Similes and Metaphorrors

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.

Overload/Overboard

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.

Balance

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.”

or saying

“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?

Cliché

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.

10 Responses to Similes and Metaphorrors

  1. Frank says:

    Yes,….but. John O’Hara was a popular and extremely successful writer. Long a favorite of mine. You’d be hard pressed to find a metaphor in any of his stories and novels.

  2. Well, two cheers for John O’Hara. Not to put too fine a point on it, but so what? Lots of books don’t use metaphors. My point is if you want to use them, have fun with them and use them wisely and judiciously.

  3. TB says:

    British authors seem to excel at this sort of thing. I fell in love with Douglas Adams’ writing long ago when I first read the line about Vogon spaceships that “hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

  4. chris says:

    That blog was great! “The truth hurts”, but “If the shoe fits…wear it!” Personally what I think Lynn is trying to say is that “girls just wanna have fun!” In the immortal words of Porky Pig….”that’s all folks!”

  5. All right, Baughman, everyone needs a resident smartass. Tag, you’re it!

  6. Chris says:

    Hey, how’d ya know it was me…you ever think about gtting into detective work? 🙂

  7. Ve haf vays of finding out…

    But I’ll happily leave the detective work to you!

  8. HarryMarkov says:

    Maybe the editor liked the marine nuanced similes and metaphors. Maybe she did so ‘under a gun point’.

    BUT the question is can one use such a big simile like the one with the fishies, if it is relevant to the story and I do mean the whole behemoth of 3-4 lines? Perhaps, if added ‘Like aunt Gertrude used to say to me to stop reading so much, get outside for some good exercise. Boy, I sure which I had listened to her… etc etc.’

  9. That’s an excellent point, Harry. That particular simile I used as my example had NOTHING to do with the topic at hand – hence my irritation.

  10. I just got back from a 3 week long trip to Nepal. Wish I would have found your blog sooner.

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