The Literally Game (a Metaphor Exercise)

Metaphor Lesson Series

Metaphor Exercise 2: The Literally Game

Not ready yet? Go back to basics.
Want to step back to the previous entry in the series? Go to figurative vs literal language.

So, you’ve learned the difference between literal and figurative language. It’s obvious to you, you say. You could tell the difference between a metaphor and a literal description even if you were five miles away and being stabbed in the kidney by a herd of hungry pygmy cannibals.

Well, okay. But let’s put your knowledge into action and have some fun while we’re doing it. This simple, social game lets you ingrain the concept of literal and figurative language while practicing metaphor creation.

The Rules

If you’ve ever played the storytelling game “popcorn,” you have the basic idea for how the literally game works. The objective is to tell a story as a group, where each participant takes a turn in biulding the story in interesting ways. Here’s the difference: Rather than calling out “popcorn” and picking a player, you pass along the story by using a metaphor.

So player one may say, “Jim was excited to see her again. He had always carried a torch for her.”

The player to player one’s left would then continue the story by saying, “Literally.” Player two then continues the story in a way that explains how the metaphor is a literal description. In this case, player two could say, “Literally. The two of them spent a lot of time exploring caves, and he always had to carry the torch.” Player two would then have to continue the story and  reach a new metaphor. For example, “Jim wondered if she would want to go exploring caves that night, but mostly he felt concerned. She had broken his heart before.

Here’s an extended example of play.

Player 1: “Jim was excited to see her again. He’d always carried a torch for her.”
Player 2: “Literally. They spent a lot of time exploring caves, and he always had to carry the torch. He wondered if she would want to go exploring caves that night, but mostly he felt concerned. She had broken his heart before.”
Player 3: “Literally. She had electrocuted him by accident when they were playing with electronics, and it damaged his heart so bad that he had to get a transplant. He was still mad at her. She was a fat old cow.
Player 4: “Literally. I … guess I should have mentioned, but she was a fat, old cow that Jim had raised on the family farm. He hated his family, though, and it had been years since he’d seen anyone from his childhood. His fear of seeing Annabelle made his mind burst into flames.”

While you can set up rules for “winning,” the main point is just to have fun.

So let’s play!

I’m going to start our blog-based literally game in the comments, below. Pick up and keep the story moving! I’ll even sweeten the deal. Literally. I’m going to buy cookies for ten randomly selected participants. Check out the rules here.

Move forward to lesson three.
(Coming on 11/2!)