Nobody gets me.”

Yeah, that’s what we hear a lot.

That’s what we say a lot. Even if we don’t say it, we feel it. We believe it.

Somewhere, we all want to be “seen” and “understood.” We want to share our innermost core with others and tell them what we are all about.
But it’s a hard thing to do.

Conveying what exactly we feel is a hard thing to do.

It’s a challenge that content creators face, too. They have ideas. Beautiful ideas. But they struggle to convey those insightful ideas to the audience. The problem is that the ideas are too abstract. Very hard for the audience to grasp.

What do we do then?

Our task is to make these ideas tangible and concrete. Our job is to ground the ideas and bring them within the audience’s grasp.

How, you ask?

By using metaphors, similes, and analogies.

Metaphors, similes, and analogies ground our thinking

These three can take abstract concepts and make them relatable to the audience. It’s like a superpower they have – they ground even the most nuanced, complex, abstract concept and make it digestible for the audience.

In the book Made to Stick, authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath teach us about “schema.”

A schema is something we already understand, and we can use it to teach something new.

Here’s an example they give:

Question – What is a pomelo?

EXPLANATION 1: A pomelo is the largest citrus fruit. The rind is very thick but soft and easy to peel away. The resulting fruit has a light yellow to coral pink flesh and can vary from juicy to slightly dry and from seductively spicy-sweet to tangy and tart.

The explanation worked. Or did it?

This explanation, although detailed, doesn’t help you visualize what a pomelo is.

Let’s try another way of understanding what a pomelo is.

EXPLANATION 2: A pomelo is basically a supersized grapefruit with a very thick and soft rind.

Much easier to visualize, right?

That’s the power of using similes, analogies, and metaphors.

But hang on, what is the difference between metaphors, analogies, and similes?

The difference is important

Not really.

I have always been confused between metaphors, similes, and analogies. Even now, I mix up their definitions. I can imagine my English teacher shaking her head in disappointment. Sorry, Sneha Miss!

After some research, I found out that it isn’t just me – many people are confused as well. Which means only one thing: it doesn’t matter.

Forget the technicalities. It’s okay not to know the exact differences between the three. What’s more important is knowing that they make our stories concrete. It’s about comparing our ideas to simpler things the audience already understands.

Let’s take a few more random examples:

1. Creating content is hard.

2. Creating content is like pushing a boulder up a mountain.

Here’s another one:

1. The client ghosted me and refused to return my calls. I was gutted.

2. The client refused to return my calls. It was like being punched by a 120-pound gorilla.

The number 2 versions are much more concrete, aren’t they?

Using metaphor, analogies, and similes in our writing

Now that we appreciate the merit of these three guys (or gals), the next question is how to incorporate them into our writing.

Or, to frame the question better – How do you find instances in your writing where you could use them?

Here’s a mistake to avoid – if you try to use them while writing your first draft, you will be overwhelmed quickly. Using metaphors, similes, and analogies is phase 2. Phase 1 is all about getting your idea on paper. After that, you can revisit your write-up and figure out where to make changes.

Phase 1: Get your idea out

Phase 2: See where you can add analogies, metaphors, and similes

My first draft would probably not be – It was like being punched by a 300-pound gorilla.

It would probably be – I felt terrible.

And then, during editing, I would ask myself – Okay, what are the different ways to convey that I felt terrible?

Well, I could probably say –

My client ghosted me. It felt like drinking spoilt milk.

Okay, that’s too gross.

My client ghosted me. It felt like being turned by my crush.

Okay, too boring.

My client ghosted me. It felt like being punched by a 300-pound gorilla.

Okay, it has a nice ring to it. Let me use it.

Using ChatGPT to create metaphors, smilies, and analogies

This is probably the first (and perhaps the last) time you will hear a ChatGPT tip from me. As someone who likes to keep his writing human, I am usually very skeptical of AI and its impact on my writing.

But in this particular use-case, ChatGPT is useful.

The first step was to create a custom ChatGPT that gave my writing a visual rating. If my writing is too abstract or not concrete enough, it gets a poor rating (say, 3 out of 10). Now, my job is to make this rating go up.

I revisit the write-up and then look at different areas I could make more concrete using metaphors, analogies, and similes. I work till I get a rating of 7 and 8.

To summarize

Conveying our ideas is hard. But analogies, metaphors, and similies are our best friends, helping us make our abstract ideas concrete. Don’t try to stuff your writing with analogies, metaphors, and similies in the first draft… that’s too hard. You can use them while you are editing. And don’t forget to use ChatGPT to find weak areas in your writing.

Because while we want to be seen and understood… we can’t expect that to happen without effort. We need to work for it.