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  1. #1
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    This is good writing?

    I just read this in a successful author’s novel:

    [His clothes were clinging to him] “… like a close family.”

    (I kept the quote as short as possible because it is copyrighted.)

    Similes and metaphors are traps for many writers; if it does not work really well, don’t use it. And if you’re one of the few who can come up with great similes and metaphors, please do not use many of them in the same novel. One about every fifty thousand words is enough for my tastes, and then only if they are really, really, good.

    I thought this belonged in the controversial forum since I don’t see a better place for it.



  2. #2
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    This is good writing?

    -- moved topic --

  3. #3
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    Re: This is good writing?

    At least they didn't use, "like white on rice."

  4. #4
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    Re: This is good writing?

    Or "like a leach."

  5. #5
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    Re: This is good writing?

    I don't think I'd call metaphors a trap for writers. Writers use them all the time. The thing is, we really notice when a metaphor goes wrong.

    I just read Olive Kitteridge, which won the Pulitzer a couple years ago. Strout's metaphors were slathered pretty thick in places, thick enough for me to notice, anyway. I'd rather read an occasional metaphor too many than an author who doesn't make use of this powerful technique. My guess is that it's more a question of bad metaphor.

    I heard a piece, maybe on NPR, recently about how embedded metaphor is in our language and how limited communication would be without it. Think about a bunch of common phrases we don't even think about as metaphorical.

    I ran errands today.
    Run that past me again.
    I'm running on empty.

    Sorry, can't remember examples from the actual program and have running on my mind as it's a beautiful day and I can't run due to a foot injury. But the point is that metaphor is fundamental to language. I suspect that most metaphorical language goes unnoticed. Many of the noticed ones are just right right to elucidate meaning. But a few are so bad that they get all the attention and give the whole metaphor business a bad rep. Like girl pop stars, we don't notice metaphor until they need rehab. (Did that one work?)

    James, trying going through a chapter of a book you like with the singular purpose of picking out every bit of metaphorical language and every distinct metaphor. I bet you'll find that your favorite authors use this technique of linking the well-known to the less-known all over the place. You just don't notice until it's done poorly. It's impossible to tell is the metaphor you quoted is effective or not. You used your own words to lead into it. We've no idea what this metaphorical link says about this character. We've no idea of the tone. Right? Because sometimes a bad metaphor, in a character's POV, tells oodles about the character.

  6. #6
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    Re: This is good writing?

    Actually the tone and everything else is there. The man was standing around waiting and he was hot and his clothes slung to him “like a close family.” (This character has no wife or children.) The part of the sentence I left out basically said what I posted.

    I like similes and metaphors when they work; most of the time they do not work very well. And as others have pointed out, many have been used so much they are just clichés. As to how often to use them, that is a matter of taste. I only like them when they are fresh and witty. Some writers have used more than one in the same paragraph. Most do not work very well and only annoy the reader. They annoy the heck out of me anyway. Another trap for writers is it often takes a long time to come up with a really good one. If you try to use one on every other page, your MS will take a lot longer to complete. They can, and often do, become just plain silly and can ruin the reading experience and the whole story. This is something new writers should be warned about. If you disagree, that’s fine.

  7. #7
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    Re: This is good writing?

    I use metaphors in my writing. Ridiculous ones. I make them as absurd as possible.

  8. #8
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    Re: This is good writing?

    That’s the spirit!

  9. #9
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    Re: This is good writing?

    Go for it James. Limit yourself to a metaphor every 50,000 words.

    If you're so down on metaphor, why did you rip up this little post with it? You couldn't even manage to write a couple of paragraphs without metaphor. Try that post again without -- work, taste, fresh, trap. You relied heavily on metaphorical language to make your point, and used it pretty well.

    But don't succumb to honing your skill. That's a trap. You may have to spend a a couple of years on your manuscript to get all the metaphorical language working in the right direction. No, better to slosh the metaphors about unawares, like you've done. Then you don' have to think about it.

    Except you've created a thread that does so. Except you've written metaphor-drenched prose. So maybe you're not so much wishing dis metaphor as hone your skills.

  10. #10
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    Re: This is good writing?

    This promises to be one of the dumbest arguments ever posted on WN.

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