Metaphor begot Anecdote who begot Allegory who begot Paradox who begot Parabolical …
As a paranormal writer, and a Jungian, I can be over-the-top obsessive about my use of metaphors. Sometimes to the point of, well, redundancy. So I went on a quest. First to expand my use of figurative language… properly. And second, to understand the differences between said literary devices and so change the ramifications of my wrong-doing. My quest (an archetypal metaphor for a bunch of research) led me to enlightenment, the point of any quest. Or metaphor!
Simply put, a metaphor is "a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something in which it is not literally applicable." (Random House Dictionary) The most common example I found during my research was Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players..."
In the depths of our writer bones we know the metaphor as concrete, an essence brought to life by our words. Yes, it is figurative, but also so much more. It becomes the descriptive language of our imagination, the voice of that part of our brain wanting to communicate but which is inaccessible to our conscious mind. Symbolic language defines, in specific terms, the sensations, emotions and images our subconscious understands and is aching to express. This figurative language is a writer's most important tool, allowing our creative souls to speak in universal, vivid pictures that bind us mind to mind, heart to heart, to our readers.
There are many different kinds of metaphors; mixed metaphors where you start with one comparison and switch to another that has nothing to do with the first. Paralogical metaphors, or anti-metaphors, where there is no relationship between the symbol and the image. And there is the dead metaphor, which is our anti-friend, the cliché. An extended metaphor is a parable (see below) narrated as an anecdote (see below). I could go on and on…
An anecdote is "a short narrative concerning an interesting event." (Again Random House). An anecdote can be, should be, metaphorical. In dialogue, it screams, shouts, echoes, defines in bold print anything you, as a writer, want to scream, shout, echo, define… you get the picture. And never forget a picture is worth a thousand words. (I bit my fingernails raw trying to come up with a few witty examples to further elucidate these terms. But I can only bash my head against a brick wall so many times before I let the bird in the hand go. [a mostly dead metaphor in an anecdote with a mixed metaphor!])
An allegory is "a figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another." (ditto citation) In other words, a metaphorical narrative. Or painting, interestingly enough. An allegory can be anecdotal and an anecdote can be allegorical. During my quest, I found many claims by literary critics that Tolkein's Lord of the Rings was an allegory of World War I. The man himself despised these claims, stating his works were just stories, fantasies. You can draw your own conclusions based on seeking parallel meanings and the extrapolation of data within the trilogy. But… even though allegory sounds like an archaic literary term thanks to Pilgrim's Progress (a true allegory), it can still be a very effective rhetorical device when used properly... or when creatively tweaked.
A paradox is "a statement seemingly self-contradictory but in reality expressing a possible truth." In simpler terms, a person, place or event, even an anecdote, possessing what seems to be a dual nature, one in direct opposition to itself. One aspect of character that conflicts with another in the same character, situation or dramatic interlude. Can't you just imagine the possibilities that do, when push comes to shove, also include the impossible? The most specific, simplest reference is the classic story of Oedipus. Oedipus, left on a hillside as a baby to die because prophecy says he is destined to destroy his kingdom, lives instead. He grows up and without knowing it, kills his own father, marries his mother and becomes king. In doing these things, he does indeed bring down chaos and destruction.
Parabolical is "in the form of, or expressed by a parable." (citations from New World Dictionary, Random bailed on me.) A parable is "a short, simple story from which a moral lesson may be drawn; it is usually an allegory." It is also mathematical. A parabola is where the arc of a curve angles back on itself above and below the x axis. Straight forward, right? We were raised on parables, from the bible, from Aesop's, from our parent's. They are indeed rhetorical tools that can illustrate, demonstrate or emphasize a theme, concept, even a characterization. They are core parts of our psyche, of everyone's psyche, and in my opinion, underrated and under-used as a figurative device. This rather loose narrative is, perhaps, something of a parable.
A parody is… no, won't go there. That would be opening a whole new dead metaphor (can of worms)! Signing off, but only because I should. Pam B. Morris