1. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    Does simile make your writing look amateurish?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by mashers, Jun 14, 2016.

    I've used similes in a couple of places and it makes the sentence feel like amateurish or like something written by a younger author (no offence intended to young authors - I simply mean that it makes it sound like an exercise in simile use). Here's an example.

    I experimented with other similes which communicated a similar thing but no matter what, it just sounds... bad. Are similes out of fashion? Or are they generally considered a less professional technique? Or is it that my similes are just not right? I'm considering just changing it for an adverb, but would appreciate feedback if possible.
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I've never come across a criticism of similies in that way. Adverbs, yes, but not similies.

    I'm not sure this particular one is all that effective, at least for me. But in general I think they're fine.
     
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  3. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    Thanks @Tenderiser. I'll keep working on it. The idea behind that particular one was that when a child is talking, it is very unexpected and disconcerting to hear then suddenly drop a swear word into a sentence. I agree though, it doesn't really work.
     
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  4. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    As @Tenderiser once titled a series of blog post, there are no absolutes in writing. Even things that are 99% of the time garbage, that one % done cleverly could be spectacular. And I've never heard anyone say similes were even 50% bad.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2016
  5. JoshuaLuke
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    JoshuaLuke Member

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    The simile you have used does seem rather forced and random therefore losing his impact but a well thought out simile can have a great impact. They definitely don't make your writing look amateurish as creating a great simile is a skill. The only problem is that they sometimes sound cliche as people have overused them over time eg sweet as sugar and so it is wise to avoid these types of things but it makes it harder for us now as we have to create new similes.
     
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  6. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    I got the image but it required a little bit of thought. I think the best similies immediately conjure up an image in your mind--you shouldn't have to really ponder them to get it.
     
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  7. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    @JoshuaLuke
    Those are all really good points, thank you. Being honest with myself, it was forced. I felt a simile was indicated in order to describe the effect it had, but I think just using descriptive language would be better as I think similes are not really my style. Descriptive vocabulary, however, flows more freely for me so I think that until I develop my ability to devise appropriate similes I should avoid them.

    @Tenderiser
    That's another good point. A simile should make it easier to understand, not provide additional information for the reader to interpret. I'll consider this principle should I choose to use a simile in the future.
     
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  8. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Hi mashers,

    echoing what's been said above, no, using simile in and of itself isn't amateurish. But using it badly can be.

    The thing is, when you use a simile, you make the reader think of something new. If the new thing has nothing to do with the scene/story/character, then it's a bad simile – you've yanked your reader out of the story for no reason.

    For example:

    Dave the butcher wasn't one for fighting, but he picked up the sword when he had to. He held the blade aloft and came at Fred like an onrushing storm. – this is a bad simile. What have storms got to do with Dave the bucther? I was thinking of swords and butchers; now I'm thinking of clouds and lightning.

    or...

    Dave the butcher wasn't one for fighting, but he picked up the sword when he had to. He held the blade aloft and came at Fred as if he were cleaving a side of beef.
    – this is a good simile (well, it's better, at least – I'm doing this in a hurry!). The simile is rooted in the character – it tells me how he was fighting (purposefully) and it tells me more about him (he's pragmatic in a sticky situation).

    In summary, make your similes work for your story. Don't just chuck them in for colour.
     
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  9. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    @Wayjor Frippery
    These are excellent examples to illustrate a very helpful point! So I need to consider the scene and the situation and draw similes from that so that they are relevant and don't feel incongruous. So, taking the original excerpt from my WIP, the situation is that the character has just been given a terminal diagnosis in a consultation room in a high tech medical facility from a socially inept doctor. With that in mind, I've come up with the following reworked similes.

    This last concept stood out like a bright glint on a scalpel.
    This last concept stood out like the glow of Julian's tumour on his brain scan.

    This still needs work and consideration, but it already reads better substituting either of those. I think this was the key point - the simile had no relevance to the character or the situation. Thank you all so very much :)
     
  10. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    Adding to this, of the two I feel the first one is more vivid, but is more relevant to the doctor. The second one paints less of a picture but is more relevant to the character who is having the experience. I feel the latter is more important as it describes the character's reaction in terms he would understand (or use himself).
     
  11. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Maybe (maybe, maybe, maybe – it's your story and I don't know what your focus is here in this scene, but...) you want the simile to illustrate the bit that I've put in bold above – that the doctor is socially inept.

    Julian got the distinct impression this was the first time he had told someone they were going to die. He'd said it like medical student bluffing a teacher about an exam he hadn't studied for.

    Those are my words (and they're not very good) so you should ditch them a find your own, but I hope you can see what I'm driving at – make the simile say something specific about something specific.
     
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  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    To add to the others, no, similes do not make a work amateurish in and of themselves. When they are your only mode of comparison, though, the accumulated sum can look like a lack of commitment on your part, like you don't feel sure in the images you are trying to portray through them. A metaphor is a much more committed image; it's stronger. Some novice writers shy away from them. I won't pretend to know all the reasons why this may be, but when I read a work that's written this way, I feel the writer cringing back there in the shadows, behind the page, with an expression that says please don't hit me, I only said it was like the thing, not that it was the thing. :ohno:
     
  13. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    @Wreybies is like one of those Jedi master guys, ya know? – simile

    @Wreybies is a Jedi. Don't fuck with him. – metaphor


    ;)
     
  14. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    :eek: Learned another thing about writing. Is there no end to this rabbit-hole??? :D

    Thanks, Wreybies!
     
  15. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    @Wayjor Frippery
    Nice idea to highlight this aspect of the doctor's communication. What I originally intended to highlight was actually the impact of the character's inner musing that he wondered if the doctor had ever told someone they were going to die. It was the first time he had consciously registered that he was going to die, and I want to draw attention to the impact this had.

    @Wreybies
    Great point, thank you. Yes I can see how constantly saying that things are only like something else would give the appearance of a lack of conviction in your own work, so I'll be sure to include metaphor where appropriate to balance the use of simile. To be honest I won't be using much simile as it's not my preferred way of communicating, but I do want some here and there.
     
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  16. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    When you meet Alice, you have arrived.

    *grin*
     
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  17. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Apparently you don't know that I am called (by some people) "Alice" - the line under my name is not a figure of speech ;)
     
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  18. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Well then, Alice, you must set out to meet yourself...
     
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  19. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll say simile is a little bit amateurish...

    My pal on a forum was very sincere about his novel in draft.

    Every paragraph would rumble along, and then skip, and then, and then a delightful simile hopped into the scene; a breath, and then on to the next paragraph where he repeated the experience. Five, six paragraphs in a row all built towards this one like moment. It was very annoying for me. I told him about his problem but he was not convinced, consequently remains only an orchestra member - in Greece, actually, quite an interesting chap, asides from his problem with simile, cello player.

    Sometimes I find myself doing the same thing. I just take out the like, see if I can flash the words past the eye - naked, if you like, ha..

    Yeah - try it raw, 'he kicked the ball, an orange flash through space..'
     
  20. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    metaphor – @matwoolf, wordwolf, he is a pack of truth, we are his pups.
     
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  21. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    @matwoolf - actually I like that technique of removing the 'like' from a simile. Mind you, isn't that making it more of a metaphor? If you just say 'he kicked the ball, an orange flash through space..', then I feel the implied meaning is 'he kicked the ball. It was an orange flash through space..' Not that it matters - it works either way.
     
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  22. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Hehe Wayjor, I do, I do :D and I have ;) ; I look forward to the surprises along the way!

    Getting back to this thread, how is a metaphor different from just staying close to my MC? Naturally he has strong opinions, everyone has. This naturally limits simile, and encourages 'metaphors' if I have gotten the term right. Anyone? I am fishing for opinions here..
     
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  23. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    A simile is when you compare something to something else. She worked like a machine.

    A metaphor is when you say something is something it's not. When she worked, she was a machine.

    Mat's orange ball above is a better example – the ball wasn't literally a flash; it was a ball. Also, he's good at taking out the fluff: was, etc.
     
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  24. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is a good example as well. All that foreplay for only 20 seconds of slip & slide. (sad trombone) It's a letdown.
     
  25. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    :superlaugh:
     
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