Monday Motivation: Common-or-garden mentaphors

 In Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog

Common threads run through many of humanity’s endeavours. Analysis in one field turns out to be startlingly appropriate in another. Artists seize on some of the more bizarre findings of quantum mechanics and apply them on their canvasses and in their installations. Writers like Lawrence Durrell turned to relativity to inform the architecture of his Alexandria Quartet. Everyone, whether artist or writer, is inescapably affected by modern theories governing the very large – think Big Bang – and the very small – think Schrodinger’s Cat.

That unfortunate feline turns out not only to be dead and alive simultaneously, but a powerful metaphor in all sorts of situations.

Black holes have become powerful metaphors for, amongst other things, defunct political reputations.

So, in this uncommonly short micro-essay, let me urge you all to look beyond the confines of your own interests to the much larger world out there of particle accelerators, gravity wave detectors and space-based telescopes probing the farthest reaches of the universe.

Each of these offers writers of all kinds the sort of stimulation – not to mention metaphors (I actually typed, “mentaphors” which seems oddly appropriate) – that could yield ideas, surprises, plot twists and character quirks.

Ian McEwan, are you listening? Probably not, because he already knows all this stuff. Of all the A-list writers in the English-speaking world, he’s pre-eminent in his embrace of science and the literary opportunities it creates for writers of fiction. Check out Machines Like Me.

I’m not talking about science fiction, understand? I’m talking about your regular run-of-the-mill story on whose central character a beam of illumination could be made to fall by the clever use of scientific mentaphors.

That’s all I have to say today.

Happy writing,


Read Jo-Anne’s latest blog: ‘Writing Secrets: How to show not tell with small details

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