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05/28/2014

Metaphors and Similes

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Let’s face it: much of what we write can be pretty dull. Authors often use metaphors and similes to spice up their sentences when writing fiction—and you can, too.

So, is there a big difference between a metaphor and a simile? No, not really. Both are ways of comparing one thing to another. The difference is that similes usually incorporate the words “as” or “like,” while metaphors do not.

Here are some examples of similes:

Bubba is as tenacious as a gator with a possum ’tween its teeth.

Margo has a personality like a storm front.

Alex dances like laundry flapping in a summer breeze.

As you can see, each simile illustrates an aspect of the sentence’s subject in a way that is more interesting than just stating that Bubba is stubborn, Margo is overbearing, and Alex’s dancing is vigorous, if somewhat floppy.

Metaphors do basically the same thing, but without the use of “as” or “like”:

From the airplane window, the ground was a crazy quilt.

The setting sun was a halo of fire behind his head.

Every day, the two of them meet at a park bench, where they sit for hours with their heads together, conjoined twins whispering neighborhood gossip.

The first sentence could have simply stated that the view from the airplane window included fields and tiny buildings, vehicles, and people. The other two sentences also imply more information about the scene than a straightforward statement of fact would have done.

The lesson is that your writing doesn’t have to be dull. Drop in some judiciously chosen metaphors and similes, and see what a difference a comparison makes!

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