The rolling blades sank the ship.

Here, in this example, blades is a metaphor for dangerous waves.

Above the noose I saw the sun.

Here, noose means water. The water is slowly suffocating the narrator like a noose.

The noose slithered around my body.

Here, noose is a metaphor for snake. The snake can suffocate someone like a noose.

All three metaphors are highly questionable at best, so is there a some sort of thought experiment or techniques to help a writer see if a metaphor is good or bad?

  • 3
    None of these metaphors even make sense, and some of them aren't metaphors. "The noose slithered around my body" is personification.
    – weakdna
    Feb 4, 2019 at 23:53
  • 1
    Yeah, this doesn't make sense. Your question doesn't either. It feels like a question you asked just for the sake of asking a question. I'm not getting anything about you seriously not knowing the answer or even caring. Feb 5, 2019 at 2:54
  • @Cyn, you are been a little harsh there. This is at best a bad-formulated question, at worst an hidden request of critique for the metaphors quoted. Feb 5, 2019 at 14:11
  • You already know those metaphors fail - what is the question?
    – Rasdashan
    Feb 6, 2019 at 10:17
  • I thought metaphors are to make you more understandable and just for fancy. And in these cases they make things less understandable.
    – rus9384
    Feb 7, 2019 at 8:01

2 Answers 2


I'm not convinced that your comparisons are ultimately the best option for what you're trying to describe, but I'll use them in my explanation nonetheless. (Galastel's answer better addresses the content of a metaphor.)

A metaphor still needs to name the thing you are actually talking about. Context can help, but saying the thing outright is best. If the reader has to sit and thing "what is the noose?", you've taken them out of the story, rather than immersing them in rich visuals as you intend. If you have doubts, trying turning what you are saying into a simile first. Adding "like" or "as" makes it much more clear because you are forced to say what the actual thing is you are talking about.

The snake slithered around my body as a noose slithers around a neck.

The waves cut into the ship like blades and it sank.

Then work your simile into a metaphor. A metaphor is simply more directly saying that the snake is a noose and the waves are blades. Now that you've seen the simile version:

The snake was a noose around my body.

The waves were blades, cutting into the sinking ship.


First and foremost, a metaphor needs to be understood. When Shakespeare says "All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances", you are not left wondering a metaphor for what the stage is - Shakespeare tells you.

Your metaphors are all locks without a key - you do not tell the reader a metaphor for what each image is. One has no way to guess that by "rolling blades" you mean waves, for example. In fact, you do not even hint that you're speaking figuratively, except that the literal meaning doesn't make a lot of sense. (Assuming a sea monster made of knives is not part of the story.) You'd have to say "waves like rolling blades sunk the ship".

Once you've addressed that issue, are the images good images? Are blades a good metaphor for waves? This question has already been asked here: How to write a good metaphor?

  • 1
    I remember how one book series I read (and enjoyed) through an unfortunate combo of context-less metaphors and a really fantastical and elaborate magic system made it impossible for me to tell a lot of the time if something was actually happening. It could be the waves or the sea monster--no way to be sure.
    – Kitkat
    Feb 5, 2019 at 17:58

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