Dance of the Similes and Metaphors by Precarious Yates

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Recently, I read a story that pulled me in so strongly that by the third page I completely forgot I was reading. I later went back to study what it was the author did to pull me in so quickly.

Then I saw it. The author employed similes and metaphors in a masterful way.

Well placed similes beckon your readers’ memories and, like trusted ballroom dancing instructors, promise to lead them through a story that reflects the reader’s own journey while providing an entirely unique experience.

Here’s an example of a simile:

“Her news came like a sucker punch to the chin, the kind that leaves a bruise for weeks and makes you flinch every time fingers curl toward the palm.”

Here’s a caveat: similes can too easily be overused. With the exception of a few gut-wrenching scenes, similes should be no more than two per page or three per 500 words. Otherwise, they become too visible. When that happens, instead of the reader dancing through the words, they trip over a deluge of similes.

Metaphors, on the other hand, can, and frequently are, used in abundance. For instance, the previous paragraph used no less than 4 metaphorical words/phrases. “Reflecting,” “gut-wrenching,” “dancing,” and “deluge” are all examples of word pictures of something completely different from what is being described. In this way, metaphors are often the swiftest way to provide the clearest pictures in a reader’s mind, often by painting the picture of something totally unrelated.

Here are examples of using metaphors:

“Time slowed, holding its breath in awe, and released Hadassah fully into the moment.”

—Precarious Yates, Gold of Havilah

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances…”

—William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7

Metaphors are the highest common denominator, pulling your reader upwards and inwards, right into the very heart of your story. It’s a way to fine-tune the use of any of the five senses in each scene.

One day, as I was driving with my daughter, I told her that I needed to light a fire under myself to get something done. She was horrified.

“Mama, you wouldn’t really do that, would you?”

I assured her that I don’t have any desire to set myself on fire, and that I never would such a thing.

“Then didn’t you just lie, Mama?”

Ah, the honesty of children! It’s so beautiful! But I explained that metaphors create word pictures quicker than any other literary device. Similes do the same.

Here’s the clencher: Similes and metaphors must be unique. This is where many can stumble into clichés, or where they have the opportunity to make the story shine and sing with admirable uniqueness.

We improve our use of metaphors and similes with practice. Take some time, both right now and each day, to practice writing three unique similes and at least one unique metaphor.

About the Author:

Precarious YatesPrecarious Yates has lived in 8 different states of the Union and 3 different countries, but currently lives in Texas with her husband, her daughter and their big dogs. When she’s not writing, she enjoys music, teaching, playing on jungle gyms, praying and reading. She holds a Masters in the art of making tea and coffee and a PhD in Slinky® disentangling.

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