Saturday, July 23, 2011

Similes like . . .

She danced like . . .
Similes can add richness to a story, but they should fit the context and be parallel in thought to the word or phrase they’re being compared to. And of course, they should be used in moderation. Anything, no matter how good, can be overdone.
American Heritage Dictionary: A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as, as in “How like the winter hath my absence been” (Shakespeare) Plain English: a direct comparison, introduced by like or as, of two things which in their general nature are different from each other.
Everyone makes mistakes. Here’s a line from a much-published author: His seductive tone drew her like gulls to fish bait.  Like gulls to fish bait, aside from being a strange metaphor for a seductive tone, is not parallel to the original idea; the simile is passive and the main phrase is active. It’s awkwardly written and hard to understand.  It should have been like fish bait drew gulls or like fish bait lured gulls—something parallel in construction. Better yet, something more pleasant.

Evening came like . . .

She curled her body into the chair like a kitten [curls itself] in a sunny corner. It’s not usually necessary to repeat the verb, but try it both ways and see which sounds better and gives the better picture. He cut through the water like a dolphin. Or a different image: He cut through the water like a shark. Does that suggest a different mood to you?
Here are some from recent reads.
. . . pink windbreaker flapping behind her like the wake of an ocean liner. Choke, Kaye George

She shrugged off her doubts like a shawl she n o longer needed. The Drinking Game, Chris Redding

Dog Howling by GarcĂ­a (Zaqarbal)

Her verbs and nouns fought like cats and dogs. Dear Killer, Linda Lovely
Do you have any good—or bad—examples? Want to add your own simile? Or finish one of these?
Evening came like . . .
The dog howled like . . .
She danced like . . .




13 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

I like that shawl quote. Here's one of my own.

The pea vines draped the trellis like a lacy green shawl.

Though I think that when I used this in a book, it was as a metaphor -- The pea vines were a lacy green shawl draped over the trellis.

Ellis Vidler said...

I like that, Vicki. It creates a specific image--delicate, green, springlike. It has a light, gentle mood too.

Polly said...

One thing I know is that whenever I read a simile that seems strained, I feel my nose scrunch, and it takes me right out of the story. I use them very sparingly and make sure they fit the scene.

Star said...

Another interesting lesson Ellis. I agree that similes can enrich the story. I love them so long as they match.

Ellis Vidler said...

Polly and Star,
I try to make mine match too. Now that I've focused on them, I'll go back to my WIP and search for "like" to see if they still look reasonable. And to make sure there aren't too many of them.

Donnell said...

Gosh, I get nervous when you do these things, Ellis. I always think there's going to be a test. Went through some of my WIPs. Be gentle :)

Water poured off her black slicker like the back of a duck.

I agree used correctly they can enhance a story. Like anything, overdone, it yanks you out.

Great post as usual.

Sally Carpenter said...

The hero of my mystery is a middle-aged teen idol, so my similies are based in music, TV or LA. My book is humorous, so some of my similies are goofy. Here are a couple (the teen idol is the speaker).

My accountant told me that my bank account was draining faster than a beer keg at a Dodgers game.

He shook my hand with all the enthusiasm of a Led Zepplin fan listening to The Archies.

The audience was wound up tighter than the top E string of a guitar.

Sally Carpenter
"The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper"

Ellis Vidler said...

Sally, they're good and it sounds as if they fit your story. Is this in narration or dialogue?

Ellis Vidler said...

Donnell, I like the idea you have here. We can picture the water beading and rolling off the duck.

Christine Hammar said...

My puny one:
My protagomist is cleaning house w her friend. It's dusty and dirty.
The friend aska if she's hungry and offers lunch w cold berr.
- Thanks! I thought you'd never ask. My mouth is as dry and dusty as scorched asphalt.

Christine Hammar said...

Dang those typing mistakes!

Ellis Vidler said...

Christine, those typos only show up after you post. ;-) Nice one. Scorched asphalt. I'd never have come up with that but it's original. I like it.

Anonymous said...

Ellis, my examples listed are in the narration. Glad you like them. Writing can get sloggish at times and making silly jokes/goofy similies brightens my time at the computer.
Sally Carpenter