Imagine the most beautiful photo ever taken. It was flush with vibrant colors, frantic energy, and visible emotion. It probably took the photographer weeks to finally capture it. Writing good analogies may not take as much time, but they often take just as much thought and effort.
Taking a good photo is never as easy as it looks. Capturing that prize-winning picture requires understanding of the inner workings of the camera. It is not as simple as pointing and clicking.
In the same way, writers cannot just sit down and type without having the proper tools for the job. One of those tools is the analogy. Going back to photography, writers can think of using analogies the same way that they think about using the focus on a camera.
The image that comes out of a camera is blurry and fuzzy without the use of a focus mechanism. This fuzziness is something that neither photographers nor writers want in their work. Analogies are the focus mechanism of writing that bring greater clarity to complex concepts.
An analogy, in its simplest form, is a comparison between two different concepts or ideas, and it is usually used to make things clearer. For instance, this article compares the complicated concept of analogies to the easier to understand focus mechanism of a camera. Writers want to start with something hard to understand and make it simpler for the reader.
A good example of an analogy in fiction is the famous “box of chocolates” line from Forest Gump. “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get,” the titular character says. In this quote, Forest Gump explains the complicated concept of life by comparing it to the easy to understand box of chocolates.
The trick with using analogies is to explain the complex using everyday things that most readers could understand. Authors can use common objects like boxes of chocolate, the ocean, or computers to explain concepts like life, love, or the inner workings of the brain. Any time authors are worried that their audience may not be able to understand something in their story, they should try to compare it to a more familiar object.
Without a focus mechanism, the viewer of a photograph can become lost, with nothing in particular to draw their eye. The focus does not make everything clear, but instead, it blurs out exactly what the audience is not supposed to view. Using analogies in writing can work the same way.
One of the most important aspects of using analogies is to know how to focus them. Sometimes, especially in stories where suspense is a key feature, giving the audience the whole picture can hurt the story. Good suspense in a story often comes from a reader knowing just enough to be interested, but being in the dark enough to be curious. It may be wise to use analogies sparingly in this kind of scenario.
One final point needs to be made about analogies. Sometimes authors just does not need to use them. A slightly out-of-focus photo is not always a bad one. A book where the audience does not know or understand everything they read is not always unsatisfying. Suspense stories, thrillers, and horror stories are genres where sometimes, it is more satisfying to not know everything.
Authors need to read a lot in their preferred genre and see how other successful writers incorporate analogies. They might just find that using more analogies can transform their work from a sloppy, out-of-focus mess into a beautiful work of art.