Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Simile is Like…

There’s a strange thing I’ve discovered in the last couple of years about myself as a writer:  I can’t do similes or metaphors.

I mean that I can’t come up with new ones.  Something in my brain can’t make those kind of out-of-the box connections between the characteristics of two completely separate things.

…A HUBCAP?  Gee, that’s romantic.

Of course, one of the big no-nos of writing is ‘avoid clichés like the plague’, and if I try to think of one, every 19th-century poet I’ve ever read comes flooding back to me like something that floods things:  ‘eyes like pools’, ‘black as night’, ‘rivers of blood’, ‘white as a sheet’, ‘rosebud lips’, ‘sharp as a tack’, ‘dumb as a post’, ‘he sped out of there like a bullet’, ‘he sat up like he’d been shot’, ‘he came charging in like a freight train’.  A significant chunk of my editing time is spent deleting the poor, tired things that flew in under my radar on the first pass.

I don’t know why I’m this way (apparently I can’t read myself like a book), but I’ve come to accept the fact that my writing will have to be metaphor- and simile-free for the most part.  Hopefully that doesn’t make it as dull as ditchwater.

I did once hear of an author who wrote a whole book without a metaphor or a simile, but I’m blowed if I can remember who it was.  If you know the name, please remind me.

I think one of my favourite similes is ‘sweating like Pavarotti on a treadmill’.  What’s your (clever or funny) favourite?  Tell me in the comments.

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