One of my favourite tips from Unleash Your Creative Monster is to do with similes. Don’t panic; I’m not going to get all English Teachery on you. No no no. I’m going here to tell you how to supercharge your similes, so that they make your writing colourful, descriptive and all together more wonderful.
You probably already know what a simile is, but a quick reminder before we continue. A simile is a way of describing one thing by comparing it to another. For example:
The man’s beard was as messy as a bird’s nest.
The porridge resembled a huge dollop of elephant snot.
Similes in stories are like claws on a monster (oops, accidental simile right there). They grab you, hold you and pull you into the scene you are reading. Strong similes make characters and places more realistic, make comedy funnier, drama more intense and danger more terrifying.
But similes can be even more effective if the comparison you use is a “good fit” for the thing or person they are describing. Come closer and I’ll show you what I mean.
Let’s use a simile to describe a pair of red lips:
Her lips were as red as rose petals.
This simile would work fine for Snow White – someone beautiful, happy and caring. But if we are describing a witch – scary, wicked, creepy – the comparing word will be stronger if it matches her character. How about this?
Her lips were as red as blood.
Not bad, certainly creepy, but not entirely original either. So, let’s try one more time:
Her lips were the same shade of red as a squashed bug.
Much creepier. And much better for it. So pick your similes carefully. As well as helping you paint a picture, they can also create a deeper mood or feeling.
Right, I think it’s time for you to create some similes of your own. Find some paper and a pen and see if you can complete the following similes:
The giant was as tall as …
The girl was as strong as …
The teacher was furious. Clambering out of the muddy stream, she resembled a …
When the ball hit him in the belly, it felt like …
Next, I want you to find a magazine, newspaper or book and choose an interesting person to describe. Your character can be human, animal or monster. They can look beautiful, weird or frightening. Just so long as they look interesting.
You don’t need to describe everything – in fact, it’s better if you concentrate on two or three key details and bring them to life with strong similes. Similes that grab your reader and hold their attention.
Remember: a good simile can create a feeling; it can give your reader a clue about what kind of person your character is – dangerous, heroic, silly or wise.
What are you waiting for? Go write something, and be sure to give it claws.