HOW TO USE SIMILES APPROPRIATELY
Flashback to the old: similes are comparisons that use “like” or “as.” “As big as a horse” or “looked like a dragon” are both similes. Some novels don’t use any. Others use too many. There has to be a balance.
Think about it. You have an understanding of the world that you’ve created, but who else does? No one. That’s why the reader is reading your story.
She wants to know what’s in your head as is experienced through the eyes of your main character.
Say your main character is a ten year-old girl named Elizabeth. No one knows how small she is but you. No one knows how big her dad is but you. No one knows anything about her but you. Similes are like little ropes that wrap around the reader’s brain so that we can understand what you’re trying to say.
Take a look at this simile-less prose:
Elizabeth was very tiny. She still played with her stuffed animals, even though she was ten. But her mean dad didn’t like it. He’d always snatch them out her arms with his huge hands.
Not bad, right? We get to see how Elizabeth feels about her animals. We see that she knows she’s getting too old for them. But there are two things that we still don’t know: how tiny she is and how big her dad’s hands are. The reader will usually forgive us for this oversight and keep reading. But we are left to visualize these two missing links ourselves.
Let’s Indiana-Jones the reader…I mean lasso them with our similes.
Elizabeth was almost as tall as that three-and-half foot teddy bear that her brother won for her at the carnival last week. She still played with her stuffed animals, even though she was ten. But her mean dad didn’t like it. He’d always snatch them out her arms with hands that were as thick as softballs.
Now we have a clear picture of how small this girl really is. If she’s ten, she should certainly be taller than a three-and-half foot bear. She must have a nice brother to give her something that she loves even though her dad doesn’t like it. Wait. Was that her half-brother or her full brother? Why would her brother want to defy her father? And what did her dad do for a living that made his hands so large?
So many questions come up with just these two similes that would have otherwise never come to mind had we simply used “tiny” and “big.” Keep in mind that we are not trying to overdo it with comparisons, but they certainly help.
Thanks for stopping by! Tomorrow we are going discuss metaphors– the other white meat.