So, like the question says, basically. Say a character kisses someone and the writing says "she saw fireworks exploding behind her closed eyes", what is that? Because it seems like it comes from the same family as similes/metaphors but isn't either of those things.

  • 1
    Questions about writing techniques are perfectly on-topic here. If people want to debate whether this question should be on-topic or not, that debate should take place on Meta, not here in the comments.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jun 17 at 18:22
  • 1
    Do you mean that your character sees flashes of light, similar to the "stars" one sees from a concussion (photopsia or phosphene)? Or do you mean your character feels an extreme emotional arousal that is to the normal, everyday emotions like a firework is to a normal night (exuberance, extasy, bliss)? It would be good if you could clarify. Also, you'll probably get better answers over at linguistics.stackexchange.com or literature.stackexchange.com.
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 18 at 11:20
  • Skyrockets in flight... afternoon delight... an awful song. Commented Jun 21 at 14:36

1 Answer 1


This is called a metaphorical phrase. It is not a simile; because similes are basically comparing "similar" things.

For example, "it was like watching fireworks", or "it was like heaven", are similes, the feeling was similar to watching fireworks, or similar to the person's imagined heaven. The same thing for "it was as if I was fighting for my life."

To claim something actually happened when it is clear that it did not, is either a metaphor or a metaphorical phrase (or a lie!).

She did not actually see fireworks behind her close eyes. Somebody did not "die and go to heaven." Nobody was transported to different plane of existence, etc.

"It was like he'd been hit with sledgehammer." = simile. Comparison.

"Her words struck him with the force of a sledgehammer." = metaphorical phrase. Direct claim of fact.

  • 1
    The question doesn't provide enough context for you to know what OP means with the phrase "she saw fireworks exploding behind her closed eyes". You are assuming that "it is clear that it did not [happen]", but OP might have meant that "she" literally saw fireworks, e.g. in her imagination or as phosphenes induced by the character's strong emotions. Which is why you shouldn't jump to answer questions that don't sufficiently explain what OP is actually trying to do or that don't provide enough textual context to understand a given example.
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 16 at 17:37
  • 3
    @Ben SO is often ridiculed on the Internet for an attitude of willful obtuseness and "your question is wrong, I won't answer until you ask another question instead". Your comments here are a good example for how that reputation came to be.
    – Fadeway
    Commented Jun 17 at 12:21
  • 2
    @Ben Then as a teacher, what is the proper thing to do? The Original Poster can comment on my post and correct my misinterpretation. Or if I did parse the question correctly, perhaps my answer helps the OP. That's one of the reasons the comment section exists. Demanding perfection in the question when somebody needs help is petty and unhelpful, it is discouraging people from asking for help instead of encouraging them to do so. I don't ask questions on this stack, I just answer. I'm here to help aspiring writers. Hopefully that is what you are here for, too.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Jun 17 at 13:20
  • 1
    @Ben What the phrase means has no bearing on what the literary technique it uses is called, which is what the question is asking. You're nitpicking over something irrelevant to the Q&A IMO.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jun 17 at 18:19
  • 1
    @F1Krazy If the phrase literally means what it says (i.e. that someone actually sees something resembling fireworks behind their closed eyelids) then the literary technique is a description, and not a metaphorical phrase, as the answer by Amadeus suggests. So it does make a difference what the phrase means for what the correct answer is.
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 17 at 18:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.