Quills and Thrills: Figurative Language Throw Down Rules

So, you think you have what it takes to throw down some metaphors and similes? BRING IT!

imageEvery week, I’ll post the Figurative Language Throw Down Challenge to the Quills and Thrills Writing Prompt. You have until Tuesday’s Quills and Thrills meeting to post your response the prompt to Twitter using #QuillsandThrillsFLTD.

Quillers and Thrillers old and new, from New Mexico to Timbuktu are invited to participate!

The Rules

  • All submissions must be original statements. Don’t steal other people’s words!
  • No submissions that could be considered bullying.
  • No submissions that are inappropriate for audiences of all ages, particularly those in a high school setting.
  • Only tweeted submissions using #QuillsandThrillsFLTD will be accepted. Submissions longer than 140 characters may be published to a blog or YouTube channel with a link embedded in a tweet.
  • All competitors must submit a minimum of one vote for another competitor’s submission.
  • Any type of figurative language is acceptable. See the list below to move beyond simple metaphors and similes!
  • Have fun and stretch your mind!

How to Win

Votes will be tallied by “likes” and “retweets.” The author of the submission with the most combined “likes” and “retweets” wins bragging rights for the week and the Quills and Thrills FLTD award to proudly display on his/her website. Ready to play? Check out the weekly challenges now!


Types of Figurative Language

Figurative language is any statement that makes a comparison between two unlike things that is not to be taken literally. Check out the different types of figurative language below:

  • Metaphor – a comparison of two unlike things without using the words like or as.
  • Simile – a comparison of two unlike things using the words like or as
  • Personification – giving an inanimate object human characteristics (so the comparison is of an inanimate object to a person)
  • Hyperbole – a comparison of two unlike things resulting in extreme exaggeration
  • Oxymoron – A figure of speech that combines two apparently contradictory elements, sometimes resulting in a humorous image or statement: tight slacks, jumbo shrimp, deafening silence, and baggy tights are just a few examples.
  • Symbolism – A person, place, thing, event, or pattern in a literary work that designates itself and at the same time figuratively represents or “stands for” something else. Often the thing or idea represented is more abstract, general, non- or superrational than the symbol, which is more concrete and particular.
  • Allusion – a reference to a literary or historical event, person, or place. For example, in Jane Smiley’s novel, 1,000 Acres, the father figure is Larry who attempts to divide his land among three daughters a la Shakespeare’s King Lear. Someone who has a great burden may refer to it as an albatross – an allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” wherin the narrator is punished for his crime against nature by having to wear a heavy albatross (sea-bird) around his neck until he repents.
  • Allegory – a prose or poetic narrative in which the characters, behavior, and even the setting demonstrates multiple levels of meaning and significance. Often allegory is a universal symbol or personified abstraction such as Death portrayed as a black-cloaked “grim reaper” with a scythe and hourglass. From the Old Testament we get the allegory of the “Prodigal Son,” which has come to represent anyone who leaves family and friends for an extended time and then returns to the fold.
  • Conceit – A comparison of two unlikely things that is drawn out within a piece of literature, in particular an extended metaphor within a poem. Conceits might be the idea of tracing a love affair as a flower growing, budding, coming to fruition, and dying, for example. Hair might be spun gold; teeth like stars or pearls, etc.
  • Litote – A figure of speech that emphasizes its subject by conscious understatement. For example, the understated “not bad” as a comment about something especially well done. George Orwell wrote, “Last week I saw a woman flayed and you would hardly believe how much it altered her person for the worse.”
  • Metonymy – A figure of speech in which an attribute or commonly associated feature is used to name or designate something as in “The White House announced today…” A famous metonymy is “The pen is mightier than the sword.” In this sentence the pen stands for publishing (and we can extend that to all media) and the sword for the military.
  • Chiasmus – A figure of speech by which the order of the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second. This may involve a repetition of the same words: “Pleasure’s a sin, and sometimes sin’s a pleasure” – Byron.
  • Paradox – A statement that seems contradictory but may actually be true. A popular paradox from the 1960s was when war protesters would “fight for peace.”
  • Synecdoche – When a part is used to signify a whole, as in “All hands on deck!” and “The rustler bragged he’d absconded with five hundred head of longhorns.” Hands stand for the whole of the sailors, and the rustler obviously took more than just the heads and the horns of the animals he was stealing. William Shakespeare penned a famous synecdoche in Mark Anthony’s speech to the citizens in Julius Caesar, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.” Frank Sinatra’s famous song, “I left my heart in San Francisco” is another example of synecdoche. In fact, song lyrics are filled with this particular literary device.
  • Apostrophe – An address or invocation to something that is inanimate, such as an angry lover who might scream at the ocean in his or her despair. Many are familiar with the title line of a famous Christmas carol, which exemplifies apostrophe: “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…” The poem, “To a Skylark” by Percy B. Shelly is a good example of apostrophe: “Hail to thee, blithe spirit!” He addresses the skylark. Shelly does the same in “Ode to the West Wind,” when he opens with O wild West Wind, though breath of Autumn’s being…”



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