Figurative Language: Examples to Make Your Writing Come Alive

example of figurative languageWriting is a fun and creative way to communicate, and there are a variety of ways of doing it to communicate to different types of people. For example, many people love stories. Stories have a way of taking abstract ideas, such as the value of sacrificing ourselves for the people we love, and turning them into concrete images and scenarios in the reader’s mind. We go from knowing that we should be willing to sacrifice for someone we love to being emotionally moved by actually seeing what that would look like through the actions of characters in a story.

Fiction writing, by its very nature, uses language that is intended to paint a picture in the reader’s mind, but using language that acts as a catalyst upon a reader’s imagination doesn’t have to be limited just to fiction. If you’re interested in learning more about writing fiction, especially in the area of young adult fiction, take a look at this young adult fiction writing workshop.

Many writers love to share ideas that people can believe, that provoke deep thinking, and that launch conversations. Nonfiction tends to deal in the area of propositional truth. We communicate facts and opinions without the use of carefully layered imaginative plots. Facts and opinions don’t have to be dry and boring, however. Blogs have become one of the primary avenues through which nonfiction writers communicate the ideas they’re passionate about, and many of the most popular bloggers are at the top of their game because they know how to engage their readers’ imaginations. This course will help you get started with your first blog.

Examples of Figurative Language:

Whether you’re a fiction or a nonfiction writer, if you want your writing to make a difference and get people thinking and imagining, you need to have a good grasp of using figurative language. Figurative language is meant to get readers thinking because we’re using words in a way that they aren’t normally used if we’re using them literally. Often, figurative language is used to clarify something in the reader’s mind by comparing it to something they’re familiar with. Below are some examples of figurative language to make your writing come alive.

– Metaphor

A metaphor makes a comparison between two unlike things, and it does this by asserting that one thing is something else. For example, asserting that someone’s life is a wreck is a metaphor. Obviously, a human life cannot literally be a wreck. A life is one thing, and a wreck is something completely different. Remember, however, that figurative language is about being a catalyst for your reader’s imagination. By asserting that someone’s life is a wreck, you’re conjuring a picture in your reader’s mind of a car crash and all of the disaster associated with it. You could say that a person’s life is bad, but saying that someone’s life is a wreck causes your reader to feel how bad the person’s life is in a way that just stating that their life is bad never will. You can use metaphors in your writing to make some of your more important ideas stand out. Check out this course for more information about noticing metaphors and using them for persuasion.

– Simile

Like metaphors, a simile is also a comparison between two unlike things, but it’s a little less direct of a comparison than a metaphor. Instead of making a comparison by asserting that one thing is something else, similes compare two unlike things by using the words “like” or “as.” For example, her tears were like a rushing river is a simile that compares someone’s tears with a rushing river. A person’s tears can’t literally be like a rushing river, but by saying that the tears are like a rushing river, you’re conjuring an image in the reader’s mind of how much someone is crying. Another example, this time using as, would be, “She felt her heart break as glass.” In this example, the comparison is between a woman’s heart and glass, conjuring the image of the woman’s heart breaking easily just as glass does.

– Hyperbole

A hyperbole is an exaggeration that a writer uses to accentuate a point they’re trying to make. It’s considered figurative language because we don’t take what is said literally. For example, if you heard someone say that they were so hungry, they could eat a horse, you wouldn’t think that the person was literally going to eat an entire horse. They’re simply making the point that they are very hungry. Notice that you could make a statement that you’re hungry, but by using hyperbole, the reader has a concrete image of how strong your hunger actually feels.

– Personification

Personification is when you attribute human characteristics to a non-human object. Personification is similar to metaphor and examples of it can often be considered metaphors because they make a comparison between two unlike things. The point of personification, like the other examples of figurative language, is to create a more concrete image in the mind of your reader of something abstract. An example of personification would be, “The wind screamed during the storm in the middle of the night.” Does wind scream? Does wind have vocal cords? Of course not. Though wind doesn’t actually scream, by attributing the ability to scream to wind, you’re helping the reader to imagine the sound of the wind like a scream.

Using figurative language in your writing can be a lot of fun, but you have to be careful to avoid overusing it. Figurative language is like a spice (notice the figurative language there?) that you use to accent your writing, and it works well to engage your readers on another level. The next time you’re working on a writing project, whether in a story or a blog, try to make your writing come alive by adding some examples of figurative language. If you want to try to write for publication in magazines, this course will guide you through writing a quality article.