Analogy, Simile, and Metaphor as Descriptions
Metaphors, analogies, and similes are very similar in nature. Each is used to paint a picture with words. A simile is the most literal and straightforward; it uses the word like or as to make a comparison:
He's crazy like a fox.
He's as crazy as a fox.
The above examples are designed to make a comparison. The sentences do not make literal statements. Instead, they make figurative statements designed to add depth to the description.
A metaphor sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. It states that one thing is something else. A metaphor can create a very visual impact for your reader, so its use can be a very powerful tool. Its meaning is still figurative, but a metaphor causes you to read between the lines. Consider the following examples: Don't pull my leg.
Don't pull the wool over my eyes.
Nobody's leg is actually being pulled in the first example. It simply means, “Be serious with me; don't joke around!” But the metaphor is, for whatever reason, that you're pulling on someone's leg by not telling the truth.
Be careful that the metaphor you use is not a cliché. Using a phrase, expression, or passage that has been overused (or has become a cliché) can have a negative effect on your writing, and as a result, cause it to lose its credibility. To have impact, your metaphor needs to be original or unique to the idea you're trying to convey.
The second example is a metaphor, too. It doesn't involve any wool, but it serves to paint the picture that somehow you're interfering with the view of the person involved. Pulling wool over that person's eyes is a figurative illustration that you're clouding the person's vision.
At the beginning of this discussion on metaphors, a metaphor was used. Did you notice it? “A metaphor sits at the opposite end of the spectrum.” If you think about it, a metaphor can't actually sit anywhere — it's a thought, not something concrete. That sentence was a figurative metaphor, but it did its job conveying the meaning. That's how a good metaphor should be — invisible to the reader unless he or she is looking for it.
In between simile and metaphor is analogy. An analogy is usually a lot longer than either a simile or metaphor because you're using it to compare one situation to another. And that's the big difference — when you use an analogy, you are directly comparing two things. A simile is like a very short analogy; an analogy may use
To use analogy, just take a simile or metaphor and elaborate upon it. Stretch it out, and use the example to illustrate the point you're trying to make. Unlike a metaphor, it won't be a direct statement, and unlike a simile, it won't be a simple comparison. Use it when a simile or metaphor won't establish enough of the meaning you're trying to convey.
A simile uses the word like or as to make a comparison. You can remember what a simile is by remembering that it states a similarity. A metaphor, on the other hand, goes the extra distance and actually says that something has certain characteristics. Both are important tools in the writer's toolbox.