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As part of my ongoing blog series on how to show, not tell, I’m posting about a little-known trick to showing: USE A FRIGGIN’ METAPHOR.
Or a simile. I won’t judge.
Happiness is the china shop. Love is the bull.
– H. L. Mencken
Side note: Be aware that you can have too many metaphors. You’ll rarely want more than one in a single paragraph, and often not more than one on a page.
For the love of God, do we readers tire of the list. “In the left corner there is a chair and a desk, to the right is the bed, and the walls are painted dull brown.” This is so boring. In order to have a fun setting, drop the list and instead throw in some cool images and fun verbs:
The desk crouched in on corner like a homeless man, shabby and layered with dirt.
The bed was as wide and blue as an ocean; the rippling silk bore the color of sun over water, and I couldn’t wait to drown myself there.
The walls are as neutral as the best friend who thinks your husband is better than hers is. “You’re overreacting,” the walls tell you. “There is perfection here. You’re just too blind to see it.”
Nothing is lamer than a character description where someone’s eye color, hair color, height, and (if I’m lucky) skin color are all laid out in the first moments we meet them. “He was tall and burly. There was a gun at his waist. When he spoke, the authority was clear in his voice.”
You can do better. Evoke the character by choosing a metaphor that suits them.
Tall and burly: The man was built like a storage locker. Not the ones you find at gyms and amusement parks, but the lockers you keep guns in. Big guns, and lots of them. He was built like one of those.
Gun at his waist: A Glock wriggled against his belt as if it were trying to escape down his pants.
Spoke with authority: When he spoke, I was transported to Congress. Flags rose behind him, and fireworks burst overhead. Every word felt scripted.
Whenever people are doing things, they sometimes get reduced to simple verbs. “Angrily, he said, ‘I don’t think so,’ as he pulled back his arm to punch. The punch put me in a coma.” While this is passable, imagine what a comparison could do for any one of those lines:
He said angrily: “I don’t think so,” he growled, and my mind jumped to the History channel, the roars of leopards as they guarded their territory.
He punched: I could see the tension in his arm as he drew back – a trebuchet without a projectile.
The coma: Waking up felt like a hangover after drinking ten margaritas a day for ten days straight. When I woke up from the coma, I could still taste the salt.
NOTE: This article is a part of the 5/17/17 #AuthorToolbox blog hop. It’s been so fun! Join up if you’d like to increase your blog reach and have a blast networking with other writers.
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