″His eyes were as blue as a half melted crayon, his skin as soft as wet clay…with a smile that could warm my heart like leftover meatloaf in the oven. He was so beautiful.″
Hehehe, ok, so that′s not the best collection of phrases to demonstrate the use of metaphor and simile! LOL! But I write a LOT…so I need to save my best stuff for the stories themselves. But we can start here, just so you guys can get an idea of what I′m babbling about this week. 😛
Easily put, metaphors and similes are the words and phrases that we use to further enhance the details of whatever it is that we′re trying to say. It′s like watching something on a regular TV screen, and then switching it to high definition for a better picture. (That′s a simile, by the way. It was meant to give you guys a better understanding of the straightforward sample of information that I had given you in the sentence prior. Finding ways to use these enhancements can add style and grace to your projects, and paint a more vivid picture for your audience to hold on to.
To get the most basic foundation of how to accomplish this…we must first recognize the subtle difference between metaphors and similes. They′re very similar in nature, but not one hundred percent. For me? I think the difference goes beyond the idea that similes use the words ′like′ or ′as′ in their descriptions. Even though that is often sited as the major rule when it comes to telling one from another. In your writing, these are tools that you can use to make comparisons between what you′re thinking in your head, and what your audience is reading on the page.
Whenever I see a description that seems very basic in a story…functional, but not overly telling…I always get this old comedy routine vision in the back of my mind. Hehehe! You know how the comedian on stage says something like, ″Man, my wife is SO ugly!″ And it′s the audience′s duty to all shout out, ″How ugly is she???″ And he says, ″She′s so ugly, she had to pay her own pillows to sleep with her!″ Cue laugh track. When it comes to metaphor and simile, keep that in mind. When you make a flat statement like, ″His eyes were so blue.″ And don′t go into any further detail…imagine your willing audience asking you to finish the line. This will get you to see the places in your work where just a little bit more info could really make the difference between a good story and a great story.
How blue were his eyes? What can you compare them too? What kind of picture can you paint, using just a few words, that will give your readers an idea of exactly what your love interest looks like? Think of all the many shades of blue there are out there. Are they a piercing dark blue? Are they a neon shade of light blue? Are they almost grey or silver? Picture your character in your mind…take that shade of blue…and draw a comparison to line up with something that your readers might recognize from their own lives. The idea is to get on the same page and have the same image floating around in your imagination. Your character is fictional. They haven′t seen his eyes. But maybe they′ve seen the brightness of a cloudless Summer sky. Use that.
″His eyes were so blue! Like the brightness of a cloudless Summer sky!″
Do you see what I mean? Your readers can take that simile, and match the exact color of your fictional character′s eyes to a color that they can clearly create a mental picture of, and you can both go on from there. This works for everything that you want to enhance along the way. His eyes might be as green as well polished emeralds. His hair might be as blond as strands of freshly spun gold. Or his lips may be as soft and warm as warm marshmallow. Whatever you come up with, take some time to match the ideas in your head with something familiar and appealing to your readers, stimulating their senses and bringing them further into your personal online portrait. Most of your readers know the feel of soft blankets against their skin. They know what heartbreak feels like, what fear of rejection feels like, or the smell of freshly baked bread. Whether your descriptions are surrounding something tangible or intangible…a little practice can make this part of the writing process SO much fun! Hehehe! Just sayin′!
Now…what I′ve been using have all been similes so far. Using ′like′ or ′as′ to cue the readers that the statement I′m making is a comparison, but not a literal one. Metaphors are slightly different. With metaphors, your statements are being made as if they were literal, even when the audience knows, deep down, that it isn′t. Metaphors might seem like they′re a little bit fancier, due to their wording being a bit more complex in some cases…but it′s really just a slight variation on the use of simile, where the comparison is more implied than told. It′s a bit more abstract.
For example, if your main character thinks to himself, ″The butterflies in my stomach went wild, their fluttering wings slapping against my heart while I fought for breath.″…ummm, that′s not literal. Hehehe, or, at least I HOPE not! Unless you′re writing sci-fi, fantasy, or maybe even horror…I′m going to assume, as a reader, that you′re using metaphor to describe a feeling of nervousness and discomfort. I′m not actually picturing a nest of insects in someone′s belly, nearly suffocating him as he struggles to survive. That would be…weird. However, this use of metaphor has the same effect. The idea of ′butterflies in your stomach′ is something that people can associate with when approaching a situation that they find nerve-wracking or scary. Readers can identify with the feeling of it being hard to breathe when talking to someone they′re infatuated with. So metaphor serves the same ′HD TV′ function as simile, it just uses a little more finesse to do it. Similar, but different.
″I may have a few dark parts within me, but his presence in my life was like a ray of sunshine. It′s like he brightens up everything with his presence alone.″
″He brightens up everything. His presence alone, a ray of sunshine to steal away the darkest parts of me.″
The first is delivered as an attempt to give an explanation to readers who may want a bit more clarity, while the second is delivered literally…even though it′s obviously not a literal statement. The end result is the same, and the message has been sent. Congrats, writers! You just connected to your readership, and your vision is now right there for them to use to further engage in your story! That′s awesome!
Now…that being said, you have to know when to use metaphor and when not to. Every word of your project doesn′t have to be some overworked stream of flowery text and Shakespearean poetry. It′s fun to show off every once in a while, but choose your moments. Sometimes, it′s better to keep things simple. You don′t have to say, ″There was a determined rapping against the wood at the entrance of my domicile, the familiar sound of covered bone connecting to a hard surface, trying to grab my attention.″ Hehehe, it′s ok to just say, ″There was a knock at the door.″ No need to get carried away with the little things. But, in those moments when you feel a little flair and finesse is warranted, get your thoughts together and swing for the fences! Picture the comparisons that you want to make, and then make them a part of your story. Try to get your readers to visualize things the way you see it in your head. The end result might not be exact, but the closer your connection is to your readers…the more powerful your imagery will become as your story expands on that original foundation. They′ll see it like you see it, and that makes it easier for you to get your vision across in the most potent way possible.
Give it a try! Or, better yet, pay more attention to the metaphors and similes that you′ve used in the past. I′m sure that it has come, quite naturally, to many of you authors out there. You may not even notice you′re doing. Signs of true passion and natural talent! 🙂 Never feel weird about studying your own process. And once you take a closer look at your work, find ways to get even better. Challenges are the ′fun′ part! Hehehe!
I hope I made some sense with all this! And I hope it helps! Take care! And happy writing!