was scattered with oogleberries, picked from the tanglewood that hangs from the darkest edges of the cliffs of Baka. The sour purple berries weren’t ripe, and with a growl, I threw them to a banglebird sitting on the veranda.

Example 2: I sat down and popped a handful of oogleberries in my mouth, letting out a squeak as the bitter zing tensed all the muscles in my jaw. Mara had done it again. I’d lost count of how many times I had told my sister to pinch the leaves to see if they were ripe. It was like she was doing it on purpose. Groaning, I spit the berries out in my hand, resolving to make Mara eat them herself. This was just perfect. Now I would go to school with a headache and purple stains on my hand. I could forget about a good first impression. Everyone would take one look at me and think—amateur.

Taken at face value, the first paragraph has more world-building in it. It’s a broader stroke. The problem is we don’t connect with it. It has no real relationship to us. It’s when we dig deeper, and put it in relationship with the MC, and her sister, that we connect. We can learn about the banglebirds, and the cliffs, and the tanglewood as we get to them, in the context of the story, and when they matter.

That’s not to say things can’t sometimes be mentioned in passing, but those things should be a set up. If there are things in your world that need history/explanation (at some point) they should serve the story. They can serve the plot, or they can serve the internal development of the character, but they should matter.

For example, we first hear about a “bezoar” in passing, in Harry Potter’s first ever poisons lesson. We hear about it again, in the Goblet of Fire, when Harry is freaking out about how to ask Cho Chang to the ball. Bezoars come up again during potions class, in Half-Blood Prince, and then at last, Harry remembers what he’s learned about a bezoar and must find one to save his friend’s life. The details about the thing are trickled in when they’re relevant  (potions class) to move the story, as we need to know them. This works as a fantastic set up, because it’s repeated, and because it’s not swamped in a mire of other factoids. We learn more as Harry comes into relationship with the bezoar, and as it becomes important. Beware of stacking oddities and details simply to say, ‘hey look at all the stuff I know about this world’.

By revealing your world as your characters move through it, it becomes easier to figure out which details are vital and evocative, and which can be cut, or left in the pages of your pre-work for another time, or another book. It may be anti-intuitive at first (more is better, right?), but you’ll find that it’s the micro—the deeper dive over the course of the story—that will have universal appeal, and will paint the broader picture of your world.

–GABRIELLE K. BYRNE writes MG/YA fantasy in Olympia, Washington where she lives with her husband and two daughters. Gabby studied opera in Philadelphia, medieval studies in New York, literature in Scotland, and marine biology in the Pacific Northwest, but writing is the common thread that ties all her passions together. Her debut, RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON, comes out in winter, 2019 with Imprint/Macmillan. She is represented by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management. Find her on Twitter. Her web site is here.

SaveSave

NEW AGENT ALERT! Meet Hilary Harwell of KT Literary

I am thrilled beyond belief to introduce you to Hilary Harwell. Full disclosure, she’s one of my dearest friends, a long-time critique partner and a member of The Winged Pen critique fellowship. NOW SHE’S AN AGENT TOO–for the renowned KT Literary agency.  I’m also excited to share that Hilary will be a participating agent in Pitch Wars this year. She’s opening up to queries at the start of August, and here’s your chance to get to know her!

G: Hi Hilary. *grins*

H: Hi Gab. *grins*

G: So, what made you want to become an agent?

H: Besides loving the art of storytelling, I’m in love with being able to bring amazing, impactful stories into the world and into the hands of children just as they’re opening their minds to the power of story. To help all children and young people find themselves inside the pages of a book, I mean, how incredible is it to be a part of that?!

G: What would you say sets KT Literary apart from other agencies?

H: Well, first of all, we have a ton of knowledge and talent amongst all of our agents. Kate, Sara, Renee, and Hannah are all brilliant and well-connected, and all around great people. Then, of course, there are our amazing clients. I had the privilege of meeting many them on our annual KT Literary retreat this past February in Lake Arrowhead, California (and yes, our agency hosts an annual retreat – that in and of itself sets us apart!). They are all such wonderful, supportive, talented folks and we’re lucky to have them!

G: Talk a little about what you’ll be looking for in the slush? What kind of books are you hoping to find?

H: At the present moment I’m focusing on middle grade and young adult projects. I’m interested in all genres – dark fantasy, thrillers, psychological horror, contemporary, mystery – though I’m probably not the best choice for slasher horror, suicide stories, or high fantasy unless it’s 100% original. I’m generally not a huge fan of elves, fairies, and their ilk. I especially love heartfelt contemporary, and though I recently signed an amazing author and her Chinese adoption middle grade contemporary, I still have a soft spot for these types of stories, especially if they’re told from diverse perspectives.

G: What are some of your favorite books?

H: So many! My more recent faves are: The Hate U Give, Exit Pursued by a Bear, Frost Blood, Caraval, The Diviners, The Blackthorn Key, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Out of My Mind, The Thickety, Anna and The French Kiss (and ISLA and LOLA), Open Road Summer, The Duff, We Were Liars, The Night Gardener, Rules for Stealing Stars, Salt to the Sea, The Wrath and The Dawn, The Scorpio Races, A Curious Tale of the In-Between, Seraphina and the Black Cloak, The Grisha Trilogy, I’ll Give You The Sun, Splendors and Glooms, A Snicker of Magic, The Graveyard Book, The Mysterious Benedict Society, An Untamed State, The Bourbon Thief, The Girl on The Train, and Crank (anything by Ellen Hopkins)

I don’t want to leave out the older faves though, because they’re such classics and I find myself returning to them again and again. I love books like: Bridge to Terabithia, The Hobbit, Black Beauty, The Black Stallion series, Hatchet, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Westing Game, James and the Giant Peach, THE BFG, IT, A Wrinkle in Time,  and The Secret Garden.

 G: Okay. When do you open for queries, and how can authors submit to you?

H: I open to queries August 1st. Authors can find our complete submission instructions on the KT Literary website (www.ktliterary.com). But for the sake of convenience, you can reach me at hilaryquery@ktliterary.com. Please send me your query letter and the first three pages of your manuscript. I’m looking forwarding to reading your work!

G: Okay, Pally. are you ready for this? *hands Hilary mirrored sunglasses*

H: Let’s do it.

LIGHTNING ROUND:

G: Coffee or Tea?

H: Both, but usually coffee.

G: Sweet or savory?

H: Both, but usually savory.

G: Cats or Dogs (or other)?

H: Both. And horses. And fish. And toads. And salamanders. (I grew up in the woods. Catching things was kinda my thing. As was climbing trees.)

G: Curve Ball! Lynda Carter or Gal Gadot?

H: I don’t know? I guess I have to go with Lynda Carter because I have a thing for originals.

Thanks, Hilary, for joining us today (and everyday) at the Winged Pen! 

Hilary joined the KT Literary team to support office operations and assist with queries and manuscripts, and now acts as Associate Agent with clients of her own. She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a degree in Anthropology and went on to work in the back office of a major Swiss Investment Bank for eight years before deciding to trade numbers for letters. When not reading or editing or writing stories of her own, Hilary likes to hike the Rockies with her family and dreams of one day owning her own horses. Connect with her on Twitter and check out her blog.

—Gabrielle Byrne (G.K. Byrne) writes fantasy for middle graders. Gabby has a Master’s degree in literature and a second bachelors in environmental studies. When she’s not writing, you can frequently find her fishing spineless critters out of the Salish sea with her husband and two daughters. She is represented by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management. Gabby is also a Pitch Wars mentor. Her web site is here.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

BOOK REVIEW: STAND UP AND SING!

I don’t normally review picture books, but when one of my fellows at The Winged Pen mentioned there was a chance to review STAND UP AND SING! Pete Seeger, Folk Music and the Path to Justice, I jumped at the chance. As a singer, social justice advocate, and fan of Pete Seeger, how could I not? The truth is, this book is important–not only because of the accomplishments of a man who committed himself fully to his truth, and to bringing people together to make real change in the world. It’s important because of the divisions, and diversions, of our world right now. As Peter Yarrow, folk-famous in his own right, says in his forward, “What Pete taught us is how to keep on keepin’ on, how to keep on singing, how to not become cynical, and how to turn challenge and adversity into greater determination and love for one another.” I can’t think of a more timely message, for adults and children of all stripes, as well as for musicians, artists and writers.

The book is a biography, and right from the start, it’s clear that the author, Susanna Reich, put love and effort into her research. She’s given us Pete’s early life, through the dark days of the depression, and shares how music gave him a way to connect to the experiences of others. He took these experiences and made music a vehicle to share his hopes and fears, and to bring people together.

Pete Seeger’s work to support Unions, as a key player in the Civil Rights Movement at Dr. King’s side, and as a pacifist, are explored without shying away from some of the dangers and challenges this brought into his life. Without being moralistic, STAND UP AND SING! tells the story of one man, and how he found a way to come to terms with things he disliked about the world–a way which gave others strength and courage to continue fighting for social justice. The illustrations by Adam Gustavson, are atmospheric and evocative throughout.

The book is not a light read. It offers deep, age-appropriate, insight into Pete Seeger’s life, but although there’s a lot of text, it is balanced by the number, and quality, of the illustrations. STAND UP AND SING! is a book that families and classrooms can, and in my view should, share together as a way to have important conversations about what each of us stands for, how we choose to stand, and being yourself, even in the face of great adversity.

Gabrielle Byrne lives in the rainy wilds of the Pacific Northwest with her husband, two daughters, and a wide variety of critters. She writes middle grade fantasy, and is a mentor for the Pitch Wars contest. You can find her on twitter at @GKByrne. She’s represented by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management.

Author Interview – Krystal Sutherland

Gabby: I’m very excited to spend a little time today with Krystal Sutherland, the fabulous debut author of OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS, out now. In addition to writing love stories you want to crawl into, Krystal travels the world being fabulous in fabulous places. Welcome to Winged Pen, Krystal! krystal-23-09-16-hi-res-6

Krystal: Thank you so much for having me!

Gabby: Okay, let’s get to it. Can you tell us about the best writing advice you ever got?

Krystal: The best writing advice I ever got was actually from a famous Australian artist called Del Kathryn Barton. I was interviewing her for my university’s magazine and I asked her if she had any advice for aspiring artists. Most people say some iteration of “Never give up”, but Del said “If you can live without art, do it, because this is a hard life.” That just really resonated with me. I thought to myself, “Can I live without writing?” The answer was no.

What was your favorite book as a kid?

Krystal: Harry Potter all the way! My family was very religious growing up and I was banned from reading fantasy, but especially Harry. I took matters into my own hands and stole a copy from the local library and read it in secret. It changed my life.

How about your favorite book this year?

Krystal: Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King and Will Kostakis’ The Sidekicks both had me ugly crying. So good!

Which writers inspire you?

Krystal: When I was a teen, my biggest inspiration was Scott Westerfeld. He was the first writer who made me want to be a writer.

Can you talk about your most difficult craft hurdle?

Krystal: When I wrote Our Chemical Hearts, I was studying fulltime, working two jobs and completing a publishing internship. I used to think, “If only I had more time, writing would be so much easier.” Now I write fulltime, and I swear I get less done now than I did back then. I need more structure!

Gabby: Your debut book, OUR CHEMICAL HEARTS, just came out. What’s it about and what was the inspiration for the story?

och-coverKrystal: It’s about the bittersweet (aka terribly gut-wrenching) experience of falling in love for the first time, and discovering that not all love stories have happy endings. I was inspired by my first heartbreak!

Gabby: You travel a lot. Where’s your favorite place to write?

Krystal: I can write just about anywhere, although I found myself particularly productive when I was on a sailing boat in Croatia, so I’m going to say there.

Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you get past it?

Krystal: Yes! Usually when I’m about a month out from finishing a draft and I’ve written all the “exciting” parts of the book and all that’s left to do is string the pieces together into a cohesive whole. I think most of writer’s block comes from self-doubt and being worried that you’re going to write something shit. You need to give yourself room to be bad. When I get blocked, I write the simplest, dumbest sentences I can think of – and usually I’ll read them later and find they were exactly what the manuscript needed.

You’re getting ready to do your first tour – tell us where you’re going! What are you looking forward to?

Krystal: I’m very lucky to be doing an epic international tour to three continents! I’ve already completed my Australian leg, but I’m in the US now. I’m about to head to St. Louis, Minneapolis and Denver, which are three cities I’ve never been to before so I’m excited to check them out! Then I’m off to the UK for two weeks, and the Netherlands and Belgium after that. I finished the draft of Our Chemical Hearts in Amsterdam, so I can’t wait to go back to the little café I wrote in and visit.

Gabby: Alright, are you ready for our Lightning Round? *hands you magic compass*

Krystal: Sure?

Gabby: Coffee or tea?

Krystal: Tea!

Gabby: Sweet or salty?

Krystal: I have a terrible sweet tooth!

Gabby: Dog or cat (or other)

Krystal: Such a cop out, but both! Cat for the writer in my, dog for the rest.

Gabby: Plotter or pantser?

Krystal: Very much a pantser. When I set out, I know the beginning, I know the end, but I know nothing in between.

Thanks so much for hanging with me here at Winged Pen, Krystal! Be sure to watch Krystal’s web site for news and tour dates! http://krystalsutherland.com/

— Gabrielle Byrne lives in rainy wilds of the Pacific Northwest, and writes dark and twisty tales for middle graders. She is represented by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management. Find her on Twitter.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save