Monday, June 29, 2009

Similes are like Metaphors...

I've been thinking a lot lately about metaphors and similes. (That's what authors do when they're supposed to be paying close attention to what others are saying to them, and what earns us the reputation of not listening. We do listen, but sometimes not to the voices outside our heads.)

You may remember from your high school English classes that both similes and metaphors compare two concepts. A simile usually employs a word such as "like" or "as" (as in, "Her crochet hook dipped like a frantic, starving duck into the tangled lake of thread in her lap"); whereas a metaphor makes the comparison with the "like" or "as" not stated, but implied.

Apparently these literary devices are something God really likes, the way His mind works. His Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Bible to use them often. Almost all the parables Jesus told were similes: The kingdom of God is like yeast, for instance.

But similes are more difficult for me. God is love. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Maybe the challenge of these literary devices is why they delight us so. Recently I read (actually listened to the audio of) a book called I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn. Since most people know of Amelia Earhart and her mysterious and unsolved last flight, many expectations come along with her book. Is it an autobiography? If so, from what point of her life? Why the "was"?

So imagine the drama, the anticipation, when the first sentence of the book is, "The sky is flesh."

That compelling, jarring metaphor sets the tone for the rest of this well-written and provocative book.

How about you? What is the most memorable metaphor or simile you have read recently?


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Okay -- no comments? Are you trying to say that a discussion of metaphors and similes is a conversation-killer?

So I'll change the subject. Tomorrow is my big day! 27 blogs will be reviewing and talking about my books. See which ones at And if you twitter tomorrow with hashtag #latayne, the publishers are giving away free books!

Kathleen Popa said...

Ha! Latayne, this is embarrassing, but on this Monday morning the best response I could come up with for your question was to chew my nail, glance to the side and to try, ever so hopelessly to think!

But I am so very pleased that 27 bloggers will talk about you tomorrow! I will certainly check in to see what they have to say!

Anonymous said...

OH, Latayne, I loved this post, and I've been searching through some of my favorite books for an example or two. I just love coming across a metaphor or simile that wows me, one that is perfect, unique and unexpected. For me, they're the nuggets that make the writing rich and memorable. Some writers do it with seeming ease, but I think they seek long and hard to accomplish that. I know of two authors off the top of my head who write beautiful metaphors and similes. Lisa Samson and Jamie Langston Turner. Here is one from Lisa Samson's The Church Ladies: "I've always thought of death as a sudden dent in the universe, a concave emptiness in the atmosphere you couldn't see, but you knew was there. I think it takes the world a little while to fill in the dent, to smooth out the giant wrinkle one human life, when snuffed out, leaves."

Similes are really difficult for me to write. When I come to a place where a simile would fit, I usually have to leave a space and come back to it, after lots and lots of thoughts. And more often than not I have to give up on the simile, because if I can't write a really good one, I'd rather not write one at all.

Marybeth Whalen said...

Jodi Picoult is one of the best at this... reading her books inspires and challenges me in this area.

Andrew Rogers said...

@Latayne - didn't you write a book once with a metaphor in the title...what was it called...The Mormon Mirage? ;-)


PS: Please add a title to this post. I wanted to pass on this link to some writers I know, but because there's not title on the post I couldn't find a link for it.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...
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Janet said...

Don't you mean you find metaphors more difficult?

Actually, I was quite struck by the metaphors and similes in Latter-Day Cipher but unfortunately I don't have it handy to get the wording right.

It's strange you should mention this though. Just this morning, I was reading in the Gospel of Mark and thinking how important story and metaphor were for Jesus.