When learning to use figures of speech
such as metaphors
-- comparisons of two things that don't use "like" or "as" -- it definitely helps to have examples. Below you'll find metaphor examples, both successful and unsuccessful, to guide your own writing. (You may also have fun creating your own metaphors
or testing your knowledge of figurative language with a quiz
We don't have to look very far to find examples of metaphor. From expressions like "it's raining cats and dogs" to "table leg" and "old flame," everyday speech is full of them. See more examples here.
For examples of metaphor in contemporary literature, it's hard to do better than Raymond Chandler, the hard-boiled detective novelist. With the link above, study examples from The Long Goodbye, such as "He was eager to help but his legs were rubber . . . " to see how he crafts metaphors that not only create an image in our minds, but also support the novel's themes.
Then see how a very different writer, Eudora Welty, uses figurative language in handling what could be a sentimental story in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Optimist's Daughter.
Like most literary devices, metaphors bomb when used incorrectly, confusing the reader or drawing attention to the writer's lack of skill. For instance, in the statement, "Our keyboard will teach your mind's eye to play by ear," the speaker has mixed two metaphors, leading to nonsense. A "mind's eye" can't play anything, and certainly not "by ear." Learn how to use metaphors correctly here.
Are there times when the bad metaphor is a useful tool? Absolutely. See this example of an effective extended bad metaphor from George Saunders' Pastoralia.