Using Metaphor and Simile
Both metaphors and similes are great tools for livening up your writing. Stories without them are dry as baked parchment, yet having too many makes a narrative tough to read and enjoy. Having the right amount makes the story interesting and readable and pulls your reader deeper into it.
The best way to use them is to think of them like spices. The right amount makes a tasty dish. By the way, the difference between a metaphor and a simile is simple – similes use like or as, metaphors do not. Here are some examples.
The sky is a blue pottery bowl gleaming in the sun.
I slogged through the wordy, simile laden book. (Slogging implies walking through thick mud or snow, likening the book to that substance)
Her hair was spun gold.
Her hair was like spun gold.
The sky was blue as a cornflower.
Reading the book was like slogging through muddy snowbanks.
As I said, a few of these are great. They enliven the text and give the reader a sense of being in the scenario. They are especially helpful for making an unfamiliar situation seem familiar, by likening it to something the reader has seen. For instance, say you are describing an alien creature. You might say “Its green skin was glossy and rubbery and its eyes were two gold-flecked marbles that stared out of an elongated, horse-like face.”
Some authors think that more is better when it comes to metaphors/similes. It’s usually best to only use those that give new information about the situation or story. Sometimes it’s fun to keep whimsical ones in as well, however always avoid cliches!
Why no cliches?
The best reason not to use cliches is because they turn the reader’s brain off. They disengage the reader from the story. Sometimes they also make the reader think the author is uninspired, and sometimes the reader is right. Cliches are used when the writer isn’t being creative. Generally, a sentence is cliched when you can hear the first part and finish the sentence without really thinking about it.
“She jumped for joy.”
“As cold as ice.”
“Hot as Hell.”
Though being too clever can be a danger, a more descriptive comparison is usually better, and engages the mind. An engaged mind usually means a happy reader!
Instead, try something like
“Her mood soared like a balloon.”
“As cold as those first drops of water in the shower.”
“Hot as a bed of coals, ready for a steak.”
If you have trouble thinking of metaphors, it can be a fun exercise to take a sheet of paper and write down as many similes and metaphors as you can think of, using your surroundings as inspiration. This is a great workout for the imagination.
Good metaphors and similes engage the senses and imagination, avoid cliche, and are used only when needed. Happy describing!