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Monkey
05-17-2010, 11:08 PM
"...the girl could flounce better than a fat turkey on a trampoline." ~ Terry Pratchett, "Making Money"


Some authors can throw off smilies and metaphors like a dog shakes off water. Terry Pratchett is one of them. I am not.

Yet.

Teach me, Oh Sages of AW...or at least amuse me with your favorite quotable quotes. I will be most grateful. :D

Devil Ledbetter
05-17-2010, 11:15 PM
"...the girl could flounce better than a fat turkey on a trampoline." ~ Terry Pratchett, "Making Money"


Some authors can throw off smilies and metaphors like a dog shakes off water. Terry Pratchett is one of them. I am not.

Yet.

Teach me, Oh Sages of AW...or at least amuse me with your favorite quotable quotes. I will be most grateful. :DHis words hung like a fart in the air between them.

KTC
05-17-2010, 11:19 PM
I had a few cheers for "as useless as bark on a donkey".

scarletpeaches
05-17-2010, 11:21 PM
His heart was as black as a car full of arseholes.

Mr Flibble
05-17-2010, 11:30 PM
They hung in the air in exactly the same way bricks don't.

Gotta love Douglas Adams

scarletpeaches
05-17-2010, 11:31 PM
She jumped off the building and her ribcage burst open like a bag of frozen soup.

Monkey
05-17-2010, 11:32 PM
I do love Douglas Adams. :D

These are great!

So any tips on how to create them?

scarletpeaches
05-17-2010, 11:33 PM
I'm as happy as a bastard on Father's Day.

waylander
05-17-2010, 11:34 PM
'Her boyfriend looked at me radiating hostility like bad aftershave'

scarletpeaches
05-17-2010, 11:35 PM
You're as welcome as a bacon sammich at a Bar Mitzvah.

JamieFord
05-17-2010, 11:38 PM
You can learn a lot about lyrical writing by reading poetry. And not necessarily the Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, put your head in an oven kind.

Derrick C. Brown's stuff is modern, irreverent and hilarious. Same with Taylor Mali. And check out this clip by Anis Mojgani. The first poem, Direct Orders, is a machine-gun of similies.

"Rock out like all the books are on fire and the flames can only be extinguished by doing the Electric Slide." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znIXyFh6dsI)

Monkey
05-17-2010, 11:45 PM
You guys are better than a hot fudge sundae for breakfast.

(did I get it?)

ETA: A new favorite of mine, from the link given above--"Rock out like you get paid to disturb the peace." ~ Anis Mojgani

Mr Flibble
05-17-2010, 11:56 PM
Yes, you did

Red Dwarf is a goldmine too:

'Ran off like a gazelle on steroids'

'A name like a footballer clearing his nose'

I'm so gorgeous, there's a six month waiting list for birds to suddenly appear, every time I am near!

Garbled, confusing and quite frankly duller than an in-flight magazine produced by Air Belgium!

scarletpeaches
05-18-2010, 12:01 AM
Smoke me a kipper; I'll be back for breakfast.

Mr Flibble
05-18-2010, 12:07 AM
Oooh Ace!

Cat is that a new suit? Why it's sharper than a page of Oscar Wilde witticisms that have been rolled up into a point, sprinkled with lemon juice and stabbed into someone's eye!

JamieFord
05-18-2010, 12:10 AM
"It feels the way cotton candy tastes." - Derrick Brown

NeuroFizz
05-18-2010, 12:14 AM
It's as difficult as jamming soft butter up a wildcat's ass with a hot poker.

Priene
05-18-2010, 01:30 AM
She's got a face like a bag of spanners.

scarletpeaches
05-18-2010, 01:35 AM
She's got a face like a bag of spanners.Yeah? Well you've got a face like...

a melted welly
a well-skelped arse
and the North end of a South-bound cow

Mr Flibble
05-18-2010, 01:36 AM
Face like a welder's bench
Face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle
Bum like a bag of ferrets
Bum like two badly parked Volkswagons

scarletpeaches
05-18-2010, 01:38 AM
Face like a welder's bench
Face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle
Bum like a bag of ferrets
Bum like two badly parked VolkswagonsFrankie!!!

scarletpeaches
05-18-2010, 01:57 AM
(I meant Frankie Boyle, BTW. He said that on Mock the Week).

Mr Flibble
05-18-2010, 01:58 AM
(I meant Frankie Boyle, BTW. He said that on Mock the Week).

He stole it from round here :D

Monkey
05-18-2010, 02:01 AM
Diane Wilson wrote several books, including Holy Roller http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Roller-Growing-Church-Blue-Eyed/dp/1933392827
and
An Unreasonable Woman (which is also listed on that page--and btw, I got that lovely simile in the OP, the one about dogs and water, from the intro to this one)

What really made these books was the language used by Ms. Wilson--it was beautifully evocative and absolutely littered with simile and metaphor. But in reading them, I noticed that her similes and metaphors were always related to the text; in Holy Roller, things were compared to things from biblical stories or related to the culture of the church, in An Unreasonable Woman, they were always somehow related to the sea, or to shrimping, or to something that was near-and-dear to us South Texans. Every simile and metaphor was evocative not just because the comparison was apt, but also because it brought us deeper into the mindset of the MC (who was also the narrator.)

She even brought up the sea in a character description (and how's this for squeezing in the similes and metaphors): "Baby's [a male character's nickname] smell was as hard as the walls in the house, and around his shirt collar and his hair was a scent of the sea, and against his wrist was a layer as thick as my hand."

So, I'm asking: how important is it, how desirable, that our similes and metaphors relate to the themes of the text?

My inclination, after reading the two novels above, is to say that it's very desirable, that it really helps the reader to get a feel for what's going on...but Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett often use them just to give a sense of the absurd, and that seems to work well, too.

Mr Flibble
05-18-2010, 02:10 AM
So, I'm asking: how important is it, how desirable, that our similes and metaphors relate to the themes of the text? Maybe no to the themes of the text but certainly to the interests and reality of your narrator. For instance I have a sailor - all his metaphors are 'like a thousand fathoms of sea' 'like a sudden squall' 'Wild and capricious, like the sea'

That they fit your narrator is (imo) more important than their relation to your theme

If they are an artist - they should be all about colour and form
If an accountant, maybe all about numbers and rules

etc etc

NeuroFizz
05-18-2010, 02:24 AM
Two words of caution about becoming too enthralled with poetic devices like metaphor and simile--new writers should make sure the devices are kept within the bounds of spicing the prose, which means a little goes a long way. Too many and they become tedious and present the author as trying too hard to make the prose flowery and decorated.

Second, if the author has to strain his/her brain to find a good simile, it may be best to pass on it and just go with the ones the come to mind effortlessly. A forced metaphor or forced simile will be obvious to a seasoned reader, and may even smack the mind of an inexperienced one.

Remember, the story is for the reader not for the author--the spicing is to help give depth and flavor to the story. The story shouldn't come off as a vehicle for the author to show how poetic he/she can be. Too heavy an effort will come off like doilies on a fuck-worn couch.

Monkey
05-18-2010, 02:52 AM
I hear ya, NeuroFizz.

My problem is that, right now, I have a lot of places where I have things like


She just sat there, hotter than something.
because I really needed a good simile or metaphor, or at least a good description, and it just wasn't coming to me at the time. Rather than bog down, I left myself a note in blue so I could come back and fix it later.

I started this thread so I could learn a bit, think a bit, and get my creative juices flowing in time for the first round of edits. So far, so good, so thanks, everyone. :)

ETA: line above is not an actual quote, as if it matters. :tongue

NeuroFizz
05-18-2010, 03:10 AM
But in your hypothetical example, it might be better to describe the character's reaction to the heat rather than try to tell us how hot she was through a simile. If you stay within the character's actions and reactions, you can get the same information across to the reader while keeping the reader close to (or within) the character. It also gives more opportunity to get in little bits of characterization by using those character actions and reactions. Save the similes for the times when they come up without such worry and effort.

Devil Ledbetter
05-18-2010, 04:55 AM
Remember, the story is for the reader not for the author--the spicing is to help give depth and flavor to the story. The story shouldn't come off as a vehicle for the author to show how poetic he/she can be. Too heavy an effort will come off like doilies on a fuck-worn couch.Good advice. I removed 2/3rds of the similes in my novel, keeping only the very best.

And I love like doilies on a fuck-worn couch.

Monkey
05-18-2010, 05:12 AM
I usually don't have many similes in my writing, probably one every 30,000 words or so. But this is a humor novel, and I dunno...similes just have such potential for that sort of thing. Reading through this thread has been a lot of fun, just because similes, while apt, are often funny, too.

Beyond that, even though I've written three novels, an RPG and a bunch of shorts, I've never really played with similes and metaphors, and now I want to learn.

I guess there's a time when we feel a need to focus on one aspect of writing or another, and this is just my time to learn playful description. My work has often been described as "clean" and "crisp" (even by agents, yay, although ultimately I did not receive representation), but I've also been told, by betas and on SYW, that I need more description.

Thank you for keeping me on an even keel, though, Neuro. I recognize that you know more about this than I do, and value your advice.

So what is your opinion on the simile/humor angle?

shaldna
05-18-2010, 03:44 PM
I'm a fan of the simple,

'She sat there, hotter than a hot thing.'

Or 'Sweating like a goth in august'

TP is awesome for some of his lines. Jeremy Clarkson is pretty good too.

NeuroFizz
05-18-2010, 04:08 PM
So what is your opinion on the simile/humor angle?
This is a tricky one, in my opinion. Again, too much effort can come across as forced, or worse--a printed version of Airplane. Seldom does that kind of humor come across in print anywhere near as well as it does in movies. Some of the best humor writing brings the giggles through a very subtle, light touch.

On a higher level, an occasional light-hearted simile or metaphor will give seasoning to an author's writing voice whereas a heavy hand with the humor could well work against that voice--make it seem more farce than intriguing.

For me, writing good humor is on the same difficulty level as writing good love scenes. Both can be done well, but they are way too easy to over-write and they can very easily seem forced or mechanical.

(my opinion again) Some of the best humor comes from the situations into which the characters are placed, not from the words of description chosen by the author.

Ruv Draba
05-18-2010, 04:46 PM
Same as for poetry: brevity, rhythm, colour and surprise. But these appear in literary fiction too -- so you can read either. If you're worried about literary fiction lacking plot, you could look up literary mystery/romance/horror/science fiction (pick your favourite) e.g. on librarything (http://www.librarything.com).

RemusShepherd
05-18-2010, 06:40 PM
"The neutral beta meson switches between particle and antiparticle faster than a tranny with a velcro business suit."

I used that recently. What can I say, I'm a science geek. :)

swvaughn
05-18-2010, 06:44 PM
I wondered if he'd noticed the fine craftsmanship that made the thing stand out like a clown at a funeral.

[Probably I use too many similes and/or metaphors in my writing, but I like 'em. I like 'em like an emo likes black.]

Cranky
05-18-2010, 07:20 PM
My favorite that's actually by/from me and not a writer (Raymond Chandler *swoon*):

When talking about trying to get a message through to someone:

It's like trying to pound a marshmallow through a brick.

Celia Cyanide
05-18-2010, 07:32 PM
One of my favorites from when I was a kid..."I feel cold as a razor blade, tight as a tourniquet, dry as a funeral drum." --Pink Floyd "One Of My Turns," The Wall.

Listening to that album was the first time I really applied all the crap I learned in English class.

Monkey
05-18-2010, 07:43 PM
"Cold as a razorblade, tight as a tourniquet..." What great imagery, and man, does it set a mood.

That's awesome.

Celia Cyanide
05-18-2010, 08:10 PM
Yeah, that's what I liked it about it. It helped me to understand and appreciate why we use metaphors. The character, Pink, wasn't just saying "I feel cold as...something that is cold." If he had, it would have been easier to just say he felt cold. Ice cream, for example, is cold in a different way than a razor blade is cold.

Ruv Draba
05-19-2010, 03:33 AM
(Raymond Chandler *swoon*):



There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

He snorted and hit me in the solar plexus.
I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor.

The plants filled the place, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men.

A few locks of dry white hair clung to his scalp, like wild flowers fighting for life on a bare rock.

"I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings. But don't waste your time trying to cross-examine me."

Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.

He had a battered face that looked as if it had been hit by everything but the bucket of a dragline. It was scarred, flattened, thickened, checkered, and welted. It was a face that had nothing to fear. Everything had been done to it that anybody could think of.

A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.

We sneered at each other across the desk for a moment. He sneered better than I did.

...crazy as two waltzing mice.

She had a lot of face and chin. She had pewter-colored hair set in a ruthless permanent, a hard beak, and large moist eyes with the sympathetic expression of wet stones.

He didn't curl his lip because it had been curled when he came in.

A check girl in peach-bloom Chinese pajamas came over to take my hat and disapprove of my clothes. She had eyes like strange sins.

I hung up.
It was a step in the right direction, but it didn't go far enough. I ought to have locked the door and hid under the desk.

She opened her mouth like a firebucket and laughed. That terminated my interest in her. I couldn't hear the laugh but the hole in her face when she unzippered her teeth was all I needed.

Alcohol is like love: the first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third routine. After that you just take the girl's clothes off.

:Hail::Hail::Hail::hat:

Monkey
05-19-2010, 04:51 AM
Niiiiiice.

Ruv Draba
05-19-2010, 06:09 AM
The colour in Chandler's prose comes not just from his imagery, but from the intense, contrasting emotions underneath it. He never just describes something; he makes his readers react to it. It's not hard to write one-dimensional hyperbole, e.g. "Yo Mama is so old she was a waitress at the Last Supper" -- but a tarantula on angel food carries layers of conflicting emotion: menace vs delight is a strong contrast, but placed in the context of being inconspicuous it creates surprise.

If we want to try and create that richness, we need characters and situations of emotional complexity to start with. It's not enough to depict an obese character, say; nearly everything we can write about obesity itself is a cliché. But put obesity in an unusual situation -- an obese man writing calligraphy, say -- and suddenly, any description will work:


His sausage-fingers swept the ink-laden brush like three walruses figure-skating, and left a kanji character on the rice-paper that could as easily have graced a Geisha's buttock.

Hope that helps.

Monkey
05-19-2010, 06:13 AM
That's fantastic advice, Ruv, and a great example. Thank you.