This week: Similes - Are Yours Good or Bad?Edited by: LJPC - the tortoise
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How to make sure you’re writing good similes.
"In argument, similes are like songs in love; they describe much, but prove nothing."
~ Matthew Prior, British poet
“Baudelaire compared the great names in art to lighthouses posted along the track of historic time. The simile, as he used it, seizes the imagination…”
~ Roger Fry, British painter and art critic
“Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.”
~Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game
Similes: Good and Bad
What are Similes?
A simile is a figure of speech that draws a comparison between two different things. It’s usually written with the word “like” or “as” or “than” used to draw the comparison.
Lucy’s health-recipe cookies tasted like grass and dirt.
That man must have a head as hard as a brick.
She tiptoed quieter than a mouse sneaking past a cat.
Some Good Reasons to use Similes in Writing.
When describing something the reader may have trouble understanding. Example: Jared arrived at a courtyard surrounded by the house’s main structure and its two wings, which enclosed it on three sides like a “U.”
To take something the reader is unfamiliar with and compare it to something the reader knows well. Example: The glow coming from the alien ship flickered so fast it looked like a strobe light.
To increase the atmospheric “tone.” Example: The principal’s car smelled as ripe as a rotting corpse.
What to Avoid When Writing Similes:
Avoid using clichés, such as:
It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
When she tried it on, it fit like a glove.
The farmer was old but mentally as sharp as a tack.
Her smile was as cold as ice.
Avoid comparing something simple to something more complex. Example: The cold room had a peculiar damp smell like the low, sharp eddy of a mud puddle turning to slush on a November night.
If you’re writing from a specific character’s point-of-view (POV), avoid using a simile they’d have no experience with. Example: Josh plunged out the door of his elementary school with his classmates, the slap of their sneakers sounding as loud as rain hitting leaves in a Brazilian jungle.
Examples of Good and Bad Similes
Good Similes in Literature
“Only then did he find himself rolling head over heels like a shot rabbit.”
~ The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad.
“A hot wind was blowing around my head, the strands of my hair lifting and swirling in it, like ink spilled in water.”
~ The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.
“Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed toward me like towers of Pisa.”
~ Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
“The very mystery of him excited her curiosity like a door that had neither lock nor key.”
~ Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
“Her father had inherited that temper; and at times, like antelope fleeing before fire on the slope, his people fled from his red rages.”
~ Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.
20 Bad (but funny!) Similes from Classes of Teen Writers:
1. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
2. Her artistic sense was exquisitely refined, like someone who can tell butter from I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.
3. She was as unhappy as when someone puts your cake out in the rain, and all the sweet green icing flows down and then you lose the recipe, and on top of that you can't sing worth a damn.
4. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
5. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.
6. He was as tall as a 6′3″ tree.
7. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
8. The sunset displayed rich, spectacular hues like a .jpeg file at 10 percent cyan, 10 percent magenta, 60 percent yellow and 10 percent black.
9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
10. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
11. The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.
12. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
13. Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.
14. Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.
15. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
16. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
17. She was as easy as the TV Guide crossword.
18. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
19. They were as good friends as the people on “Friends.”
20. She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.
Bad Similes from:
Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/08/high-school-analogies-20-_n_1332745.htm...
Eddie Snipes http://www.eddiesnipes.com/2011/05/funny-writing-mistake/
Ned Hardy http://nedhardy.com/2013/02/08/56-actual-analogies-and-metaphors-found-in-high-s...
Until next time: Let the horror bleed onto the pages with every word!
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To my delight, some writers took the time to comment on my last newsletter: "Naming Characters" Thank you!
Comments listed in the order they were received.
Barbie submitted "Invalid Item" and writes: The story above might have something to do with this fun and very important newsletter. Thank you.
I read and enjoyed your story and included it in my featured ones!
W.D.Wilcox © ¿ Φ writes: What's in a name? I've always tried using my favorite names: Jack, Jim, John, Joe...any 'J' name works for me. Don't know why really . . . tenth letter of the alphabet?
”J” names are cool – as long as not everyone in the story has a “J” name!
Nathan Peterson submitted "Invalid Item" and writes: An object. A very simple object. An object with a life of its own; an object of pure darkness. Can David break the pen's hold and finally find peace?
I’ve included your story with my featured ones this month. Thanks for replying to the newsletter!
9 years whew! writes: I'd like to add a fact. Most strong characters have names that begin or end with a hard consonant. Mark, Doug, Matt, Greg. There are exceptions: Porthos, Aramas and Athos. Super villains have 3 names, first, middle and last. Its how they are portrayed by the police, John Wayne Gasey, Theodore Robert Bundy. In fact I read a report that many convicts have a first or middle name of Wayne. It won't be my child's name or that of a sweet old grandpa. Unless he's a serial killer living next door.
Too bad that the great John Wayne’s name is now known for being the name of serial killers!
blunderbuss writes: Many thanks for a great newsletter on names - I am already having fun with those websites! Query - for anyone really – I have a character called Sofie (it's because she's of German origin) is it going to irritate a reader that I have not used the more common, 'Sophie'? Would be very grateful for any response.
I looked it up on http://www.behindthename.com/name/sofie and found Sofie is common in Germany, so you’ve done the right thing by spelling it that way. I also found it’s a very popular name in Norway, Denmark, and the Czech Republic. Learn something new every day!
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