For Aspiring Writers

From the Experts: Writer’s Tips #5

This one is a gem. Brilliant tips of figure of speech by How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey

Don’t use the oldies but goodies:

  • blind as a bat/eats like a horse/dead as a doornail/a cold fish/cool as a cucumber/tight as a Scotsman/right as rain/flies off the handle/crying over spilt milk/a sea of faces.

Don’t use similes in a long string:

  • She was tall, like a telephone pole; and she was thin, like a reed; and her skin was soft, like velvet; her eyes,blue as the Pacific.

Don’t mix your metaphors:

  • He liked to bury his head in the sand and keep his light hidden under a bushel.

Make sure you use allusions your reader will understand:

  • He smelled like SO2. (The reader might not know that this is the chemical symbol for sulfur dioxide, which smells like rotten eggs.)

Don’t stretch your comparison:

  • His hands were gnarled like the roots of a stump, blackened by years in the earth, rough as if half-eaten by termites, yet hard and solid as good roots should be . . .

Be careful when you make a comparison that it does not resonate wrongly:

  • The evening was pleasant and warm, the sky speckled like the cheeks of a smallpox victim.

When describing something revolting, the comparison may also resonate wrongly:

  • He looked into the sewer, holding his nose against the stench, the green bubbles bursting through like Christmas tree ornaments.

Don’t make your comparisons too confusing to visualize:

  • The lines in her face were like a road map laid over the floor plan of the Pentagon.

Resist the extravagant:

  • Her eyes were like Indian sapphires, set among South African diamonds by the craftsmen of Tangier.

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