Metaphors and Similes: A Love-Hate Relationship

Metaphors and similes are sometimes my friend and sometimes drive me bonkers.

In Star Trek IV the Voyage Home, the crew is approaching earth and smacks into the effects of a probe that is damaging the atmosphere. Bones hollers at Captain Kirk about where they are, and his response is, “We’re out of control and blind as a bat.” That metaphor is a much better response than a point on a star chart.¬†

The second line of John Sandford’s Deadline is, “D. Wayne Sharf slid across Winky Butterfield’s pasture like a greased weasel headed for a chicken house.” A good simile. You know you’re dealing with a despicable character up to no good. A slimeball, perhaps.

But then there are authors who describe something and add a simile to the description. “Her deep blue eyes were like the North Atlantic Ocean on a cloudy day.” Thank you, but I understood deep blue. More to the point, I have no idea when the North Atlantic Ocean looks like on a cloudy day.

Certainly, not all similes are irritating. Figurative language can add a lot to a story. But when you’re reading a book and everything is compared to something else, it’s irritating. More so if you are listening to a book.

I was about to cite a couple of authors, but I’ve chickened out. Who am I to question the writing style of people who sell lots more books than I do?

If you want to email me about the authors you think overuse similes or metaphors, I’ll quote you in another blog post. ūüėÜ

                                                              * * * * *


To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.