Does concocting a powerful metaphor trigger a flashback to pop quiz in freshman English?
Does it feel as fun as writing a sonnet on deadline?
It doesn’t have to be. Here’s a simple, effective way to concoct a catchy – possibly, a powerful – metaphor: Add a twist to a cliche.
Take the headline of this post. What if, instead of ‘easy as pie,’ it read, ‘as easy as pi”? You’d immediately flash back to sophomore geometry and a chalkboard filling up with the endless decimalization of pi. So, as easy as ‘pie’ is sweet, but as easy as ‘pi’ is, well, not so easy.
Let’s add another twist: ‘As easy as Martha Stewart’s pie.” We stay in the realm of pastry, but our claim of simplicity is now up against our assumption that Martha Stewart has needlessly overcomplicated pie.
Here’s how this technique looks in real life. Columnist Susan Tompor’s piece “Detroit retirees facing cuts anxiously await bankruptcy eligibility decision” includes a nice twist on the retirement cliche of a gold watch. “City of Detroit retirees are discovering that the golden watch may have to be pawned, as Detroit deals with an $18-billion mountain of debt and projected liabilities,” she wrote. And that’s how it’s done.