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Writing with Metaphor and Simile but not too much Hyperbole

O.K.  I couldn’t resist using the rhyme (as long as you pronounce simile and hyperbole correctly).  It’s a cheap attention-getting device but sometimes it works great. 

 So, what is hyperbole?  It’s when you use over-the-top extravagant exaggeration that, when it comes right down to it, is hard to believe.  You’ll recognize it when writers throw in a string of adjectives and adverbs to spruce up copy when describing something.  Unfortunately, it only succeeds in turning people off or making them suspicious.  It’s like the used car salesman yelling at you from the TV.  We either mute him or walk away.  Using too much fluff will cause your readers’ eyes to glaze over and with a simple click of the mouse, they could be gone forever!

 The danger in using language that is wildly extreme is that you have to be ready to defend and prove the claim you’re making.  On the other hand, using metaphors and similes helps paint a picture for the reader so they can visualize what you’re trying to get across.  A simile is a comparison of unlike things using “like” and “as” where a metaphor is using a word that denotes one thing instead of another suggesting a likeness between them.  We often call it a “figure of speech.”

Take for example the metaphor, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”  I know it’s a cliché, but it illustrates the point nicely.  There aren’t really furry creatures falling out of the sky but it makes you imagine torrential rain coming down and streets flooding.  “Driving a Ferrari is like blasting off in a rocket” is an example of a simile. 
When using this writing technique, try to be original.  Don’t use metaphors that have already been used over and over again.  Come up with some fresh ones.  That’s what separates the “wheat from the chaff.”  (Sometimes I like to break my own rules just to make a point).

I can think of hundreds of others but I’m trying to keep this blog post shorter than usual.  I am having a slight disagreement with a friend and fellow blogger on how long and substantive a blog should be.  Her vote is to keep it short (one or two paragraphs).  I believe you should make it long enough to say something of value.  Have I gone on too long?  Is this of any value at all?  Feedback is welcome!  

 So, instead of me adding more sample metaphors and similes please add your favorite in the comment section.  Or, add a few that you’re sick and tired of hearing.  

 If you do want more, I give free advice through my website.  Click here and send me a note.  I’d love to  hear from you.



Anonymous said…
Hi Anne,

I just found your blog and like it! I'm including this post tomorrow in my roundup of good weekly links on my blog.

I was struck by the similarities in our backgrounds. I just set out to freelance after a 20-year professional writing career and am an aspiring author. I've never been an expat, though!

Good luck with all of your creative pursuits!

Thanks Patrick! And thanks for the link. I had a look at your blog and will happily Tweet your location. Let me know when your book is published.

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