Petra flicked her fingers through the white front of her hair. “Whatev. I got what I wanted. That’s what counts.” She turned from the mirror, all sharp cheekbones and smooth skin.
It was like talking to a shell, a beautifully polished shell the real creature had left behind.
Isn’t this great? Can you get any better, any more descriptive, than this? That’s the magic of simile. In a few words, Kristen punctuated with beautiful irony what she had spent the past several paragraphs illustrating.
Another of my favorites comes from Lisa Gardner’s The Survivors Club. One of the characters in her novel was brutally raped while her husband was “working late.” Lisa describes all he does to make it up to her, to show his support and his own remorse, buying her flowers and takeout from her favorite restaurants. Then, Lisa summarizes: “Guilt, she decided, smelled like red roses and veal piccata.”
According to Ron Rozelle’s Description and Setting, “a metaphor is an implied resemblance, a simile is a stated one, and an analogy is a detailed one.”
Of the three, analogy is my least favorite. A powerful metaphor or simile can drive a point home with fewer words and higher effect on the senses, making them more memorable. It is so easy for me to picture Kristen’s “beautiful shell” or smell Lisa’s “red roses and veal piccata.” The imagery makes the similes memorable.
But similes are like any other specialty tool. Use too many of them, and they lose their effectiveness. My critique partner finally had to rein me in on my first novel because I was having far too much fun with the similes. They’re perfect for exaggeration, which–me being Texan and all–is a part of my story-teller voice. Although they’re fun for tale-spinning, they tend to get tedious in novels.
If you haven’t tried your had at similes yet, do. With enough practice, you and I can write them with the same razor sharp perfection as Lisa and Kristen.
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