How to Write Exaggerations
by Bruce Lansky

Your teacher probably says you need to think metaphorically when you write poems. That means you must compare things in your poems, using metaphors ("The sun is a yellow flower") or similes ("The sun is like a yellow flower"). Wouldn’t it be great if you could compare things without bothering with similes and metaphors? Here’s an idea that might work: exaggeration.

When you exaggerate, you stretch the truth in order to compare something extraordinary to something ordinary. For example, when you say, "Shrek is the greatest movie ever made!" you’re exaggerating. You’re comparing Shrek to all the other movies ever made. If you say, "My brother is smarter than Albert Einstein," you’re exaggerating and comparing your brother to Albert Einstein.

Try to write an exaggeration poem comparing someone you know to some other person or to all other people in the world. In your poem, prove that your person is the best, nicest, smartest, fastest, strongest, or most beautiful person. Here’s something I wrote about my mother, as an example:

    My Mom Is Better Than Your Mom

    My mom is better than your mom.
    The oatmeal she makes is so good for me I could bench press 100 pounds when I was five.
    She says "Have a bright day," as I walk out the door, ready to get straight A’s in school.
    She makes spinach and Brussels sprouts so delicious I always ask for seconds.
    People are always telling her, "You’re so beautiful, you should be a model." But she always responds, "It’s not your outer beauty but your inner beauty that counts most."
    She never nags me to do my homework. Instead, she asks "How are you doing with your
    homework? Need some help?" I never do. I want her to be proud of me.
    And when she puts me to bed at night, she tucks me, gives me a kiss,
    and I’m asleep—just like that.
    My mom is nicer than your mom.

    © Bruce Lansky 2002

You don’t have to worry about rhythm and rhyme when you write this poem. Just try to be imaginative, and try to make the poem fun to read. One way to do this is to keep your exaggerations fresh. That is, don’t settle for the obvious comparison. Notice, for example, that I didn’t state my mother was a beauty-contest winner. That would have been predictable. I went beyond that to prove she had inner beauty rather than outer beauty.

I’d like to end with a few words about my father. I’m here to tell you that:

    My Dad Is Tougher Than Your Dad.

    My Dad is tougher than your dad.
    He wrestles alligators every morning just to get his heart pumping.
    Instead of eating toast and coffee for breakfast, he eats the toaster and the coffeemaker.
    He doesn’t drive to work, he runs to work—ten miles a day.
    When he gets home from work he relaxes in a hot bath of boiling water.
    He prefers chewing nails to chewing gum.
    And when he sees someone for the first time, he says "Hello, nice to meet you," so loud and fearsome people run away and hide.
    My dad is tougher than your dad.

    © Bruce Lansky 2002

If you’d like to read some other poems along these lines, read "Oliver’s Parents in the Morning" and "Oliver’s Parents in the Evening." Both can be found in Kids Pick the Funniest Poems.


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