Metaphorical pitfalls (tip 66) Reply

Metaphor: a figure of speech that finds similarities between two things. From the Greek metaphora: meta (among, over, with, beside) and pherein (“to carry”), metaphor literally means to carry one thing into another. It is a way we writers can create infinite shades of meaning, just as an artist can create infinite shades by mixing the colours on her palette. Aristotle believed use of metaphor was a sign of genius. Certainly, it can facilitate economy of expression: to write that one’s room is “like a prison cell” contains a range of meanings that would otherwise take paragraphs to express. But using metaphor isn’t always easy…


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Balancing interior & empirical experience (tip 61) Reply

Some writers can become trapped in their protagonist’s minds. Everything is heavily filtered through the protagonist’s consciousness, to the extent that we can lose our bearings in the external world. In this video, we consider how JM Coetzee finds the right balance between interior and empirical experience.

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Focusing on facial expressions & fidgets: another common writing mistake (tip 59) Reply

Continuing our series on common writing problems, D.D. Johnston considers why some writers become over-reliant on describing facial expressions and fidgets. Every minute our bodies do a thousand little things: we smile and twitch and scratch and fidget and sniff and lick our lips and blink and breathe and blow hair from our eyes. When we’re writing, every sentence impresses on our readers’ valuable time, and reading about the minutiae of human movement is rarely a rewarding use of that time. Of course, sometimes people’s gestures are full of meaning, and this is the time to describe them. After watching the video, have a look at Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants” in which Hemingway describes only a few expressions and gestures, and never describes them carelessly.

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