Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Similes And Metaphors

Description.  It can be a hard thing.  Since a writer's medium is descriptive rather than visual, we have to find ways to induce visualization within the minds of our readers.  Such a thing is hard enough when the mind of the reader is open, but it stretches towards impossible when either that person has a closed mind or the writer has a style that would put jittery cats to sleep.

So how do we best open the minds of our readers?  The easiest way is through the use of direct comparison using similes and metaphors because we've all either had experiences like the ones described, thus giving us reference, or because the description is so vivid that our mind automatically creates a link.

I can talk all day about wet pavement and the loss of friction on a roadway, but nothing matches quite like saying something is as slick as ice.  I could say that my character is a lowlife cheating scum who is always unfaithful, but that doesn't serve as well as saying he's a dog.  These descriptors do in a sentence what might take a whole paragraph otherwise.

However, a word of caution here - like with most things, don't overdo it.  You can end up turning your work into a joke if you rely too much on these literary devices.  Dan Rather has been the butt of many jokes for his constant overreach with crazy similes and metaphors.

Along those same lines, make your simile and metaphor use relatable to the general public.  Saying a woman's hair is as golden as the sun gives 99.9% of your audience a reference point they can understand, but saying that the dimples in her cheeks are like the indentation points on the outer rings of a used manifold assembly will go right over most people's heads.  You can perhaps get away with one of those outlandish descriptors once or twice in a loooooong novel, but no more than that.  People will quickly get irritated and put down your work.

Think of your simile and metaphor use like a serving of garlic or cinnamon - in careful doses, such things can make your work even better, but used too often, they overwhelm the flavor.  The point of them is to help readers appreciate the dish, not to make them the dish.

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