Metaphor Engine

From Episode 4 of the weekly Storyteller Tactics episodes

Each week we release an episode containing two tactics from the up and coming Storyteller Tactics card deck.

Each episode shows you how our characters use the power of story to overcome challenges (and how they also help us write their narratives!)

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What is the Metaphor Engine story tactic?

“We don't think in the abstract. We think in specific images” - Lisa Cron, Wired for Story.

We use the visual centre of our brain to understand the meaning of words. So when you say there are "storm clouds gathering" we actually SEE what you mean. Metaphors and similes improve your story because they create specific images in our minds. These are always easier to remember than abstract concepts.


ℹ️ Remember: story is everywhere.

When you tell stories, people pay attention, and most importantly - stories are never forgotten. 

The opportunities for using Storyteller Tactics in your work are endless. From emails, pitches, job interviews, or show and tells.

There's no right or wrong way to use them. Experiment and play. You'll find what works best for you.

How to use Metaphor Engine

Here's an example of how to create a visual image from an abstract concept.  

"A good Systems Designer is a gardener. You can't control nature, but you can sow the right seeds and keep the weeds at bay."

The best metaphors relate to everyday life. Some will work better than others, depending on your audience (use the Audience Profile tool for inspiration).

Tactic: write down the abstract concept you're trying to explain. Now try as many different ways you can to visualise the concept, using these categories:

  • Movement
  • Emotion
  • Time
  • Action
  • Place
  • Human
  • Objects
  • Relationships
  • Senses

(Note: this is acrostic - the categories spell out METAPHORS)

Try lots of alternatives. Then choose the freshest visual image which will be relatable to your audience. 

Don't fall back on cliches. They are metaphors that have lost their punch. Don't write with stale chilli powder, use fresh green chillies!

For added impact, try a Synesthetic Metaphor, where one sense invades the territory of another (eg: loud colour or sweet sound)

Credit: Cron, 2012

      🤔 Confused? Enlightened?

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      - Charles & Steve.