Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bottles in Messages

Me again. I caught myself pondering the characteristics of Metaphors, and since this blog is about as active as a blind, one-legged Lhasa-Apso in a bear trap, why not talk to the big friendly internet for a while?

Metaphors. The way for clever people to say things without saying them.
Naturally, I'd love for this entire post to be an extended metaphor on the strategies of donut*
sales or somesuch, but I personally believe that substance should be taken over flashy displays of creative prowess, (just because a book is written without the letter "e" does NOT make it a good book), and so therefore I promise you that looking for any extra meaning here is completely futile. Anyway, that passage kind of got derailed there, so I'm gonna start again.

Metaphors. The way for a witty personage to make a bad story into confusing story.
See, in a lot of ways, that's really the main purpose of Metaphors: to distract. I'm not saying that they are to be used only by bad writers to conceal bad stories, not by a long shot, but the very idea of a metaphor is an interesting one. After all, unlike the more straightforward similes, it relies on the fact that the reader is paying enough attention to notice that the purple haddock nailed to the wall of the third cabin in the woods actually represents human suffering. A metaphor is a deeper level of meaning that has to be buried deep enough to be seem profound while still being discernible. A reader that realized, with a start, that the latter half of the Star Wars trilogy is actually a comment on the current status of the Cold War (and it is not) is a reader that gets to sit there in bed at three AM feeling very smug. It is a payoff that most writers have the ability to take advantage of, and we all know that. I'm not explaining what a metaphor is, I'm just pointing out that it's really the only part of artistic writing that gives credit to the reader.
There is probably someone irritatedly tapping their foot right now, getting ready to email me and say "what about symbol or allusion?" To which my answer is: symbol and allusion ARE metaphor. Seriously. They are put in a story as a deeper level of meaning and interpretation, and whether it is a nod to a different writer or idea or a way of using one thing to show something else, they are all the same in that when taken at face value, they are NOT required for the story.
You don't need to know that the beauty mark on Jack's left cheek is a sign of his hubris! When he gets it removed in chapter eight, you are fully allowed to pass it off as cosmetic preening, and keep reading! And the fact that his sweatervest is embossed with the infinitely geeky "THX-1138" is not actually a vital plot point, it is a nod at George Lucas. I bet George is thrilled.

My point here is that the idea of a metaphor is almost like masturbating for writers. ...Well, a different KIND of masturbating, at any rate. When I use metaphor, I get a nice artsy glow. "Mmmm... interpretation" I think. Because it's a way for me to write about things while putting myself on a plateau. "Oh, you mean you didn't realize what deeper meaning I was getting at? Pffft." And the best part is that often times, people will find a VERY profound level of meaning, and give all the credit to me! Did I intend to put it there? Who cares?

This is going to just keep dragging on unless I stop myself, so just in conclusion:
Don't feel bad if the new critically acclaimed novel seemed like a rather long description of old Mrs. Peverly walking her cat down sixth avenue while the buildings around her weep. It's not that you're not smart enough to catch the deeper levels, it's because the idea doesn't have any extra meaning for you. Writers make ever so much money off of people who strive to put meaning in things that don't have it, so that they can feel good about themselves. So use your head and don't read too far into things. Whether or not I end this post with a period is not important

--H.P. Pseudonym

*Microsoft Word doesn't think that "donut" is a word for some reason. "Donuts", however, it accepts. Damn plurals.


  1. A metaphor is a form of masturbation?
    Never heard that one before.

    I like this one.

  2. Yes, and unnecessary adjectives are "marital aids."
    It's all part of my Freudian approach to writing.