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Are Similes, Metaphors, and Analogies a Bad Idea? : Conversation question • Page 2 • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Are Similes, Metaphors, and Analogies a Bad Idea?

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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updog
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Re: Are Similes, Metaphors, and Analogies a Bad Idea?

Postby updog » Thu Mar 06, 2014 3:21 pm

Terry, I think you put the emphasis on "metaphor" when you should have focused on "trite". I've heard "spits fire" enough that I'd call it cliche. As for your "crampy" example, I'm not seeing how that's a simile. The rest of these, I think they're just trying too hard. You don't have to turn *every* sound or feeling into a simile. :mrgreen:
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Re: Are Similes, Metaphors, and Analogies a Bad Idea?

Postby TerryRodgers » Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:42 pm

Last edited by TerryRodgers on Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Are Similes, Metaphors, and Analogies a Bad Idea?

Postby DrG2 » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:09 pm

thanks for the discussion, particularly James's long, well-thought-out post.

I've tried to keep track of FOS I noted in the book I just finished (written by Elmore Leonard) and the one I'm 1/2 way through (written by Nicholas Sparks). The only ones I noted from Leonard were in dialogue. Sparks throws out some real clunkers, imo, like: "sucked like a vampire on steroids."

Someone told me a simile by Tom Robbins, which described the pink of a a conch shell as the color of a vagina blowing bubble gum.

That's very evocative, but it would knock me out of a story.

On a related issue, I've read that metaphors are preferred over similes, because they are stronger. However, the literalist in me sometimes has trouble with presenting some ideas as a metaphor. Maybe I should get over it.

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Re: Are Similes, Metaphors, and Analogies a Bad Idea?

Postby gesler0811 » Fri Mar 14, 2014 10:04 am

I'll never forget, as a younger child, discovering R.L. Stine and I thought it was so cool that an author would write 'horror' geared toward an audience my age.

Anyway, the first book of his I read was "The Baby-Sitter II" - In it, the narrator describes the way a character died, when he fell off of a cliff into a rock quarry. She described the sound he made when he hit, as a sound like a dozen eggs cracking at the same time.

If Stine had just written that he went splatt, or hit with a thud, or slammed hard into the ground, or whatever, I would have just been like, okay great. But anyone should be familiar with the sound of an egg cracking, and in my mind I could HEAR the sound of him cracking on the rocks because of that line. It was the very first time I can recall noticing an author using simile to get an idea across.

Personally, I love metaphor, simile, figures of speech, etc., if used well and creatively. George R.R. Martin does a great job with them. It can tie a description to a sensory experience of the reader in a way that he can smell/hear/taste/see/feel the item being described in a way just not possible with ordinary description. It is a powerful and handy tool. But like anything in writing, experience and skill will dictate how to use it, when to use it, and what to compare it to so that it is meaningful to the reader. Obviously, if you compare something unfamiliar to something equally unfamiliar, it serves no purpose.

Also, there's a scene in Dean Koontz's "Voice of the Night" when someone describes the sound of someone's head popping when a car rolled over it. I don't quite recall the exact simile/metaphor, but it chilled me to read it. I love Dean Koontz.




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Re: Are Similes, Metaphors, and Analogies a Bad Idea?

Postby updog » Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:13 pm

I'm going to repeat myself here, but I just want to say again that similes, metaphors, and analogies are not bad. It's just a matter of knowing how and when to use them.

I'm reading "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak right now, and the author uses a ton of similes and metaphors (and personification). It's brilliant the way Zusak plays with language. His imaginative descriptions help form very vivid pictures in the reader's mind. "The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring." "Trees wore blankets of ice." "Dawn began to fight the sky of black smoke" I don't think any of these examples are trite.

Most novels aren't going to be as heavy in metaphor as The Book Thief is, but the book is worth studying if you want to learn how to use metaphors effectively.

*Zusak also makes good use of passive voice, but that's for another thread. ;)
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Re: Are Similes, Metaphors, and Analogies a Bad Idea?

Postby onceuponwednesday » Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:51 pm

I love figures of speech. Adore the things.

They are extremely efficient, you can say far more in one metaphor than in a whole paragraph of text. They link directly to the readers history and emotions. Which is dangerous as there's a good chance they might connect to feelings you did not expect.

I slipped my hand between the buttons of his shirt. His abs were like my grandmother's scones.

Of course this all depends on the quality of the reader's grandmother's scones. He could have teeth-shattering abs or they could be fluffy and smeared with butter.

I just found out the other day that cliche is the sound that the stereotype makes when dropped into molten metal. I agree with what James said about stealing and borrowing cliche. You need to find a way to make it your own.
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