Similes and Metaphors

I recently read a quote by Kira McFadden that said: “In some ways, working with similes and metaphors is similar to “ly” adverbs. Having a few is okay, but most of the time, the writer will strengthen his or her work by describing the scene rather than relying on a simile or metaphor to do the work.”

Well, Hooray! Since I have a terrible time using either of those, that’s good news to me!

I admire writers who do use them and use them well, but for the life of me, I can’t do it. Lord knows I try, but when I do, I just embarrass myself. I belong to a writing website where I post my works in progress and get it critiqued. My readers are quick to point out how bad I am at it.

Once, I wrote an opening scene where my main character is staring out at snow falling and I compared it to being the size of golf balls. I know, such a bad comparison. Here’s what a couple of my reviewers said.

1. Ann, Snowflakes aren’t really in the SHAPE of golf balls, are they? So the comparison sorta falls flat. FALLING FLAT is what I’m getting at, I think. How ‘bout: snowflakes the size of DVD’s or snowflakes the size of flapjacks get the idea.

2. Seeing that snowflakes are flat and golf balls round, the comparison was lost on me. I’ll be a wise guy and try. Snowflakes the size of hub caps, or be romantic with, snowflakes shaped like glistening diamonds fell furiously against the window.

Now, I’m not sure their suggestions were any better than my lame attempt, but they did remind me just how bad I am at writing those.

I gave up and rewrote the opening to this: Maggie thought there was something peaceful about watching snow fall. Its flakes soft and delicate, silently frosting everything in its path, making the world like one big birthday cake.

Still not great, but better than snowflakes and golf balls!

If you have trouble knowing the difference between a metaphor and simile, check out my friend, James R. Callan’s blog, He wrote a good article about them on September 4, 2012.

Do you like to use lots of similes and metaphors in your writing? I’d love for you to send me some examples.

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