There’s a good way to boost connection. And a bad way.
Metaphors and similes are in both categories depending on their quality.
What are they?
Both take a thing and describe it using another thing.
Similes use the connection ‘like’ or ‘as’. The drink was like the rancid smell of the garbage heap. Not just any garbage heap, but one on a hot summer day where you’re trapped downwind.
This would count as a simile. By using the term ‘like’ I am very clearly comparing two pieces. The drink’s description is very clear because of the simile. It’s another way to describe that doesn’t include direct explanation.
Because sometimes direct isn’t helpful.
Her laugh was like the crashing waves of the ocean. And when she switched to anger, it was almost as if the sea turned into a hurricane.
A metaphor is a lot like a simile. As in, it compares and connects two completely different items, but it does so fluidly without using a clear connector such as ‘like’.
The sound of a truck that came from the kitten’s chest was something I knew well. It meant, he’s happy and content. Hearing the engine motor below my hands has me feeling contentness too.
The statement never clearly says the purring is like an engine, but it’s a common connection and people would understand what is happening. Plus it gives a clear loudness to the purr which writing ‘the kitten purrs’ wouldn’t offer.
Similes and metaphors improve writing.
Actually these two are perfect ways to improve any fiction piece. Because it offers a different way of explaining the situation. It brings in more than just one sense. ‘Crashing waves’ laughter gives the laughter more than just the action. It creates a specific sound and tone that comes with the act.
That doesn’t mean it’s always good. Or they always work.
The book report was like a slow moving train. I’m pretty sure it even broke down at some point. Call it the ‘Little Engine that Could’ because I turned it in a minute before deadline.
This is a successful connection between train and writing a book report.
Their eyes were like the eyes you see in magazines.
Does not succeed.
It was like I was staring into the photo of a magazine where the model was photo shopped perfectly. Except this is real life and she really looks that beautiful.
Pretty much the same statement, but saying it in a way that works.
Adding similes and metaphors should feel natural. They should be a way to better describe a situation. It’s a way to bring in extra feelings and emotions. People have cultural connections which can mess with a metaphor and simile.
If I bring in Buddha, I better be aware of the connections that piece has to various sects around the world. Because I could be thinking the statement works, and it may not. It may in fact fall into cultural appropriation. It can easily do so.
That doesn’t mean don’t try.
There’s plenty to use for metaphors and similes that do not connect to anything cultural. Nature is freely available to connect to. Draw from your culture and use it. Bring those connections into the work.
The cacophony of sound within the concert hall brought up memories of standing in the forest listening to the birds complain about their nests. There was a peacefulness to it, but I probably wouldn’t want to listen to it all day.
I hope you attempt some of your own. Similes are easier to create. Use a ‘like’ or ‘as’ statement to bridge the gap between two unrelated pieces. To make them related and how.
Eating like I hadn’t had a meal in three days.
Stubborn as a concrete wall.
The building was like a tower out of a fairy tale story. I was expecting a princess to stick her head out of one of the upper windows and call for her prince.
Don’t fear creating this little side story to build the presence of the main one. Fluff that comes from these descriptions comfort far more than you know.
Realize every genre suits this stuff. I’m pretty sure horror takes the cake when it comes to creating metaphors. Because they seek to build tension and cause emotional distress. Metaphors are one of the best techniques to do just that.
If you want to take any of the examples I used in this post, let me know. I wanna hear about the ocean laughing woman or the building that looks like a fairy tale tower. Let me read your work! I need it.