Often what separates a good writer from a mediocre writer is the use of metaphors and similes.
Using them shows imagination and creativity. Our favorite comedians are adept at hitting us with a punchline that is usually a strong metaphor or simile.
One thing is used to represent another.
Some simple common metaphors:
- The snow is a white blanket.
- America is a melting pot.
- Her lovely voice was music to his ears.
- Life is a rollercoaster.
- The alligator’s teeth are white daggers.
- Their home was a prison.
- His heart is a cold iron.
- She is a peacock.
- He is a shining star.
- Time is money.
- My teacher is a dragon.
- Tom’s eyes were ice.
- The detective’s face was wood as he listened to her story.
The problem with metaphors is that people not well versed in the language may not get the meaning.
Similes use like or as.
(They can also use more than or less than.)
Some simple common similes:
- (Eat) like a bird
- (Fight) like cats and dogs
- (Work) like a dog
- Like a dream
- (Soar) like an eagle
- Like fingernails on a chalkboard
- Like a fish
- (Racing) like a frightened rabbit
- (Have eyes) like a hawk
- (Eat) like a horse
- (Sleep) like a log
- (Sing) like an angel
- (Act) like an animal
- As big as an elephant
- As black as coal
- As blind as a bat
- As bold as brass
- As boring as watching paint dry
- As brave as a lion
- As bright as a button
- As busy as a bee
- As cheap as dirt
- As clean as a whistle
- As clear as mud
- As clear as crystal
- As American as apple pie
These are simple and common. They are all cliché.
They have become hackneyed.
A more complex cliche that has become hackneyed is: nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Once they become common in usage they are stale, lackluster and bog down a story more than lift it. The phrases and ideas become time worn or overdone. Eventually they lack significance through having been overused; becoming unoriginal and trite.
As writers, it is best to make your own metaphors and similes.
Unless you are particularly talented, it is not easy, but it’s fun. The old has to be replaced with the new. Yet it has to be something that more than a few can relate to. It also has to fit the context.
For example; as red as a rose, would not be a very good description of the color of blood.
I have a three page backlist of original similes and metaphors for certain situations. There are many I could fit to a sentence with a tweak or two. Today I got stuck on one.
I just spent two hours coming up with the perfect sentence using a simile. I know you might think that is a lot of time to spend on one sentence. This is part of why great books can take months into years.
My sentence concerned the word squirm. The context is a kidnapping. Go ahead. Give it a try.
Politicians squirm when caught in a lie.
She squirmed like _____________________. (Fill in the blank.)
I’m not going to share my sentence, but I will say that this is the sort of thing I am striving for in this novel.
It is moments like this when you just have to pat yourself on the back and say, “Brilliant.”