Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Synecdoche, Metonomy, and Simile, Oh MY! - Usual and Extraordinary Figurative Language Lessons

We all know how fun writing can be.
And we all know how CRAZY it can drive you when you are either
A. looking for that correct trope or device, or
or B. looking at those papers and realizing that God bless those students, they certainly have zeal but perhaps they lack finesse.

If you look at the product above, it is my newest writing product with SEVEN writing activities in it, reusable up to THIRTY TIMES! It is filled with the introductory information you might come to expect just by having read this blog:
  • A full glossary including thorough explanations on: character, characterization, flat, round, static, and dynamic         characters, direct and indirect characterization, sidekick, doppelganger, protagonist, antagonist, villain, foil, and show don't tell.
  • Hand outs specifically on Show Don't Tell (a master overview with guidelines and examples)
  • The differences, uses,  and pros and cons of Direct and Indirect Characterization, titled "Direct Versus Indirect: Is One REALLY Better Than the Other?"
  • Easy Reference "TIP SHEET" for Direct and Indirect Characterization for use when writing
  • "I Can READ 'em Like a Book: Writing Emotion Into A Scene Using Indirect Characterization" (7 Uses)
  • Character Data Sheets! Unlimited Uses - 3 powerful, inspiring pages to get you started on that character-driven story.
  • Character Expansion Task Cards - 12 Uses! Read the Card and get down to business!
  • Stock Characters - Defy the Mold!
  • Indirect Characterization Writing Exercise - 4 Uses
  • Guided Visualization (Great Fun, great results)
If you are interested in this handy writing item, by all means, check it out at

But NOW a QUESTION? How to PROPERLY USE FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE? How much is too much? When and Where to Use it? 
A writer writes. This is even more true for the budding writer. And sloppy, messy, purple prose writing is probably BETTER than weak and anemic writing. The goal is to just keep writing, just keep writing, and yes, just keep writing. I think I mentioned how a Pulitzer-prize winning author told me how he had three novels shoved unceremoniously in his closet and a hundred or more short stories in his desk - ALL REJECTED?? If this is not proof positive, and hope eternal that students and teacher-writers both should simply soldier on. . . well I don't know what is! In short, with practice, we all improve!
      Your little freebie for today is DOUBLE. Number ONE. . . a validation of writing. This is found on my Teachers Pay Teachers site. Yes, you can SEE it here. But if you click on the link below, you can go and get it, too. It is beautiful, and it is also life affirming and "write-affirming."

There is ONE more from that pack… if you go to the store. . . it is inside the download!!
MY second Freebie is information and THE TITLE OF MY POST. I know, I save the best for last. But it’s all a lovely process, just like learning, writing, teaching, and life, I suppose.
Cliche and Idiomatic Expression -
1. Cliche – What’s great and terrible about cliches is that students are familiar with them, and yet, not at all aware of how prevalent they are, as many of them have now become “figures of speech” that can work their way into our writing style and affect the writer’s voice.  The worst part of cliche is that while it can be fun to teach and review in class, this is NOT something we should aspire to have in our writing, even in dialogue. The same is true for our students. Earlier in my career, I advised students that perhaps their characters used cliches, but the longer I live my life as a reader of great fiction, the more I realize that I fall in love with writing and characters that are odd, quirky, original, and those things that are singular and that have the feel of elevated artifacts. That is a tall order for ANY of us. While it may feel impossible to accomplish. It may well BE impossible to accomplish. But it is a noble goal.  Therefore,  while using hackneyed, everyday and cliched language is often unavoidable because it nearly a reflex, we do ourselves and students little service to encourage the practice. On the first day of High school or university teaching, I encourage students to write the WORST they can, using cliches and every bad writing element they know. Then, we try our best to move on.
2. Idioms – Idioms can be confusing to us, to students, to EVERYONE. A fantastic product I really should make up would differentiate between cliche, idiom, proverb, and maxim. I believe there are even more! WRITE IN and share your thoughts. . . An exercise in which each in defined, examples are given and students are  encouraged to use each properly or invent their own would be a great lesson.
3. Hyperbole – this is a fancy term for “exaggeration for emphasis” – it has some great uses in fiction. While you are using “exaggeration for emphasis” you can make your hyperbole work double or triple time, though! It can be used by narrators speaking over confidently or hyper critically about their characters or setting;  I’m sure you know already that the author’s attitude is called the tone, and the narrator’s depictions of the setting and surrounding environment may affect the mood and atmosphere. What this means is that if the narrator is using hyperbole (positive or negative) about the characters it must affect the tone or give us an indication of the author’s attitude towards the subject being written about. And, when the narrator describes the setting, (for example, if it is exaggerated in its gloominess), this certainly will add to the mood and atmosphere! I bet you didn’t think  hyperbole could do all that!
              It gets BETTER! Hyperbole may also be used in dialogue for those characters who are literally exaggerating, which reveals much about their personalities. This is, as I am sure you know, just one of the seven methods of indirect characterization. (aren’t you glad you kept reading!) It can go a step further and become a plot device once the characters use hyperbole in dialogue in order to GET something. For example, if, at a ball or party, male characters are in the home of a lovely woman who just so happens to the only wealthy and unmarried woman left in this portion of the country, that may not mean much. When each decides to speak a little dishonestly, adding little bits that are beyond his abilities, talents, holdings, etc. it would be safe to say that each has stepped forward into the rising action of the plot; each will attempt to marry her, and it was through his hyperbolic speech that we can know his intentions.
The last example is quite singular, though an interesting one, and the idea of using hyperbole for a plot device is not new. In any case, there may be other ways in which hyperbole is used, whether for comic effect, insult or other – but these few suggestions alone provide a glimpse into how this figurative language can affect a story. I hope you see the possibilities!

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