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Need an analogy...

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I'm with Kersten (ie, racetrack is probably your best bet). Since the entire *point* of an analogy is to make something hard-to-understand more approachable by comparison to something familiar (or, in the case of literary analogies, to spark insight through fresh and unique comparisons), it's essential that the analogy be simple, clear, familiar, and easily pictured. "Only slightly elliptical" is still elliptical, and a racetrack is something kids all over will be familiar with. You don't want something so tortured you actually make the analogy MORE difficult than the thing you're describing.

And for whatever it's worth, to me there's a difference between a playground merry-go-round, and a carousel at an amusement park... and if you give the context (playground), kids will know which one you mean.

But with a racetrack, the cars are under their own power. Not so with bodies orbiting the sun.
#31 - September 12, 2011, 06:11 PM

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But with a racetrack, the cars are under their own power. Not so with bodies orbiting the sun.

You're joking, I hope. 'Cause the planets don't have drivers, either! There's a size difference. And a speed difference. And no checkered flag...

It's a visual analogy, not an identical parallel. Sheesh. :D

#32 - September 12, 2011, 09:25 PM
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You're joking, I hope. 'Cause the planets don't have drivers, either! There's a size difference. And a speed difference. And no checkered flag...

It's a visual analogy, not an identical parallel. Sheesh. :D



Sorry, the racetrack thing just doesn't work for me.

It's hard for me to give a good suggestion anyway because I don't know the context Besty is using.
#33 - September 12, 2011, 10:37 PM

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How about an umbrella?

Kids know what an umbrella is, and they love spinning around an open umbrella.

--Woods
#34 - September 13, 2011, 04:01 AM

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I'd go with ball on the end of the string. It looks better is more factually accurate.

The ball is the planet.
The place where you hold the string is the sun.
The string is the gravitational attraction that keeps the ball from flying away.
#35 - September 13, 2011, 05:31 AM

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If there was ever a time for transmedia, this is clearly it.

Tell the editor you need to embed an animation! :) Then you won't need an imperfect analogy in words. You can just SHOW it!
#36 - September 13, 2011, 09:08 AM
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LOL, Joni.  Well, you're right.  I think eventually this book is going to need embedded animation--when dealing with spatial things like the solar system animation gets the point across so much better.  A picture really is worth 1000 words. BUT, at the moment, I don't have that option.

It's interesting.  I thought of racetrack too, but every guy I've mentioned it to thinks it's a horrible idea.  Must be a gender thing.
#37 - September 13, 2011, 05:27 PM
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LOL, Joni.  Well, you're right.  I think eventually this book is going to need embedded animation--when dealing with spatial things like the solar system animation gets the point across so much better.  A picture really is worth 1000 words. BUT, at the moment, I don't have that option.

It's interesting.  I thought of racetrack too, but every guy I've mentioned it to thinks it's a horrible idea.  Must be a gender thing.

What is this for, if you don't mind me asking? A non-fiction book about astronomy?
#38 - September 13, 2011, 05:35 PM

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Yes.
#39 - September 13, 2011, 06:32 PM
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Just to further confuse things, Ellen, my engineer guy thinks the racetrack idea is the best.

You're welcome. HA.
#40 - September 13, 2011, 06:48 PM
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Yes.

I don't like the racetrack idea because of a couple of things. There is nothing that functions as the center point/sun. Racetracks can be just about any shape--kids play a lot of racing games and the tracks go all over the place. This could be the very reason it doesn't sit well with me.

#41 - September 13, 2011, 07:09 PM

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I think you nailed it, Wonky.  I think guys realize that there are a variety of shapes because they've all played those games.

Oh well...back to the drawing board. 

Thanks, Vinca. 
#42 - September 13, 2011, 07:16 PM
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I think you nailed it, Wonky.  I think guys realize that there are a variety of shapes because they've all played those games.

Oh well...back to the drawing board. 

Thanks, Vinca. 

You don't like "ball swinging at the end of a string"? The ball is round and swings around a center point (end of stick, hand, etc).
#43 - September 13, 2011, 07:56 PM

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I like it as a concept, but I need something simpler.  It doesn't work in the context of the sentence.  The sentence is:  "...the planets go around the sun like ________.  I can't stop the narrative and spend a lot of time on this, as I'm trying to get to another point.

What I want to achieve here is a quick visual image.  "Ball swinging at the end of the string" doesn't do it unless you also mention that the person holding the string is swinging the ball around--and that's way too complicated.  (After all, if you don't add that last part, it could be a pendulum.)

Obviously, I'll have to choose between a "cars on a race track" or "horses on a merry-go-round," though neither is perfect.

#44 - September 13, 2011, 08:22 PM
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I like the repetitions of 'c's and 'r's in "cars on a race track"  Makes it fun to read aloud.

:) eab
#45 - September 13, 2011, 08:52 PM

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Thanks, Aunty.
#46 - September 13, 2011, 09:08 PM
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I like it as a concept, but I need something simpler.  It doesn't work in the context of the sentence.  The sentence is:  "...the planets go around the sun like ________.  I can't stop the narrative and spend a lot of time on this, as I'm trying to get to another point.

What I want to achieve here is a quick visual image.  "Ball swinging at the end of the string" doesn't do it unless you also mention that the person holding the string is swinging the ball around--and that's way too complicated.  (After all, if you don't add that last part, it could be a pendulum.)

Obviously, I'll have to choose between a "cars on a race track" or "horses on a merry-go-round," though neither is perfect.



Hmmm. Well if you really want to use the race track, how about runners instead of cars?
#47 - September 13, 2011, 09:09 PM

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You don't like "ball swinging at the end of a string"? The ball is round and swings around a center point (end of stick, hand, etc).

My problem is that this isn't a common enough thing to make a good analogy. Do most people have balls-on-strings just lying about, and then stand there and spin them round themselves for fun? It's a more accurate image, maybe, but it's not a good analogy. (You'd also have to explain that the string represents the gravitational pull of the sun, since there's not a physical, material "string" attaching the planets to the center of their orbits, AND you'd need it to be multiple balls-on-strings-of-different-lengths being spun at the same time [without the strings tangling]... which is just getting way more complicated.)

At this point I'm voting "no" on using an analogy altogether! Can you just rework the sentence, Ellen?
#48 - September 14, 2011, 11:57 AM

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Thanks, ecb.  Runners on a race track is nice--it's got alliteration going for it (as AB pointed out about the whole race track thing).  Have most four-year-olds seen runners on a race track do you think?

I suppose I could re-do the sentence.  

I appreciate all the help everyone's given me, but this is taking up everybody's time. 
#49 - September 14, 2011, 12:09 PM
« Last Edit: September 14, 2011, 12:11 PM by Betsy »
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This may be way off but if you are talking about four year olds.  They have probably all seen those round kiddie pools.  Kids love to throw things in the pool and so. . .

If you talk about several kids standing at different lengths from the pool, sort of like musical chairs and walking around it, you would have a solar system.

The planets with rings - hula hoops.   :paperbag

Other wise I think most four year olds have seen car races and people jogging.  Many may go to pre-school and have seen a track.  Movies and television show them worlds we aren't even aware of -  I like the people running.


#50 - September 14, 2011, 03:31 PM
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I keep thinking of a roulette game, Betsy. Not a good analogy for kid-lit though. Maybe not a good one all together.
#51 - September 14, 2011, 04:38 PM
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I am SO lucky to know you all guys.  You always come through--no matter what the problem.

Thanks, 217.  And thanks, Liz. 
#52 - September 14, 2011, 04:55 PM
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At this point I'm voting "no" on using an analogy altogether! Can you just rework the sentence, Ellen?

Maybe it's time for a good illustration to carry the burden.
#53 - September 16, 2011, 11:20 AM

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I agree with no analogy. When I did some science writing a few years ago, working closely with scientists from the Museum of Natural History, they were VERY opposed to using analogies. Their feeling was that no analogy is 100% accurate and therefore presents wrong concepts. As a writer, it was frustrating, but I saw their point.

Good luck with this, it's a tough one!

Carrie
#54 - September 22, 2011, 06:52 PM
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I see your point, ECF.  But without animation, there's just no way to convey some astronomical concepts without using analogies.  But I did check them with a woman astronomer at Yale, and she said my analogies worked fine (even the merry-go-round).

To illustrate with one example--I wanted to get across the fact that Venus is a HOT planet.  I can't really do that unless I can say something like:  "Venus is hotter than the hottest oven you can imagine."  For older kids who understand temperature, I could just give the numbers.  But for young children, analogies help them imagine something that they don't have any reference for.
#55 - September 22, 2011, 07:24 PM
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Oh, I totally agree with you. I just remember the scientists I worked with being very against them. I can definitely see both sides of the argument!

Carrie
#56 - September 22, 2011, 08:03 PM
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My husband has a phd. in applied math and his work requires him to be exact. Obviously, scientists and mathematicians are judged on the rigor of their work.  So I can understand why some dislike analogy and metaphor when writing for a scientific audience.  Also, I think it's true that a metaphor can mislead and take the place of a true explanation. 

But nature can be described poetically as well as precisely.  And I think each writer has to find his or her own way of balancing the two.

Even Einstein used metaphors:

"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree."


#57 - September 22, 2011, 09:34 PM
« Last Edit: September 22, 2011, 09:44 PM by Betsy »
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