Metaphors, Similes and Idioms
What do they do?
Metaphors, similes and idioms are all types figurative language used to create imagery. These figures of speech are not taken for their literal meanings; instead, you use them to create more vivid and life-like qualities in your words. All three are used in many forms of writing, but they work extremely well in any type of descriptive writing. Metaphors and similes are used frequently in literature and poetry. All three of these ways to use figurative language make describing or personifying actions, events, feelings, inanimate objects and ideas easier to do in colorful, expressive and descriptive language.
Metaphors link two unrelated things that are not normally linked. This linking does not create an open, or simple, comparison. Instead, it creates a hidden one where you are saying something is equal to something else, even though the two are clearly not the same thing. Consider the following example:
Example: Her presence is the shining rays of the summer sunshine caressing my face.
Like metaphors, similes connect two unrelated things. Unlike metaphors, a simile connection is not the equivalent of an equal sign. Instead, it is meant to highlight a similarity and suggest that one thing is like another. This connect is an open, simple one. Similes are normally identified by the word “like” or “as.” See the below examples:
Example 1: Her father is like a bear with his fierce protectiveness.
Example 2: Life is like a box of chocolates. (So says Forrest Gump.)
Idioms have no defining rules. They are, however, phrases that mean something other than the words that create them. Phrases that are common in everyday language and have figurative meanings that are widely understood are idioms. The literal meanings make no sense. Many idioms are also considered cliches because they are used so frequently. If you are using idioms in a written piece, try to avoid those that are overused unless you feel one is absolutely necessary to the purpose of your words. Consider the following example:
Example: She wants to play it by ear. (The idiom is “play it by ear,” and the figurative meaning is to improvise instead of making set plans.)
Exposition can be seen in music, films, television shows, plays, and written text. It is the writer's opportunity to give background information to the reader or listener about the setting, establish the theme and introduce the characters.
- In music, the exposition is the first part in the sonata form which introduces the themes used in the composition or the opening section of a fugue.
- In a play, film or television show, exposition would be used anywhere in the work to give background information on characters and other parts of the work.
Exposition in written texts also gives background and character information; but, it can be more difficult to understand as a literary tool than exposition in music, plays or other visual entertainment since there are so many ways to present the information in written text.
Ways to Present Exposition
The word “exposition” comes from the Latin and means “to place.” It informs, describes, and explains. Regardless of the type of exposition you write, the writing needs to be concise and easy to understand.
There are several types of exposition:
- Description exposition - The writer explains the characteristics of a topic, shows examples, and describes features.
Example: The U.S. flag consists of thirteen alternating stripes of red and blue, representing the 13 original states. In the top left of the flag there is a field of blue with fifty stars, one for each state.
- Comparison exposition - The writer shows how two topics are alike or different.
Example: The alligator has a u-shaped, round snout and tends to live in freshwater swamps and streams. The crocodile has a long, v-shaped nose and can live in saltier waters as well as freshwater habitats.
- Cause and effect exposition - The writer explains the cause of an event and thoroughly investigates the effects.
Example: The Civil War was caused because of conflicts between states on the subjects of states' rights and slavery. Before the war the southern states relied on slaves to plant and harvest the crops. These southern states wanted to make decisions separate from the northern states and banded together as "The Confederates," threatening to leave the U.S. The northern soldiers were victories in the Civil War, reestablishing that states in the south had to confirm to U.S. laws, including the abolishment of slavery.
- Problem and solution exposition - The author sets forth a problem, and then explains possible solutions to it.
Example: This family was a victim of a problem they could have avoided-a problem that, according to Florida park rangers, hundreds of visitors suffer each year. "Several times a month," ranger Rod Torres of O'Leno State Park said, "people get scared and leave the park in the middle of the night." Those people picked the wrong kind of park to visit. Not that there was anything wrong with the park: The hikers camped next to them loved the wild isolation of it. But it just wasn't the kind of place the couple from New Jersey had in mind when they decided to camp out on this trip through Florida. If they had known about the different kinds of parks in Florida, they might have stayed in a place they loved.”
- Sequence exposition - The writer shows events in either chronological or numbered order.
Example: The timeline of the Civil War included these key timeframes:
1600s - States begin to adopt laws regarding slavery that are appropriate for their individual states.
1700s - Some states are beginning to express thoughts that slavery should be abolished.
1800s - Rebellion starts against slavery with seven states threatening to secede from the U.S. Lincoln was inaugurated. The Civil War began which the north eventually won.
Exposition: The Way to Step into the Story
Exposition gives the reader or listener the full spectrum of the story. By adding more details the writer can open the door and let the reader fully step into the story or the music.