Sunday, June 8, 2014

Figurative Language

Psalm 23 is possibly one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. David employs the use of figurative language to paint for his readers the picture of God and His relationship with His children. Through the use of metaphor and personification, we can get the idea of just how God cares for us.
Since David was a shepherd, he had a clear understanding of the connection between the shepherd and his flock. He uses this knowledge to give just an inkling of the connection he feels that God has with His children.

Figurative language can be defined as language that goes beyond the normal meaning of the words used. This device is used to make writing more clear or better understood. There are three basic types: simile, metaphor, and personification.

Simile compares two different things using like or as, while a metaphor compares without using the words like and as. Personification is when an idea, object, or animal is given the characteristics of a person.

The use of figurative language can enhance a reader’s understanding. Have you used one of the above devices within your work in progress? If so, check to make sure that it enhances your story without detracting from it. Share the passage with someone and ask specifically if she can understand better than if the figurative language were omitted.

Are there areas in your story where the use of simile, metaphor, or even personification could improve your writing? Sometimes using these devices can help in “showing” a character’s emotions even more clearly than naming the particular feeling.

Consider this from the Psalm: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .” David could have been literal and said, “Even though I experience sad and depressing times . . .” But, which one causes you to actually feel that sadness?
Locate an emotion in your story. Create a simile, metaphor, and personification for that emotion. Would the addition of one of these enhance the meaning for your reader? If so, add it in. Search out other areas that your story doesn't seem as strong and try this exercise again. Sometimes the addition of a little colorful language can be just what is needed to make your words sparkle.

Because our finite minds have a hard time grasping an infinite God, this is why we see the use of figurative language in the Bible. David used these devices and so did Paul. As Christian writers trying to express our message through our writing, we might find these devices helpful in getting our meaning across to our readers.

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