These little puppies are so much fun because they add a ton of color and can create a marvelous visual palate to an author’s writing. Similes and metaphors are comparisons of one thing to another. Similes usually have “is like” in the sentence somewhere. A Metaphor contains “is” in the sentence.
I’m not going to make a big issue of which is which because I really don’t care. There are plenty of sentences where the simile or metaphor contains neither is or is like, so who cares? The point is their use. Or overuse. And that’s why I call them Metaphorrors.
Just recently I read halfway through a book published by Simon & Schuster that I really wanted to throw clean across the room. I would have, too, but it was living inside my Kindle, and we have a rather close relationship. So I did the next best thing – I deleted the offending story with a colorful curse sliding off my tongue.
It’s offense? An overabundance of similes and metaphorrors. I’m talking OVERABUNDANCE – like three or four to a page. And these weren’t short little ditties like:
“He considered reading akin to breathing.”
Nooo, no, no, no. These were long, descriptive sentences like:
“”He considered reading akin to breathing, like a fish depends on water rushing through its gills so he can hunt down eensy little crayfish and become nice and fat as to make for an attractive dish to some larger fish in the sea.”
Good holy cheesecakes, Shakespeare, this is overkill to the nth degree, and I wanted to toss the whole thing overboard. Imagine seeing these types of metaphorrors three and four times per page. I wondered if the editor’s brain seeped out of its cranial stronghold or whether she was simply in a metaphorror-induced coma.
Remember, the key to all writing is balance. I adore metaphors provided they don’t grow long drippy fangs and have bad breath. I use them in my writing all the time, and I believe they are what keep readers engaged because they are seeing a comparison between two things that often give bigger clarity than without it. And I love it when writers use clever similes/metaphors because it paints such a vivid picture. The more we see your story, the more sucked in we are to your world.
It’s one thing to say “Publishing means a lot to me.”
“Publishing is the zig to my zag, the hoo in my ha, the knees to my bees.”
The first sentence is simply a state of fact, colorless and just…there. The second sentence has people rolling their eyes and saying, “Oh, there goes Pricey again…”, but, nonetheless, getting a clear idea of how much I love publishing in a way that’s memorable [hello, voice] and leaves a lasting impression.
And that’s what we all want to do – leave an impression. But we want to leave a good one, right?
Ugh, is there any bigger buzzkill that the cliché metaphorror? We’ve all seen them:
Hungry as a horse
Big as a house
Laughs like an outboard motor
Tough as nails
Good as gold
Raining cats and dogs [yeech!]
Subtle as a meat axe
Serious as a heart attack
We’re writers, remember? We can’t yank out the old retreads and expect to be considered unique or in the least bit clever. We don’t want to deny our readers of color and the ability to see inside our heads. I’m as sure that readers will yak at seeing flaccid, shopworn, frayed metaphorrors as I am that I’ll burn tonight’s dinner. Don’t use cliches. Just. Don’t.
Have fun with similes and metaphors because they really are the difference between good writing and fabulous, memorable writing. But just like my penchant for choccie martinis, use them with care. Don’t turn them into metaphorrors.