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Birol
12-22-2007, 02:42 AM
When and where should you use metaphor and descriptive language? Is there a such a thing as having too much descriptive language? When is simple language better?

geardrops
12-22-2007, 02:52 AM
I'll respond first.

I hate descriptive language. If anyone ever accused me of having "purple prose" I'd probably start punching things until there was nothing left to punch.

Personally, I'm all for letting the reader compose their own environment. Unless it's a plot point, who cares that the hero had clear blue eyes? Does it matter that the heroine had tresses like waves of honeyed mead?

Of course, I'm too weak on my describing as a direct result of this. So my opinion is only worth so much :)

Birol
12-22-2007, 02:55 AM
How do you define purple prose?

geardrops
12-22-2007, 02:56 AM
The lazy way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_prose

In particular: "Purple prose is sensuously evocative beyond the requirements of its context."

BlueLucario
12-22-2007, 03:05 AM
Is there a such a thing as having too much descriptive language? When is simple language better?

You can describe your scene as long as you don't over do it. ^_^ Only describe when it's necessary.

It's okay to describe a kitchen or a bedroom, or a character. But it is NOT okay to describe something that the reader already knows about. Like German Sheperds.

Overdescription means the reader describes so much material to the point that not only to stray away from the plot but also takes over and ruins it for the reader who wants to visualize things on their own.


Oh by the way. Don't describe chewing!:D

dpaterso
12-22-2007, 03:07 AM
Without looking it up, I'd define PP as needlessly overblown and melodramatic word or phrase choices that obscure rather than enhance what's going on.

-Derek

Birol
12-22-2007, 03:08 AM
Oh by the way. Don't describe chewing!:D

Why not? What if it's relevant to my character?

William Haskins
12-22-2007, 03:10 AM
metaphor is a fundamental building block of language and learning.

frost nailed it in 'education by poetry (http://www.en.utexas.edu/amlit/amlitprivate/scans/edbypo.html)'.

rugcat
12-22-2007, 03:11 AM
How do you define purple prose?A matter of degree. Many people would consider the following purple prose; I would disagree. I would call it deliberately evocative of a mood, a tone Durrell wished to establish, a mind set for the novel and the city it portrays.

"In the great quietness of these winter evenings there is one clock: the sea. Its dim momentum in the mind is the fugue upon which this writing is made. Empty cadences of sea-water licking its own wounds, sulking along the mouth of the delta, boiling upon those deserted beaches - empty, forever empty under the gulls: white scribble on the grey, munched by clouds. If there are ever sails here they die before the land swallows them. Wreckage washed up on the pediments of islands, the last crust, eroded by the weather, stuck in the blue maw of water... gone!"

Justine - The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell

BlueLucario
12-22-2007, 03:12 AM
Why not? What if it's relevant to my character?

Then just say chewing the reader knows what chewing is.:D It's just too "common sense" to describe.

Stew21
12-22-2007, 03:15 AM
it has been studied and proven in communication studies that one of the best forms of persuasion and understanding is a metaphor.

use them whenever possible to bridge a gap in understanding. It is one of your strongest communication tools - especially for understanding, persuasion and evoking emotion.

geardrops
12-22-2007, 03:15 AM
Then just say chewing the reader knows what chewing is.:D

The reader already knows what the sea is. Yet I (mostly) enjoyed rugcat's post.

(It got a little over the top for my taste, but I'm able to recognize that it's just my taste and that the writing itself wasn't awful.)

Birol
12-22-2007, 03:15 AM
What if they chew like a cow? Or take a dainty nibble as if they are afraid the food might bite back? Or only eat on the right side of their mouth, the cheek on that side of their face bulging like a chipmunk storing food for the winter?

Bubastes
12-22-2007, 03:16 AM
Then just say chewing the reader knows what chewing is.:D

To add to Birol's question: what if, say, the texture of the food the character is chewing is relevant? Or if the character's jaw clicks while he's chewing something during an awkward moment? Or if the character stuffs food in his mouth? Or if the character counts the number of times she chews something before swallowing? All of those things may shed light on the story.

As always, my stock answer is "if it works, then it's correct."

BlueLucario
12-22-2007, 03:21 AM
To add to Birol's question: what if, say, the texture of the food the character is chewing is relevant? Or what if the character's jaw clicks while he's chewing something during an awkward moment? Or if the character stuffs food in his mouth? Or if the character counts the number of times she chews something before swallowing? All of those things may shed light on the story.

As always, my stock answer is "if it works, then it's correct."

Then describe the texture. If anything happens then just say it.



What if they chew like a cow? Or take a dainty nibble as if they are afraid the food might bite back? Or only eat on the right side of their mouth, the cheek on that side of their face bulging like a chipmunk storing food for the winter?

Then say it, just don't describe the chewing. Say it as a metaphor or a simile.


T

geardrops
12-22-2007, 03:22 AM
Then say it, just don't describe the chewing. Say it as a metaphor or a simile.

This would, inherently, be "describing" it.

Birol
12-22-2007, 03:23 AM
Then describe the texture. If anything happens then just say it.

This could be considered telling. While not always wrong, just saying it, might also take away from the characterization, the pacing, or the story.



Then say it, just don't describe the chewing. Say it as a metaphor or a simile.

Why do I get the feeling you're repeating something you've read or been told without fully understanding what it means? ;)

BlueLucario
12-22-2007, 03:42 AM
This could be considered telling. While not always wrong, just saying it, might also take away from the characterization, the pacing, or the story.




Why do I get the feeling you're repeating something you've read or been told without fully understanding what it means? ;)

This is hard. -.-. My head hurts.

geardrops
12-22-2007, 03:46 AM
This is hard. -.-. My head hurts.

To quote Tim Kasher: "Art is hard."

rugcat
12-22-2007, 03:46 AM
My personal preference has always been for clean, simple writing. Now a good metaphor can nail something exactly, make it come to like in a way that the most detailed description won't. But overuse can interrupt a story, no matter how clever the metaphor.

A brilliant metaphor is likely to resonate with a reader, but it also can take that reader out of the story -- the very fact of appreciating the writer's skill and depth makes the reader aware there is a writer operating behind the scenes. The "invisible" writer is the one I want to emulate -- the unobtrusive type that tells a story so seamlessly that you forget you're reading a book.

Birol
12-22-2007, 03:47 AM
This is hard. -.-. My head hurts.

{A lot of people say things like that after talking with me.}

ETA: I have faith in you, Blue. You can get this.

geardrops
12-22-2007, 03:53 AM
My personal preference has always been for clean, simple writing. Now a good metaphor can nail something exactly, make it come to like in a way that the most detailed description won't. But overuse can interrupt a story, no matter how clever the metaphor.

A brilliant metaphor is likely to resonate with a reader, but it also can take that reader out of the story -- the very fact of appreciating the writer's skill and depth makes the reader aware there is a writer operating behind the scenes. The "invisible" writer is the one I want to emulate -- the unobtrusive type that tells a story so seamlessly that you forget you're reading a book.

Although, to be contrary, I sometimes like when a writer says something so wonderfully that I step back and go, "Wow, what a clever beast!" Even if it makes me realize there's a writer behind the pages. I feel like I've connected with the book on a new level.

BlueLucario
12-22-2007, 03:54 AM
{A lot of people say things like that after talking with me.}

ETA: I have faith in you, Blue. You can get this.

Yeah, you're right. Of course I can. It'll take a while but I'll get it. After all, there are people in this forum who taught me well. :D

Birol
12-22-2007, 03:55 AM
I'm with Rugcat. Unless there's a reason the author chooses to reveal themselves, something that serves the story being told, then the author should remain invisible to the reader.

Zelenka
12-22-2007, 03:55 AM
My personal preference is somewhere in the middle between sparse and descriptive. Saying that, in my first drafts I always go over the top on description. My WIP I'm editing at the moment - I think I caught simile-itis. Seems to be one in every sentence!

When reading I'm the same though, I love description, especially if it adds a little detail that, while it fits in perfectly with the setting, I would never have thought of myself (if that makes any sense), but I agree you can get too much, and it can be too flowery for my tastes at times.

BlueLucario
12-22-2007, 04:06 AM
I'm with Rugcat. Unless there's a reason the author chooses to reveal themselves, something that serves the story being told, then the author should remain invisible to the reader.

And how exactly can you stay invisible?

Linda Adams
12-22-2007, 04:07 AM
When and where should you use metaphor and descriptive language? Is there a such a thing as having too much descriptive language? When is simple language better?

I do use description on a regular basis. I think it can add something to the story to build characterization, setting, mood, and even suspense. I always try to use it in relation to the story. If it's a suspenseful scene, then I describe in a way that suggests danger is lurking out there. All of it does double duty. If I'm describing a setting to convey something, it's also being used to characterize through the POV character. I always do describe my characters within a very short time of their first appearance on page--but it's a description that will bring in the characterization of the POV character. Depending on the circumstances and the character, it might be longer or shorter. A main character would get a longer description than a secondary character. A red shirt might get only a short sentence.

Can description be overdone? Oh yes. We had a woman in our critique group who brought in her first chapter. It just screamed color. If there was a color that appeared anywhere in that scene, she made sure we knew what it was. Even the deliveryman, who had a walk on role, had a detailed description of the color of his uniform and the color of his delivery van. All the color created chaos, and the story was lost in the clutter.

Birol
12-22-2007, 04:17 AM
And how exactly can you stay invisible?

There's not an easy answer to that question. It's what happens when you stop trying to be a writer and just are a writer. When all the pieces come together, when the story takes over, when all the hard work, all the blood, sweat, and tears that you've put into the piece, are completely unnoticed by the reader.

It's what makes the Harry Potter books good. When you're reading them, you don't see any effort on the part of JK Rowlings. You're not even aware of her existence. The story exists separate and apart from her. The same is true of King.

Have you ever watched gymnastics? Or been to a ballet? The performers make it look like anyone could get up there and do exactly what they're doing because they make it look easy? All the hours of practice, the early mornings, the late nights, the exercise, the rehearsals, the false starts, the special diets, are invisible. No one notices or thinks about them. It's just appears effortless.

virtue_summer
12-22-2007, 04:28 AM
I believe that the only rules is that you make the language fit the story. This includes metaphors and similies and other techniques of description. If it is used to clarify and to convey the right mood and it fits the characters, etc, then use it. I personally think that metaphors and similies can be some of the best devices for getting across the correct mood of a story and to explain something clearly. Of course they can be overused. Trying too hard to write simply can also be overused and can lead to a frustrated reader who doesn't know what it is they're reading about. Describe what is necessary to get across the information and the mood you want. Do it in language appropriate to the story and characters.

This is the major thing I'd say to keep track of when it comes to metaphors and such. Make them appropriate. If your story is from the point of view of a farmer from Idaho who never left left his own town, much less the state, then don't use a lot of metaphors dealing with surfing and the ocean or palm trees. Use appropriate metaphors.

rugcat
12-22-2007, 04:31 AM
As in most things, it's always a question of balance.

A bird sang in the tree outside my window.

A warbler sang softly in the sycamore tree outside my window.

A redbird sang sadly, pouring out its soul in a torrent of longing, bringing up memories of lost love and sorrow, as it perched unsteadily in the magnolia tree which squatted heavily outside my window, wafting its redolent fragrance to my senses.

sunna
12-22-2007, 04:34 AM
I avoid metaphor and descriptive language in dialogue; almost anything else is fair game. But I'm prone to overdoing it. It's one of the things I look for and edit out after the first draft is done. But I'd rather write it and trim it down or cut it out than try to do without it.

Done badly or overdone, it's painful and makes me very aware of the author in the work, and of the author's intention, which often ruins the scene or even the whole book for me. Done well - it can get right past my guard and make me see/think about something in a whole new light. Or picture a scene so vividly I feel like I'm there. Or identify very strongly with a character or narrator.


Just not a minimalist, I guess. :)

William Haskins
12-22-2007, 04:50 AM
this thread makes me sad.

Birol
12-22-2007, 04:59 AM
Poets.

rugcat
12-22-2007, 05:00 AM
This thread is a kitten, hopelessly yearning for the comfort of its mother's milk.

maestrowork
12-22-2007, 05:13 AM
I think it really depends on many things: the tone of the narrative, the genre, etc. I'm reading a literary novel now and I find the language and descriptions exquisite.

Obviously, that kind of descriptive language and metaphors are not going to work with every story, but it works for this one. And as good and beautiful the prose is, it feels natural -- there aren't that many words I can't understand, but the way the author uses the words together to paint the world seems so rich and effortless.

It's like how a talented chef would combine salt, sugar, spices -- everything ordinary you can find in your own kitchen -- and create something that is rich, delicious, and out of this world at yet it seems effortless and natural. The readers don't stop and ponder: What is the author doing? Instead, they get totally involved but the richness of the description matters. When a readers start seeing and smelling and feeling everything instead of just reading words, it becomes transparent. How? Well, that's why it's an art, isn't it?

Personally, I prefer straight forward descriptions -- and there's so much you can do... the five senses, the words you can use. I tend not to favor metaphors or similes, unless there's something so spectacular that one metaphor can paint a thousand pictures.

geardrops
12-22-2007, 05:30 AM
Have you ever watched gymnastics? Or been to a ballet? The performers make it look like anyone could get up there and do exactly what they're doing because they make it look easy? All the hours of practice, the early mornings, the late nights, the exercise, the rehearsals, the false starts, the special diets, are invisible. No one notices or thinks about them. It's just appears effortless.

I think this is where you and I differ. Whenever I see an athlete or performer pull off something incredible, all I think is, "So. Much. Practise." And I respect that a lot.

Which explains why I (sometimes) like when authors go non-invisible for some really shiny piece of prose.

Birol
12-22-2007, 05:32 AM
Because you're thinking about what went into making the performance look effortless, but the performers themselves still make it look easy.

maestrowork
12-22-2007, 05:35 AM
Which explains why I (sometimes) like when authors go non-invisible for some really shiny piece of prose.

I do, too. I would put down the book and just marvel: "Wow, did he just write that? How extraordinary." Yes, that takes me out of the story, but at that time, story is the least of my concern. So yes, it really depends. If I'm deep in the story and the author pulls out all the stops and shines that big spotlight on his language skill, I would kind of resent that. However, if it's at a point when the plot and pace slow down and the author engages me in a piece of exquisite prose -- it's a great treat.

William Haskins
12-22-2007, 05:43 AM
i'm perplexed as to how (or why!) anyone would avoid metaphor (or its stepchild, similes) in dialogue. human communication is largely built on them.

i mean, off the top of my head:

some guy: "it's hot as hell out there."

a simile. not only does it sound natural, it reveals a level of degree to the heat and it can be argued that it reveals a somewhat irreverent character.

a bridge is created, enhancing the understanding of hot by comparing it to a universal concept of torment by fire.

a warrior: "i am the sword of the king."

a metaphor. not cryptic, not unnatural for the character. it not only reveals that he considers himself a weapon and is therefore strong of mind and body, it also reveals the degree of loyalty he has to his leader.

one worker to another: "you're a corporate whore, and you don't care who you stab in the back to get what you want."

another metaphor. our understanding of the person being spoken to (or the perception of the person speaking) is enhanced by our understanding of what a literal whore does, and then applying (again) symbolic versions of that to the co-worker.

it's a neat thing that our brain does and it's crucial to our intellectual evolution.

geardrops
12-22-2007, 05:47 AM
Because you're thinking about what went into making the performance look effortless, but the performers themselves still make it look easy.

I don't see how reading exquisite prose shows effort. I see effort in poor prose, when someone tries to be awesome and fails miserably. But in wonderfully executed words, something that just makes you sit back and pause, I don't see the effort but I'm definitely aware of it.

Like maestro said: it's a treat :)

Dakota Waters
12-22-2007, 05:51 AM
Voted it all depends on your style. Some authors like to be invisible so they use simple, clear language. Some authors like to try and build atmosphere at the occaisional expense of invisibility.

Both styles have been used successfully. The most important thing for every other is to find zir own.

Will Lavender
12-22-2007, 05:52 AM
i'm perplexed as to how (or why!) anyone would avoid metaphor (or its stepchild, similes) in dialogue. human communication is largely built on them.

i mean, off the top of my head:

some guy: "it's hot as hell out there."

a simile. not only does it sound natural, it reveals a level of degree to the heat and it can be argued that it reveals a somewhat irreverent character.

a bridge is created, enhancing the understanding of hot by comparing it to a universal concept of torment by fire.

a warrior: "i am the sword of the king."

a metaphor. not cryptic, not unnatural for the character. it not only reveals that he considers himself a weapon and is therefore strong of mind and body, it also reveals the degree of loyalty he has to his leader.

one worker to another: "you're a corporate whore, and you don't care who you stab in the back to get what you want."

another metaphor. our understanding of the person being spoken to (or the perception of the person speaking) is enhanced by our understanding of what a literal whore does, and then applying (again) symbolic versions of that to the co-worker.

it's a neat thing that our brain does and it's crucial to our intellectual evolution.

Those are not only metaphors, they're cliches. Yet I agree that the writer shouldn't necessarily avoid them. I hear people using them all the time, so it's only natural that the people in literature should use them.

However, I thinik the problem with metaphor in the prose itself is that it has the potential to draw the reader out of the experience. Any time I'm wrenched out of the writer's world, then I may quit on the book itself. The overly flamboyant/stylized/purple can indeed work, for reasons others have pointed out. (I rather like Rick Moody and Michael Chabon and Annie Proulx, writers who texture their writing with rapidfire metaphor.) But in novels that are plot-heavy, I think they should be kept at an absolute minimum.

sunna
12-22-2007, 05:54 AM
I do, too. I would put down the book and just marvel: "Wow, did he just write that? How extraordinary." Yes, that takes me out of the story, but at that time, story is the least of my concern. So yes, it really depends. If I'm deep in the story and the author pulls out all the stops and shines that big spotlight on his language skill, I would kind of resent that. However, if it's at a point when the plot and pace slow down and the author engages me in a piece of exquisite prose -- it's a great treat.

I do that too; and I'm never sorry to be thrown out of a story because of skill. It's a wonderful experience. But I often wonder if it's because I write, and even when I'm deep into a story and totally involved in the characters, I can't help thinking about the mechanics of it.

Or maybe it's that way regardless, I don't know. :Shrug:

ETA: damn it! Topic changed while I was writing this post. I'm just not fast enough. *sigh*

sunna
12-22-2007, 06:21 AM
i'm perplexed as to how (or why!) anyone would avoid metaphor (or its stepchild, similes) in dialogue. human communication is largely built on them.

i mean, off the top of my head:

some guy: "it's hot as hell out there."

a simile. not only does it sound natural, it reveals a level of degree to the heat and it can be argued that it reveals a somewhat irreverent character.

a bridge is created, enhancing the understanding of hot by comparing it to a universal concept of torment by fire.

a warrior: "i am the sword of the king."

a metaphor. not cryptic, not unnatural for the character. it not only reveals that he considers himself a weapon and is therefore strong of mind and body, it also reveals the degree of loyalty he has to his leader.

one worker to another: "you're a corporate whore, and you don't care who you stab in the back to get what you want."

another metaphor. our understanding of the person being spoken to (or the perception of the person speaking) is enhanced by our understanding of what a literal whore does, and then applying (again) symbolic versions of that to the co-worker.

it's a neat thing that our brain does and it's crucial to our intellectual evolution.


Well, maybe it's just me: I don't claim to be right, just opinionated. :)

Your examples, at least the 1st and 2nd, sound natural to me, but as Will said, I think that's at least in part because they're common enough to be cliche: I don't think about them. (I will add, though, that I also rarely use them when speaking.) The 3rd, even in a story where people speak like this all the time, would probably throw me out of the story. I get impatient when people I'm talking to use metaphors in speech; to me it feels like overdoing what could be expressed more accurately in simpler language. My husband does this all the time, and it drives me bonkers.

Caveat: this may change as I learn more, of course.

That said, you make a good point about different types of metaphor, and I was far to general in my original statement. I should have said that I avoid extended metaphor in dialogue.

(Now I have to go look up all the other types I probably use and/or avoid, because it's been too long and all I remember are dead metaphors and extended and simple and loose - ack! I have a headache...)

William Haskins
12-22-2007, 06:21 AM
Those are not only metaphors, they're cliches. Yet I agree that the writer shouldn't necessarily avoid them.

they are, indeed, cliches. but they were low-hanging fruit for discussion. the point is that we employ metaphorical devices in our conversation all the time.

maestrowork
12-22-2007, 06:26 AM
Again, I see this as an issue of misuse and overuse. Metaphors can appear to be excessive, overly flowery, overreaching, cliched, annoying, or lazy. They can also be incredibly elegant and effective, painting the vivid pictures with the fewest words possible.

Little Red Barn
12-22-2007, 07:33 AM
it has been studied and proven in communication studies that one of the best forms of persuasion and understanding is a metaphor.

use them whenever possible to bridge a gap in understanding. It is one of your strongest communication tools - especially for understanding, persuasion and evoking emotion.
Trish, exactly, imo and this is so true. I love them, use and communicate with them and my ms has many, and my highest praise on ms from publishers thus far, has come from the metaphores I've used. But I feel, imo, the nature of my subject needs the mets and a little purple prose to calm it down.

Albedo
12-22-2007, 07:50 AM
Metaphors and similes in real speech are mostly cliche, to the point where I don't think we're trying to consciously form oblique associations in our heads, we're just spouting the cliches as single, learnt units of meaning. I'm never sure with my dialogue though, whether it's wise to have my characters spew cliches 'realistically', just tone down the metaphorical part of speech to avoid offending a reader, or have them speak profoundly in amazing metaphors of their own construction. I guess it depends on the character.

pepperlandgirl
12-22-2007, 10:58 PM
Maybe I can shed some light on the subject... ;) I disagree that metaphors and similies in speech are mostly "cliche" at least, insofar as "cliche" has a negative connotation. William's examples were the easiest, but spend a day paying attention to everything you say, and everything people say to you. You'll probably be shocked by how many metaphors you use on a daily basis. Hell, while you're at it, pay attention to how many Shakespeare quotes/references you use on a daily basis. You'll probably be shocked again.

Everybody is discussion metaphors as though they're something outside of daily speech and thought processes. They're not. They're inherent in communication. For example, in my Spanish class, we were discussing a Spanish poem, and he asked us to pull out the metaphors. He knew there should be 4, but he could only find 3. Another student mentioned a line that referred to "wearing something out" and he said, "No, no, that's not a metaphor." Well, it is, in fact, a metaphor.

CheshireCat
12-23-2007, 12:01 AM
If you're writing fiction in which ordinary everyday characters speak to each other, then you're going to use metaphors and similes and lots of (arguable) cliches.

I would venture to say that more readers (possibly excluding writers) would be jerked out of a story by an unusual metaphor or simile than by one they recognized and understood without even thinking about it.

Doesn't mean unusual metaphors and similes are wrong; it just means they should be used carefully. Doesn't mean "cliched" metaphors and similes are right; it just means they should be used carefully.

If it works, it works.

otterman
12-23-2007, 05:47 AM
I cringe when I see metaphors and especially similes overused. Too much description using these devices denies the reader the opportunity to interpret characters and action for himself - a version of the old show don't tell rule applies. As with any device, they have a place in writing and can enrich a work, but they should not be forced.

inanna
12-23-2007, 06:40 AM
Metaphors are hard, man. Speaking for myself, anyway. I've learned to leave it on the altar of the Metaphor Gods, and pray they gift me with one. If I'm not deemed worthy of something breathtaking and clever, then I just leave it alone. Whenever I try and crowbar one into my prose, the effect is nearly always laughable. Clunkity clunk clunk.

Albedo
12-23-2007, 11:06 AM
Maybe I can shed some light on the subject... ;) I disagree that metaphors and similies in speech are mostly "cliche" at least, insofar as "cliche" has a negative connotation. William's examples were the easiest, but spend a day paying attention to everything you say, and everything people say to you. You'll probably be shocked by how many metaphors you use on a daily basis. Hell, while you're at it, pay attention to how many Shakespeare quotes/references you use on a daily basis. You'll probably be shocked again.

Everybody is discussion metaphors as though they're something outside of daily speech and thought processes. They're not. They're inherent in communication. For example, in my Spanish class, we were discussing a Spanish poem, and he asked us to pull out the metaphors. He knew there should be 4, but he could only find 3. Another student mentioned a line that referred to "wearing something out" and he said, "No, no, that's not a metaphor." Well, it is, in fact, a metaphor.

I think you're thinking of idiom, not metaphor per se. To me a metaphor or simile has to be an intentional comparison, not just a pre-learned figure of speech. So if I said "the point jumped out at me" I would be speaking in idiom but not consciously trying to draw an oblique comparison, but if I said "the point was [like] a blinking beacon" I would. I use the first expression in speech all the time; the second, never, I don't think. I'm not that erudite. This is what I mean by the prior being a cliche. It can't be overused in speech, but if it appeared in prose I was reviewing, look out. ;)

Danger Jane
12-26-2007, 02:39 AM
I think you're thinking of idiom, not metaphor per se. To me a metaphor or simile has to be an intentional comparison, not just a pre-learned figure of speech. So if I said "the point jumped out at me" I would be speaking in idiom but not consciously trying to draw an oblique comparison, but if I said "the point was [like] a blinking beacon" I would. I use the first expression in speech all the time; the second, never, I don't think. I'm not that erudite. This is what I mean by the prior being a cliche. It can't be overused in speech, but if it appeared in prose I was reviewing, look out. ;)

Isn't that still a dead metaphor, though? Just one that's so dead that it isn't even easy to label as a metaphor anymore. It's not mutually exclusive.

Albedo
12-26-2007, 10:02 AM
Yeah, I guess an idiom is just a fossilised metaphor.

Stew21
12-27-2007, 05:09 AM
metaphor is one of your best tools for characterization and understanding.

metaphors can emphasize and accentuate your theme.

Metaphors add a layer to the language of your manuscript that set it apart, make it unique and drive it home for readers.

in the beta readings of my ms - some of the more drawn out metaphors are the pieces of it that received the highest praise.

It's all just my opinion, but metaphor and inference are two fantastic tools. They can also string moments of your ms together, that may appear unrelated, but bear common metaphor links.Two seemingly unrelated events or moments in a novel, if they carry similarity in the metaphor you choose for them, can be tied together beautifully.

My MC suffers anxiety attacks - newly developed. Each time he experiences one, he refers to the glass bulb in his gut, growing, expanding, pressing, getting increasingly hotter. At a very heightened and climactic moment, to say that bulb shattered was far more effective than each time explaining the piercing pain of anxiety and then attempting to increase it. Where do you go? how do you make it more significant? or make it worse? Metaphor does it with far less words and far more accurately and emotionally. With the metaphor in place earlier, I could do a "gut check" with my MC in just a couple of words, the glass bulb expanded rather than going through all of the physical cues of an anxiety attack. imo it was a better tactic.

BlueLucario
12-27-2007, 10:31 PM
I'll respond first.:)

I hate descriptive language.


I'm curious to know why you hate it.

Shadow_Ferret
12-27-2007, 10:44 PM
Metaphors and similes are the spice in a great tasting stew. Too much and it overpowers the other ingredients, but too little and it's bland and tasteless.

Personally, I love metaphors and similies and analogies and all that. I love descriptions. To me, that's what writing is all about. Translating the world with a poetic descriptive so the reader can enjoy and visualize things as I see them.

I've never been a fan of the whole minimalist trend.

BlueLucario
12-27-2007, 10:48 PM
I like descriptions too but I tend to go overboard with that.It's pretty difficult. I just described foam in a bubble bath like mash potatoes.

Shadow_Ferret
12-27-2007, 10:51 PM
Mashed potatoes?

Everyone knows foam in a bath tub is like the head on a well-poured glass of beer.

:D

BlueLucario
12-27-2007, 11:03 PM
Mashed potatoes?

Everyone knows foam in a bath tub is like the head on a well-poured glass of beer.

:D

Sorry, never seen beer before. I'm not 21 yet and I never drank.

geardrops
12-27-2007, 11:18 PM
I'm curious to know why you hate it.

On the whole, it's useless.

When I say description, I mean a set-out block of words whose sole purpose is to describe how something looks.

For instance, I couldn't give a toss about the epic mountains and valleys in Lord of the Rings. But that one black palm tree in Ask the Dust stuck with me. I've seen mountains. I've seen palm trees blackened by pollution. But in the latter case, the tree actually symbolized something. Its presence meant something to the story.

Of course, as a result, I under-describe. I leave readers floating in white rooms asking "Where the hell am I?" There's a balance.

Get enough down on paper so that the reader knows where he's standing. Then get to the good bits.

Stew21
12-27-2007, 11:22 PM
dempsey, I think you are talking about the difference between details that progress the plot and details that do not.
Details for the sake of details that do nothing for the forward movement of the story are fluff and filler and unnecessary. Descriptors and details (with clear concise language or metaphor or inference, whatever the tool) that move the plot forward and give the reader something about setting, character or plot are important.

My work tends to be short, because I only tell the reader what is necessary to get them through the story. Sometimes that is detailed description of one moment. Sometimes it isn't.