In Metaphors We Live By ,George Lakeoff shows how metaphors work constantly and consistently in our language: happy is always up, sad is always down. You could never reach the bottom of your happiness. When we write we take on this whole system—it isn’t always under our control, but we can try. In her wonderful Don’t Murder Your Mystery, Chris Roerden encourages metaphor, but never metaphor for its own sake. It must serve character or plot development.
I’m intrigued by the fact that English has so many metaphors involving the foot: put your foot in your mouth, stand on your own two feet, foot loose and fancy free, lose your footing—there are over a hundred. And of course they are clichés. And we don’t want clichés. But we can play with those. I thought of “She didn’t like the taste of her foot in her mouth.” So what kind of character is she? What’s the next line? “Normally so polite as to seem obsequious, what had made her go off like that yesterday?” Or, “And yet, over and over, she made the same mistake: saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.” Perhaps I’ll get a novel out of that metaphor. SQ
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