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.