Lyric Exercise #1 – Extending Metaphors
A large part of songwriting is creating imagery for our listeners. By painting a vivid enough picture through our lyrics, we can draw our listener further into our story. In this article, we’ll discuss how extending metaphors can help put detail into our lyrics, and what we can do to work on this technique.
This article is a summarised transcript of the first exercise in our video “5 Simple Songwriting Exercises to Transform Your Lyrics”. Click here to watch the video for more details, explanations and examples.
What is a Metaphor?
A metaphor is when one thing is described using the viewpoint of another thing. The area of overlap between those two objects is what creates the metaphor.
For example, if we say “Anger is a storm”, it’s the ways in which we connect those two ideas where the metaphor actually emerges.
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How to Extend a Metaphor and Why?
“Anger is a storm” is interesting as a metaphor on its own, but if we spend 5 or 10 minutes elaborating on it, we can truly draw out its potential. We can use words relating to storms to describe and expand on the idea of anger, as follows:
You don’t have to use everything that you come up with. Just pick out the bits that stand out the most to you. By picking out the best bits, we can create lyrics like this:
This works because the metaphor then becomes a way to invite a listener into the world of your song by allowing them to connect the dots for themselves. This creates a release of dopamine and creates a feeling of connection between the listener and the song.
How to Practice Extending Metaphors
One exercise you can use to practice extending metaphors is to first come up with five different metaphors. You could use a random generator such as perchance.org to help you come up with interesting word combinations.
For each one of these metaphors, spend 5 to 10 minutes extending the metaphor, making sure you are using words, phrases and images that relate to the metaphor image. So, if your metaphor is “Jealousy is a kitchen”, use language related to kitchen that will help create imagery to imply jealousy.
Another great way is to listen to great songs that use metaphors well. Here are some examples of songs which use metaphor effectively:
- “School Night” by Ani Defranco
- “Golden” by Jill Scott
- “Circle Games” by Joni Mitchell
- “She Burns” by Foy Vance
- “Take Me to Church” by Hozier
Conclusion: Lyric Exercise #1 – Extending Metaphors
Incorporating extended metaphors into your songwriting can elevate your lyrics from the ordinary to the extraordinary. What’s important is to be persistent in your practice and never stop trying to improve your songwriting skills.
Level up your songwriting with five radically practical exercises used by professional songwriters around the world: