A good writer should be able to use all the tools at his or her disposal to engage and pass information across to the target audience.
One of the ways writers do this is by the use of figurative language.
Depending on the type of writing, writers strive to employ many literary tools in their writing to make it appealing to readers and to ensure that their work is unique and appreciated.
Some examples of figurative language or the use of a figure of speech include:
The shadow of the moon jumped on the river.
Bees kiss the flowers now and then.
The flood trampled over the entire town.
Time tramples even warriors under its feet.
The building is so tall it almost kisses the sky.
Writers use figurative language to add humor, make comparisons, add emphasis, and a whole lot of other expressions to their writings.
This article discusses figurative language, figure of speech, and why authors use them.
Figurative language and figure of speech
There is often confusion between figurative language and figure of speech. Even though they are closely related or almost the same, it is safe to say that they do not mean the same thing.
Figurative language is the use of figure of speech in writing or communication that contains figure of speech.
A figure of speech is a specific type of literary tool or expression that writers use to convey a meaning that is different from the literal or conventional meaning of the words used to express them.
Examples include metaphor, simile, oxymoron, hyperbole, etc.
Figurative language is a writing style where the author uses words or expressions that have a different meaning from their conventional or literal meaning.
The expression, it is raining cats and dogs is a metaphor.
It does not literally mean cats and dogs are falling out of the clouds. The meaning implies that it’s pouring down rain.
Figures of speech are classified differently by different people all over the world.
As language continues to evolve, more classification and types of figurative language will be of incredible use in writings.
The easiest way to understand figures of speech is to classify them according to tropes and schemes.
Tropes are figures of speech that use a word or phrase to mean something different from the common, accepted, or literal meaning of a phrase or word.
Schemes, on the other hand, deviate from the normal or common sentence form.
With schemes, there is a change in a sentence, word order, pattern, and the arrangement.
Typically a trope uses wordplay, comparison, and association to twist or change the literal or conventional meaning of words.
According to the explanation above, figurative language can also be said to be a language that employs the use of tropes.
Why Figurative Language
So why do writers use figurative language? Humans are emotional beings, and figurative language or the use of figure of speech evokes emotions thus giving the reader a better experience of the work.
When telling a story, authors understand that it is essential to engage the reader in a way that they transport to the scene.
This way, the reader can experience the story as if they were there.
Writers use figurative language to paint vivid pictures and make their writing exciting and engaging.
Everyone uses figurative language sometimes without even knowing it. It is a great way to spice up writing and even verbal conversations.
Writers use different types of figure of speech to create different effects; sometimes, a combination of two or more can create a new result.
In the end, using figure of speech is all geared towards keeping the writer informed, entertained, and hooked.
Here are some reasons why writers use figurative language in writing.
To invoke attention
By using figure of speech such as metaphors, analogies, and similes, writers can jolt their readers to attention.
Having an attentive reader read your work creates a higher chance of them getting the message and enjoying your work.
When readers enjoy your work, they talk about it and refer it to other readers.
Writers use figurative language to ensure that readers don’t only read and understand, but they find the work engaging enough to read to the end.
Readers are exposed to tons of books and content online every day to stand out and hold their attention.
Writers cannot use plain facts to write; they must add something unique and spicy in the form of figurative language.
If a story began with the line the night was dark as death itself people are more likely to read on and find out what happened, than if the story simply began with the night was dark.
To paint a clear picture
Clarity is vital in writing when writers write or tell stories.
They want their readers to visualize what they are reading, and be able to smell, taste, and feel every part of the story.
Using figurative language achieves this.
When you use metaphors in your work, it gives the reader a vivid picture of the situation in their minds. They experience the action as if it were a 3D movie.
And even better, their imagination does the creation of the visuals, using the author’s words.
Similes and occasionally analogies are also used by writers to help the reader understand situations clearly.
Writers love to be identified by their unique style of writing.
Once they develop a style that appeals to their fans, they try to replicate that writing style in all their works to form something of a signature.
Writers use figurative language, among other things, to achieve uniqueness of style.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that makes an explicit or implied comparison between two things that are not related but share some characteristics which become the bases of the comparison.
In other words, two objects that are not related are compared because they share one or more other characteristics.
When you say “my father is the black sheep of his family,” you are comparing your father with a sheep.
This isn’t because they are anything alike, but the characteristic of being “black” or the troublesome or odd one in the family defines them both.
Writers use metaphors to create an interesting comparison between two things that are not related.
It is done by simply saying that one thing is the same as another thing even when literally — they have nothing in common.
Again the cats and dogs metaphor comes to mind. It’s raining heavily would be a literal way of saying this.
But by using a figure of speech, the writer apart from passing on the obvious message, also makes the reading experience enjoyable.
Other examples of metaphors include; night owl, my uncle was boiling mad, the homework was a walk in the park, the skies of john’s future began to grow dark, trophy wife, etc.
Writers also use similes to make comparisons between two unrelated things, but in the case of similes, it states that one thing is “like” or “as” the other. “He was as loud as a trumpet.”
To express complex meanings
Writers use figure of speech like an oxymoron to deliver complex meaning in their work.
This is done by placing two different words together to convey a severe or complex situation or emotion.
In Shakespeares, Romeo & Juliet, for example, sweet sorrow is used to express the feeling of joy and pain at the same time.
Sweet sorrow is used to bring new meaning to the combination of bitterness and sweetens that characterized the love of Romeo & Juliet.
Writers also use other word combinations in which opposite ideas are brought together, to create a unique effect.
It is most common to use an adjective followed by a noun with contradictory meanings.
Examples include “living dead” and “bittersweet.”
Writers will also use oxymorons in sentences; for example, “if you must lead the people you need to walk behind.”
Other examples of oxymoron include: Original copies, Foolish wisdom, seriously funny, tragic comedy, Open secret, virtual reality, love-hate, Paid volunteers. Etc.
Writers use the figure of speech called hyperbole to exaggerate for emphasis.
Hyperbole, or exaggeration is a common tool used even in verbal communication by many people every day.
When a writer writes “his suitcase weighed a ton,” she is emphasizing that the suitcase was really heavy.
In reality, a suitcase won’t weigh a ton. In Greek, from which the world hyperbole is derived, it means “overcasting.”
It is a deliberate exaggeration of the truth which is often used by writers to demonstrate the importance of something while at the same time creating a comic effect.
Some common examples of hyperbole are:
My grandfather is as old as the hills. David’s bag weighs a ton. Archie’s wife is as heavy as an elephant. I could die of shame. I have a million things on my mind, etc.
By using hyperbole, writers achieve emphasis and humor in their work.
To express humor
Humor attracts a lot of readers.
A writer’s ability to infuse humor into his or her writing sets them apart as interesting thus attracting more readers to read and enjoy their work.
A figure of speech can be hilarious; writers use a funny figure of speech to achieve this effect in their works.
To express a discrepancy between reality and appearance
Authors employ the use of irony, a figure of speech that shows the discrepancy between how things look and how things are.
When an author uses irony, it means that the actions of the characters, the events, and the words they say are unrelated or do not reconcile.
Irony can also be used in a way that the intention of the author is different from the meaning of the words he uses.
There is a difference between reality and appearance.
Here are two types of irony: dramatic and situational.
Writers usually use dramatic irony in their works.
In situational irony, both readers or the audience and the characters comprehend the implications of the real situation.
In dramatic irony, the characters are in the dark about the reality of the situation, but the reader or audience is not.
Some common examples of irony:
I made a post on Facebook about how useless Facebook is. The name of the biggest boy in my class was Tiny.
This butter is as soft as a slab of concrete. Oh great! Now you have broken my TV. Your hands are as soft as a rock.
To create a personal connection to non-human characters
Writers use personification to give human attributes to non-human characters in their work.
This creates a connection between the reader or audience to the non-human character.
The reader can relate to this character as if it was human making the story or work more engaging and exciting.
With the use of personification, the reader or audience can understand, empathize, and react emotionally to non-human characters in any work.
Personification does not just use human attributes to describe non-human characters; writers also use it to attribute human action to non-human characters.
Thus, personifying the non-human character.
Giving a non-human character human traits help readers or audiences to better understand and relate to that character.
It is also a way of stimulating a reader’s imagination.
Some examples of personification are:
The rain did not care about their pains. One day the sun was indifferent to their suffering.
The building was so tall that it was kissing the sky after the tree was pulled down. Birds cry over their lifeless body.
That night the full moon winked through the clouds. Steven’s truck suffered a heart attack in the middle of the highway.
Overall, the benefits of figurative writing to both writers and readers are endless.
Every day writers devise new and interesting figurative language to deliver engaging and exciting content to their readers and audience.
Everyone enjoys the use of figurative language. Moreover, it conveys more than just words can.