1. katica
    Offline

    katica Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2009
    Messages:
    172
    Likes Received:
    11

    Problem with Similes/Metaphora

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by katica, Feb 9, 2011.

    I write a lot of fantasy and most of it has a medieval setting. Because of this, I find that I have a lot of problems with similes and metaphors in my descriptions.

    You see, if I compare someone's stare to the glare of a laser, it makes sense to the modern audience, but might seem out of place because there was no laser's during medieval times.

    But if I compare a sound to the dripping of a clepsydra, that might make sense to someone who lived a long time ago, but will confuse a modern reader. They will have no idea what I am talking about.

    (Don't get all technical and hung up on my examples, please. I'm just trying to make a point.)

    Anyway, what I am asking is, whether it's more important that I make comparisons that make sense to a modern audience or comparisons that make sense to a medieval one? And what do I do if I'm struggling to find a comparison that's not cliche, but makes sense in both settings? Sometimes it seems impossible to do this. And is it okay to (rarely) use similes and metaphors that make sense to a modern reader and not an older one? Or is that never okay? Please back up what you have to say with reasonings. I am interested in discussing this since its such a re-occuring problem for me.
     
  2. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    Don't use modern examples that are out of place in the setting of your story, but confusing the reader is bad too.

    Instead of saying "like a ___," why not just briefly describe it in context? (If you tell me what a clepysydra is, I can tell you how to compare something to one in a way that won't confuse readers)
     
  3. guamyankee
    Offline

    guamyankee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2011
    Messages:
    474
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Tacoma, Washington
    Instead of calling it a clepsydra, use a term that people will understand that still fits in the story's time frame. "The sound was like raindrops on a pond." You're gonna have to dumb it down. Nobody wants to need a dictionary to read your stuff! Hope this helps.
     
  4. Islander
    Offline

    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Messages:
    1,542
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    Sweden
    Yes, I think it's better to keep it simple.
     
  5. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    There are always universal themes that run through the world, whatever time, so just compare to those. I've never had a problem with it, one way or the other, when writing fantasy. I'm already tuned to trying not to confuse anyone with specialist knowledge or accidentally giving my characters ground-to-air-missiles (it's quite easy not to do that, actually :p) that the language just follows on naturally. I draw a lot of the imagery from the actual setting of the story instead of casting around at random. If I'm writing about the sea the images will be of water-related things. If it's about forests, same again. If I was actually describing the sea or forest itself, there are plenty other natural things that might be easy to draw a comparison. Just as the most cliché example that's really obvious from this ramble, forests are often described as an ocean of leaves or something. *shrugs* Unless your character would have lived in a box all their lives, there will be things they can relate to that a reader of any time would as well.
     
  6. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    This. Keep your metaphors and similies straight forward, things people recognise. Its fairly easy to do like Mel says look to nature.

    Crystal clear, sea like a mill pond, emerald green eyes, he looks like he is about spit lava etc are all clear images, perhaps a tad overdone but they give your readers an easy time and a vivid idea of what you mean.
     
  7. Melzaar the Almighty
    Offline

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,792
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    UK
    Oh, another good image is to use emotions on nature - personification gets a bit overdone while you're in school, but there's no reason you *can't* use it in a simile/metaphor, though I've heard several people say they avoid it because they feel it's pounded into you as clichés in school. As long as you use quite complex language and mix it with beautiful imagery instead of making a textbook example like, "the clouds were crying on Saturday morning" like you'd see when studying it the first time in Literacy hour... :p But they're a great way to get imagery in without resorting to complex images of stuff.
     
  8. Terry D
    Offline

    Terry D Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Southeast Iowa
    Your job as a writer is to create a sense of time and place. Using a modern analogy, similie, or metaphore will disrupt that sense of time. As has been suggested, use comparisons which are universal in time.

    You can also use comparisons which are contemporary to the time of your story, but, if you want to use an arcane word, it is up to you to make sure the reader knows (from the context of the story) what the word means.
     
  9. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    I think breaking the forth wall, if it done gracefully can be add interesting levels to the writing. I think a book with modern language, similes and metaphors directed at the reader, if it done well might feel fresh unique and interesting.

    But one more way to help you fins new metaphors is to go out in the world and experience the world away from civilisation. Walk in the woods, use traditional hand craft tools, handle animals, start training martial arts, sleep under the night stars, listen to the sounds, and smell the smells.

    If you actually have experienced things relevant for what you writing you will have an easier time to find the right metaphors.
     
  10. KrisDalpiaz
    Offline

    KrisDalpiaz New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2010
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Just outside of St. Louis
    The metaphor needs to fit the situation. For example, I compared roads to a spiderweb when my characters were heading into a confrontation with a spider demon.

    For an example why you need to fit the metaphor to the situation, I'll refer to Stephen King's On Writing, where he quotes a metaphor he read that had someone waiting in a morgue like someone sitting down to eat a sandwich. How does a morgue relate to a sandwich? It doesn't in the least. The metaphor was enough that he put the book down for good.
     
  11. Allegro Van Kiddo
    Offline

    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2010
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    20
    I don't like to use them too much at all. "This hamburger is like a hotdog!" No, it's like a hamburger and why don't I just describe that? I begin to dislike the bizarre flowery sound of too many M/Ss because every is something else, "My shorts were like an angry Monkey!" and I'm interested in what's actually going on, wake up narrator!

    His eyes were like two laser beams! What does that mean, he's angry, he's extremely precise, or what? What's really going on?

    His eyes betrayed his fury with their intense predator focus. I like that better becuase it's telling you what he's feeling and what he looks like for real.

    That's just me though.

    Anyway, I have no idea what a clepsydra is and I would likely look that up and learn something. As long as you don't use too many making me tired of looking stuff up, I think it's good and adds color.
     

Share This Page