Why Authors Use Figurative Language (Explained) (2023)

Imagination is an important aspect of writing. It is used in any good text, whether fiction or non-fiction. It adds much more depth to your work and allows you to be imaginative and creative.

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What is images?

Figurative language is a way in which writers create a picture of words by using idioms: specific types of figurative expressions that convey meanings other than the literal meaning of words.

It allows authors to paint a vivid mental picture into their writing in a way that non-figurative language, literal language, can struggle to do.

Incorporating idioms into writing can also add depth, meaning, and color to text. Figurative language helps writers refer to or describe an image that a normal sentence cannot.

It is an essential skill to develop in creative writing.

Skillfully used images awaken emotions in the reader, as the author intended. Expanding the reader's experience beyond mere literal meaning. William Shakespeare, along with many other authors, was a master of this.

To be or not to be, that's the question:
When suffering is nobler
The slings and javelins of insolent fortune,
Or take up arms against a sea of ​​turmoil,
And resisting putting an end to them?

William Shakespeare

Consider the mental picture this verse conjures up. "The Slings and Arrows of Scandalous Fortune" evokes a variety of evils and others that do harm.

Authors use various types of figurative language as literary devices to enhance their stories and make them more interesting, including similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, exaggeration, and representation. We'll get into that below.

Images are present in most types of writing, including poetry, screenplays, and even academic texts.

Examples of figurative language in writing

Some examples of figurative language in sentences would be:

"The mountains rose to heaven like an eagle."

"His eyes shone like the stars in the sky."

"The sun was like a red ball floating in the sky"

"His eyes were like the sea at dawn"

"I felt like a broken record"

"I can't stop thinking about that girl."

"The money burned a hole in your pocket"

"She was a breath of fresh air"

"I missed home."

"You are a dog."

"The room is full of heat."

"The sky is a sea of ​​black ink with stars like driftwood."

"This heat is going to kill me!"

The role of the image in writing

Most authors try to engage the reader and evoke emotions in various ways.

Authors use figurative language in their writings to make the story more interesting and memorable, giving it a deeper meaning than what is on the surface.

Images make the story more enjoyable to read while also allowing the reader to better understand what the author is trying to convey.

He does this by incorporating emphasis, comparison, and humor into his writing. It can even play a role in adding musicality and rhythm to a piece.

Images have the power to shape your text in a way that grabs and holds the reader's attention.

Can you imagine if life was flat and literal? The same applies to writing: pictorial writing offers the opportunity to represent and intensify the inner and outer world.

How figurative language is used in the narrative

Imagination is an important literary tool for anyone who wants to say something or tell a story. Add color, depth and understanding.

He brings a human component to the story. This can be especially important when a story takes place in unfamiliar surroundings, as it helps the reader relate to the characters or plot.

For example, an author might use figurative language to explain an abstract idea by comparing it to a familiar setting.

This will help the reader to better understand and absorb the concepts.

Visual language helps people learn, remember, and understand. This can be very powerful, for example, when using stories to help teach children.

Familiar images and ideas can help the child relate to and follow the story.

Even in adults, for example when inspirational quotes are used in speeches.

Related:The essential elements of the narrative

The link between pictorial writing and images

Figurative writing can be used to create images in writing, but it is not an essential part of it.

Pictures means the way you paint a picture for a reader. It makes the reader feel like they can see what you are describing and understand it as you describe it.

It allows the reader to see characters, places, and plots in their mind's eye.

images and mood

One of the ways that figurative language can work well for a writer in humorous writing is by grossly underplaying or exaggerating the situation or setting.

For example, in Terry Pratchett's The Light Fantastic we have:

Rincewind wasn't sure what happened to you after you actually died, the authorities weren't clear on the matter; A dark-skinned sailor from the Rimward lands said he hoped to go to a paradise where there were straws and houris. Rincewind wasn't sure what an houri was, but after thinking it over he decided it was a little tube of licorice that you sucked through a straw. Even so, the straw made him sneeze.


Bring characters to life with figurative language

Exaggeration (exaggerated statements) can be well used to give your characters an extra boost by adding color to their actions or traits.

Again from Terry Pratchett:

Galder Weatherwax, Supreme Grand Conjurer of the Order of the Silver Star, Imperial Lord of the Holy Staff, Ipsissimus of the Eighth Degree and 304th Chancellor of the Unseen University, was not an impressive sight, even in his red camisole encrusted with the mystical runes it was hand embroidered. . , even with his long hat with the bow, even with the Wee Willie Winkie candlestick in his hand. She almost managed to pull it off with fluffy pompom slippers.


Creating a persuasive environment through similes and metaphors

This is how Dan Brown describes the Guggenheim Museum:

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, looked like something out of an alien hallucination: a swirling collage of deformed metal shapes that appeared to be touching one another almost haphazardly. The chaotic mass of shapes stretching into the distance was covered in more than thirty thousand titanium tiles that gleamed like fish scales, giving the structure both an organic and otherworldly feel, as if a futuristic leviathan had emerged from the water. the Ribeira.


See how the line "shimmered like fish scales" and the idea of ​​an extraterrestrial Leviathan brings to mind images and makes the environment more vivid?

How image works in poetry

In poetry, figurative language broadens the range of emotions expressed by the poet. Add more color, depth and vibrancy to the poem.

Poets often show a heightened sensitivity to beauty and a deeper appreciation for art and nature. His use of figurative language exemplifies these qualities.

Poets use figurative language to enhance the music and rhythm of their poems, as well as the images.

Importantly, it adds layers of meaning to the poem.

Good examples would be:

I wandered alone like a cloud
That hovers high over valleys and hills,
When suddenly I saw a crowd
a variety of golden daffodils;
By the lake, under the trees...
And dance with the daffodils.

Guillermo Wordsworth

In Xanadu that Kubla Khan
A Majestic Pleasure Dome Decree:
Where Alph the holy river flowed
Through caves immeasurable to man
To a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile soil
They were surrounded by walls and towers;
And there were bright gardens with meandering streams,
Where many frankincense-bearing trees flourished;
And here the forests were old as the hills,
Surrounding sunny green spaces.


Types and examples of figurative language

There are many types of images used in writing and everyday speech.

Some common types authors use and examples of them are:


Hyperbole is language that represents intentional exaggeration for humorous or emphatic effect. It is a commonly used method of humor and is often found in satirical and comic texts.

Exaggeration is usually positive, but it can also be negative, in the sense of making fun of something or someone.

It's a way of emphasizing something by being extreme. An example would be: "This book weighs a ton!!"

metaphors and similes

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one thing is used to describe or illustrate another.

It can be used to describe a characteristic or quality of something by comparing it to something else.

For example, "Life is a roller coaster" or "He is a rock".

A simile, on the other hand, is when an intermediate word is used to illustrate the comparison. For example: "The tree swayed in the wind as if it were dancing."


A synecdoche is an idiom that uses part of something to represent the whole. It can be used in many ways, including naming a specific part of something to represent the whole.

Por exemplo, "Seat of Power" ou "All hands on deck".


A metonymy is an idiom in which a thing or concept is not named directly, but is referred to by another name associated with that thing or concept.

For example, "The crown" or "The pen is mightier than the sword", the word "pen" is used to represent writing and "sword" is used to represent combat.


Alliteration is an idiom in which the initial consonants of consecutive words are repeated.

It's a way to help the reader remember names or phrases and associate them with something else.

Can be used to create a musical flow or rhythm for writing.

For example, "Day by day, dollar by dollar" or "The bee buzzed with the hustle and bustle of bees."


Assonance is a language in which words with similar vowels are used together.

For example, "I'm sick of that stupid hat" or "She couldn't help the sigh that rose in her throat."


An oxymoron is an idiom that involves putting two normally contradictory terms together in a sentence.

Por exemplo, "Pretty Ugly", "Bittersweet" ou "Deafening Silence".


Personification is a language in which something that is not human is given human characteristics.

For example: "The air was filled with anticipation."

It is particularly effective in storytelling because it allows the reader to relate to the inanimate object based on its assigned human characteristics, which can make the story more interesting.

for Lautmaler

Onomatopoeia is an idiom that describes a person, place, thing, or sound in a way that mimics the sound, usually for dramatic effect.

Onomatopoeia can be used to add rhythm, emphasis, and humor to text.

Examples of onomatopoeias would be: "The music is playing trum-trum-trum", "Birds are singing in the forest" or the squeak of chalk as the teacher writes on the blackboard".


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