How to Use Extended Metaphors: 7 Practical Steps

by Bennett R. Coles

extended metaphor

Extended metaphors are figures of speech where you compare two different things that are not alike in order to illustrate or emphasize their similarities.

This can be a difficult concept to understand at first and many times they’re used in a less than optimal way, but they’re an excellent literary device when used correctly.

In this article, we’ll discuss how extended metaphors work and I’ll show you seven practical steps so you can quickly learn how to use them effectively in your writing.

What Is an Extended Metaphor

An extended metaphor is a literary technique that connects two otherwise unrelated things by inventing analogies between them. A regular metaphor, on the other hand, has similarities between its related components only.

Extended metaphors are usually utilized to make a larger abstract idea clearer, creating emotional context for the readers.

Why Use an Extended Metaphor In Your Writing

Readers use metaphors to connect new unfamiliar ideas with familiar ones your readers can easily relate to, and that connection enhances their understanding of the otherwise foreign concept.

The reason metaphors in general, and extended metaphors in particular, work so well is that it’s much easier for readers to connect with something they’re familiar with even if not exactly what you intend to communicate, than to process something new that they have not yet fully grasped.

How Can I Avoid Cliches When Using This Device

To avoid cliches when using an extended metaphor, don’t use phrases or descriptions that feel old and tired. Don’t use metaphors that have been overused to death.

Also, avoid using metaphors in an unoriginal way. Re-read your metaphors critically and don’t be afraid to rework your text or remove a weak one if necessary, because a poorly executed metaphor will turn readers off!

7 Practical Steps for Writing an Extended Metaphor


Here’s a set of seven sequential steps to build your extended metaphors from scratch:

Step 1:

Begin with a base metaphor (e.g. “The sky is the limit”.)

Step 2:

Use it as an analogy for a second idea (“You can’t put a price on your dreams”.)

Step 3:

Extend the metaphor to create a third idea (“I’m going to do whatever it takes to make my dream come true”.)

Step 4:

Add details that support your extended metaphor and help readers visualize it more clearly.

Step 5:

Be creative, but stay within your comfort zone so you’re not tempted to try something radically new that may backfire.

Step 6:

Don’t overuse extended metaphors in your writing or they will lose their power.

Step 7:

Practice creating extended metaphors with frequency until you get really good at it!

Next Steps

After reading this article, you’ll be able to better understand how extended metaphors can enrich your writing and create a more compelling story.

While it’s important to use extended metaphors to enhance your readers’ comprehension and emotional attachment to your writing, it’s as important to always be original and not to rely on overused cliches.

I hope this article has helped spark some ideas about what an extended metaphor is as well as to provide you with practical steps to begin incorporating them into your own writing.

Now it’s time to experiment!

Best wishes!

If you’re working on a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.


Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to generate additional leads for their businesses.

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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.

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