Monday, September 1, 2014

A Simile is Like A...really hard thing to write


A  simile is a literary device that shows the comparison between two different things. It uses the words "like" or "as" and is therefore a direct comparison. "Ben is as wise as an owl" says that someone or something is as wise as an owl. An owl is traditionally thought of in literature as being intelligent. "Agile as a monkey" is another example of a simile.

The challenge to a writer is to think of similes that are not cliches and to compare the two things you want. A good simile makes it easier to understand your text because it draws a visual picture. The reader can use several of his senses to interpret what you mean. Often he can visualize your image (oceans and spilled water, pumpkins and an orange sunset). Sometimes the reader can smell your simile. There is a children's book whose title is My Dog Smells Like Dirty Socks that illustrates that the reader uses his sense of smell to relate to what you are comparing.

A trite simile makes you sound lazy and is boring to the reader. "Her temper is like a volcano." "...hungry as a lion," "...eyes as big as dinner plates. Often a simile is funny:"Her new hire was as useful as a chocolate teapot."  

Recently I read two books where the authors had a remarkable talent for writing similes. The first book is All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

"The people in Berlin believed in them [the German army] like a nun believes in God. (pg. 102)
"Blood that had spread across the table thickens like cooling wax." (338)
"The Pyrenees gleam. A pitted moon stands on their crests as if impaled." (349)
"...veins that climb in Volkheimer's arm like vines." (152)
"Her skin was as pale as cream and as thin as a blade of grass." (137)
"When he stand up his knees crack like twigs." ((158)
"von Rumple climbs the ladder, his weight like a rag on the rungs." (201)
" easy as trying to pick feathers out of molasses." (126)
"Sleep falls over the child like a shadow."

The second book was a summer beach read by Elin Hilderbrandt.

"...plans falling together as neatly as bricks in a garden path."
"She was perpetually moving like a girl on amphetamines."
"Snoring like the old man who bumped his head..."

Many songs have similes. "It's A Hard Day's Night" by the Beetles. Bob Dylan's "Like a rolling stone" and Jon Bon Jovi's "My heart is like an open highway".

You will be in good company if your simile is as good as Shakespeare's:

"All the world's a stage
And all men and women are merely players,
They have their exits and their entrances."

Put your imagination to work and think up good similes. It will enhance your writing, make the reader smile, cry or shake his head and an editor think he has a new best seller on his desk.

No comments: