Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mastering metaphors and similes

In the first 4 pages of Stardust's Chapter 2, Neil Gaiman averages a simile per page, and the last two listed below are only a sentence apart. They are, in my opinion, exquisite.
The eighty-first Lord of Stormhold lay dying in his chamber, which was carved from the highest peak like a hole in a rotten tooth.
The lord's voice wheezed out of him, like the wind being squeezed from a pair of rotten bellows.
The chain parted like a cobweb in the old man's grip.
The dead lords of Stormhold whispered amongst themselves, in the voices of the dead which sound like snow falling...
Metaphors and similes are also plentiful in Dean Koontz's bestselling novel Intensity. The examples below come from a span of only 14 pages (yet it's not a complete list, by far).

Perhaps there is no such thing as "too many metaphors and similes," but more likely it just depends on how well a writer uses them.

Note how Koontz stays within his metaphors and similes for an entire thought. He doesn't just drop an obligatory literary device here and there. He extends them, expands them, introduces them then follows through to a deeper revelation.
A dam of pain burst inside her. Cold currents dragged her down, but she resisted the undertow with the desperate determination of a swimmer struggling against a drowning darkness.
...the jarring blow would have been devastating even if it had been twice as well padded, like the tap of a dentist's rubber hammer on a rotten tooth in need of a root-canal job. Right now every joint in her body seemed to be a rotten tooth.
She appeared calmer to them because, good little fisher that she was, she'd caught her fear and reeled it inside, where they could not see it.

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