Monday, February 24, 2014

Over similed...

You're right. Similed isn't a word. LOL But, oh, ye gawds, does the problem exist.

Like a car stuck in a snow drift, her thoughts couldn't go anywhere.
Excitement roared through him like an avalanche.

Nothing wrong with either of those, but put too many similes like that into a segment of prose back-to-back-to-back and readers will be dizzy from al the images you're throwing at them. Although, it was kind of me to stick with snow in mine! LOL

We live in a time in reading/writing history where readers want details. They want to feel everything the hero and heroine feel. (Which sometimes causes head-hopping but that's not why we're here!) And because they want to feel everything the hero and heroine feel, we find ourselves groping for images. Things readers can quickly identify with and process. That's good.

But when you overdo, your story begins to hit one note...or those carefully crafted images that make perfect sense begin to look cartoonish.

Okay...I just heard someone laugh out loud.  You just read a book like that, didn't you? Overuse of those whooshing, swooshing, roaring lust vibes that took you out of the story and did begin to feel cartoonish.

So we're on the same page.

The trick to preventing your beautiful similes and metaphors from becoming cartoonish isn't always to cut down on how many you use, though some of you might have to. (I say that with all the love in my heart.) The trick is to remember there are five senses. If you've overdone whooshing, swooshing, roaring lust (or tingles, or arousal, or need), remember your character doesn't just feel. He can also see, taste, smell and hear.

There's also action. Those whooshing, swooshing, roaring feelings are reaction. I LOVE reaction because I think those reaction phrases actually demonstrate character. But when you have too many, you run the risk of painting a bad picture (and losing your reader). It's also a sign that maybe it's time for action. Or time for your character to hear something -- which can ground a reader into the setting -- or see a glint of sunlight, reminding the reader that it's a beautiful sunny day.

Break it up. Shift it around. Give readers the whole experience. Don't just hit one whooshing, swooshing, roaring lust note.

And don't read that advice and think there's a formula. Action/reaction/hear a sound. Action/reaction/smell the roses. No. No. Writing is an art. Once you learn the craft end, it should flow. You shouldn't want a formula. You should want something that flows and breathes and feels like real life.

Your words should create an environment where your characters' actions catch readers by the hand and draw them into a new world. A world they can see and feel and taste and touch through your characters in the same way a real person sees and feels and touches. Not with similes on steroids. But in a way that draws them in so far they feel they're part of the scene, not reading.

Okay. Tall order. I get it. But read some of the greats. They don't over do. They wield those similes and metaphors like a sharp, effective sword.

Alice Orr once said that description and backstory are like seasoning. In the same way that you don't want too much salt or pepper, and you season your food as it needs it, you should sprinkle in backstory and description.

I'd say the same is true for the roaring, whooshing, swooshing feelings. Just like salt, you need those images for your story. But put in too much and you ruin the image, your scene and maybe even your character. :)

Happy Monday and Happy Reading...

susan meier

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