Let's start with the opposite of figurative language: literal language. To express something literally means true to the meaning of the words. In other words, the writer or speaker means precisely what he or she says. Figurative language, then, is when a writer means something other than the exact, literal meaning of her words. However, figurative lanugage isn't the same thing as lying. The writer isn't trying to deceive but rather to explain a something in a colorful, metaphorical way.
What are easy ways to identify figurative language?
For example, take this statement: "I died when he chose me." If the writer means this literally, then she must be speaking from beyond the grave. Instead, this is probably an example of figurative language. You and I understand that she didn't really die; she's trying to convey how extremely excited she felt at that moment.
P.S. Watch out for the tendency that people often have to throw in the word "literally" into a sentence that is actually figurative. How many times have you heard someone say something like, "I literally died when he chose me." Whoops! Now you know that kind of statement really isn't literal at all!