When the storm of life takes on a life of its own…

Our non-fiction authors make wonderful use of metaphor, which – as you probably know – is a comparison. Using a metaphor, a writer will write about a storm (right?) to express what he/she wants to say about life. This can be a very useful tool. Storms have defining characteristics that can be applied to the amorphous blob that is life and bring it in to sharper focus, giving readers a better understanding of whatever point is being made. As the examples below show, storms are a common metaphor for life’s vicissitudes:

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.
Vincent Van Gogh

It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it.
Amelia Barr

Like all of us in this storm between birth and death, I can wreak no great changes on the world, only small changes for the better, I hope, in the lives of those I love.
Dean Koontz

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.
Willa Cather

Metaphors allow you to say complex things simply. But what we see happening is that some of our writers are allowing their metaphors to drive their narratives. In other words, it isn’t enough to say that life is like a storm. They think about all the characteristics of a storm: high winds, heavy rain, barometric pressure readings, high humidity, dark clouds, power outages, downed tree limbs, etc. and then, they think about how these apply to life. A change in pressure on a sunny day can demonstrate that no happy times last forever. The dark clouds signal the approach of trouble and warn us to buy milk for spiritual sustenance. The high humidity makes our hair frizz, always a very bad omen. When we get drenched in the rain, life is changing us. And material possessions cannot help us because the power goes out. The tree limbs must be negotiated to get back our core selves. ETCETERA.

Pretty soon, what the writer is doing is writing about a storm. Whatever point that was originally going to be made about life is lost in the comparison which becomes the new point. To use another metaphor, this is called getting lost in the weeds. Readers generally know weeds when they see them and don’t want to go there. The moral is to stick closely with what you want to say and keep your metaphors in check.

And for those of you on the east coast: stay safe in the real storm.