Five Ready-Made Metaphors to Improve Your Storytelling

02.2.2015 | 1:55 pm

Screenshot 2015 02 03 06 24 15A “Hey, Let’s Talk” Note from Fatty: As you no doubt know, I’m a big fan of the Rockwell Relay. It is, in fact, one of the three events I absolutely positively make sure I do every year. 

I’ve done it four times now (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), and I’ve loved it every single time. I love the beauty of the area. I love the friendliness of the competition. I love the way you get a chance to race your brains out, support your other teammates, and eat like there’s no tomorrow.

Over the course of the four times I’ve done this race, I’ve learned a bunch about it. Enough, in fact, that I’m probably a good guy to have a chat with if you’re going to do the race yourself.

Which, this Thursday at 2pm MT, is exactly what we’re going to do: talk live about the Rockwell Relay.

Joining me will be race director Tyler Servoss, as well as other racers with considerable experience in this event: Spencer Storey and Christian Walton.

We’re going to talk about the route, equipment, strategy, rules and rule changes, tips for not bonking at 3am, and what the race is like in general. We’ll make plenty of time for answering questions, too. 

If you’re going to be racing the Rockwell Relay, if you’ve raced it before and want to chat about your experience, or if you’re just considering signing up, you should join us. For reals. (But if you can’t attend live, I will have a recording of the event available later.)

You need to register to attend this event live (but it doesn’t cost anything), so click here to get yourself set up

Ready-Made Metaphors to Improve Your Storytelling

On a near-daily basis, people contact me, asking me to read their brand-new cycling blog, and to link to it. Because it’s going to be the next big thing.

I generally react by employing some combination of these two time-tested techniques:

  1. Ignore: I’ve found that at least in the case of email, if I ignore something it really does go away. Or at least it drifts down my inbox. And out of sight is out of mind.
  2. Reply: Sometimes, like when I have something else I really ought to be doing, I decide to check out the site. At that point, I generally discover that there are a grand total of three posts, the third of which is an appeal to the writer’s (no doubt vast) audience to give them some ideas to write about. I reply to people with these fledgling blogs and good intentions to get back to me once they have fifty or so good posts. They never do.

This problem manifests in other places, too. Like, when people are trying to tell me stories about their bike riding adventures. They start talking, telling me something about turns and sky and tarmac and berms and within seconds my attention has wandered.

This is in stark contrast to my own stories, which I find consistently and endlessly riveting.

As, naturally, do you.

“Why, Fatty?” I hear you ask. “Why is it that your stories are so astonishingly interesting, while mine are so lackluster that I frequently cannot even bear to finish telling them, due to lack of interestingness?”

It’s because of a storytelling secret I employ: colorful metaphors. As well as similes, which are like metaphors (yes, there’s a t-shirt for that gag). 

But do you think I just spout these metaphors off the top of my head in the heat of the moment? Nay. Nay, I reiterate. I instead prepare them in a dark room, my eyes undistracted. 

And then I list and memorize them, so I can use them at appropriate moments as I ride. Or, when push comes to shove, I seek out cycling experiences that will allow me to use these carefully prepared metaphors.

Sadly for you, you are not a famous and beloved blogger with years and years of experience in creating and deploying exquisite cycling metaphors. Luckily for you, however, I am a generous soul and have taken the time to build you a starter list of cycling metaphors, so that you can be at least fractionally as interesting as I am. 

“I was shot out of a cannon.” I list this metaphor first because I consider it to be the most important of all metaphors, due to the fact that I am so fast. You can use it to describe your explosive power in a sprint or attack. You can use it to explain your flight as you went over your handlebars. This metaphor can be intensified with any number of expletives between “a” and “cannon.” But only if you’re really fast.

[Note: This metaphor is copyrighted by Bob Bringhurst. All rights reserved. Used without permission, but he’s pretty cool about me plagiarizing.]

“I was a leaf on the surface a rushing stream.” I like this metaphor because it is truly evocative. Use it to describe the turbulent harmony amongst you, your bike, and the terrain. Your audience will be unable to help but think of you as simultaneously fragile, courageous, and unconsciously graceful. They will see you as being at one with your bike and the road/trail, possessing a preternatural sense of flow. Oh yes, do your best to use the word “preternatural” in your story, too. (But learn how to pronounce it first.)

“We tumbled like lovers.” As you know, sex sells, which is why this blog is so sexy. However, this metaphor—while mentioning lovers—turns out to not be about lovers at all! No, it turns out it’s something you say to describe how you crashed, but didn’t manage to clip out of your pedals. The contrast between the language of the metaphor and the action being described is almost too beautiful. Your audience will find itself caught up in the moment, and may not be able to help but weep.

“My tire expelled its breath, forcefully. Its last.” Lungs hold air. Tires hold air. Both are in big trouble if they get punctured. This metaphor is so perfectly apt it’s almost not a metaphor at all. It’s like a metaphor sandwich with extra cheese. Honestly, I’m a little bit in awe of myself that I came up with this.

PS: In this blog post, “five” is a metaphor for “four.” And also I have a meeting I need to get to right now and so had to post this before I wrote my fifth metaphor, which is too bad because it was totally going to be the fifth one. A hint: an electric blanket is used as a metaphor for an oppressively hot, windless day.


  1. Comment by MattC | 02.3.2015 | 2:09 pm

    “I’m a leaf on the wind”…Serenity.

  2. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.3.2015 | 2:13 pm

    @ MattC – good one, great source.

    Metaphors, for me are difficult. To write them I have to strain, like a dog pooping a peach pit.

    But similes make me smile.

  3. Comment by Tom in Albany | 02.3.2015 | 2:15 pm

    You used a simile for metaphor #3. Brilliant!!

    It’s clearly a metaphor for why you are beloved and we are we.

    Any way, what’s a meta phor?

  4. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 02.3.2015 | 3:18 pm

    You are such a great, like, blogger. And you like gave us all those wonderful metaphors to use, like, for free. I think that’s why I like reading your blog so much.

  5. Comment by Scott | 02.3.2015 | 9:18 pm

    MattC I prefer to use the whole quote while descending…

    “I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar.” – Wash; Serenity

    ps. I need to make like that leaf on tomorrows ride.

  6. Comment by ClydeinKS | 02.4.2015 | 8:19 am

    My son just finished writing a story about “A transformer x-ray CANNON.” I had initially thought that was an incredibly imaginative original idea he had for the story. Now I see I am needing to discuss plagiarism with my 8 year old.

  7. Comment by Kukui | 02.4.2015 | 1:06 pm

    Yes! With these pre-made metaphors, my average, mundane-seeming ride (to the non-cyclist) can sound like the thrilling adventure I see it as!

    Hopefully, my family will stop dozing off in the middle of my cycling-adventure stories. Now, I just need to wake them up…

  8. Comment by Kukui | 02.4.2015 | 1:10 pm

    @MattC and Scott – Kinda like The Secret, I try not to use the “I am a leaf on the wind” quote while cycling…

    It didn’t really end well for Wash. ;)

  9. Comment by leroy | 02.5.2015 | 12:08 pm

    My dog asked me to convey his observation that Mr. FC’s post is distressingly incomplete as if Beethoven had abandoned the ship of his oeuvre before completing the Fifth because he was drawn, as if to a loadstone rock, toward the ineluctable interstice of distance and just-out-of-reach desire by the scent of boiling bratwursts wafting to him on the guided yet guileless gossamer wings of remembrance of things past and of a youth as carefree as a caterpillar dreaming of the dancing gypsy moth of olfactory seconds.

    Well of course I assured him his dictation isn’t like doggerel.

    It is doggerel.

    In light of Mr. Clydesteve’s metaphor at 2:13pm, I think my dog’s bedtime story this evening will be an excerpt from Mr. Dahl’s “James And The Giant Peach.”

    I shouldn’t be the only one to suffer for my dog’s arf.

  10. Comment by leroy | 02.5.2015 | 12:11 pm

    Of course, I’m partial to the classic:

    “The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”


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