I was seduced by the rhythms of beautiful sentences and the images a good metaphor evoked. By the way language could move beyond the literal to make me see things as I’d never imagined them.
And though fiction seduced me for entirely different reasons, that love of poetry remains. It continues to inform how I read; the stories I love most combine plot with breathtaking language. These are the types of stories I admire and aspire to.
After all, is there anything more beautiful than lyrical prose and page-turning, unputdownable narrative? If I could have any superpowers as a writer, it would be those two.
But (as someone once told Spiderman) with great power comes great responsibility.
So, I give you…a few ways to avoid abusing the power of metaphor and beautiful sentences:
1. Be wary of your prose sounding like a valley girl wrote it. By this I mean, every other line includes either “as if”
He walked into the room as if he’d been floating on a cloud…
…She rushed into his arms like a coin does to a magnet.
2. When you do include a gorgeous, perfect, there’s-no-other-way-to-say-it metaphor, let your reader savor it. Don’t feel the need to follow up with another one asap while they’re still relishing the image of the last one. As a reader, I stop and catch my breath for certain lines of prose, but eventually, I do want to know what happens next.
3. Pack your punches in the right places. A good metaphor, done right, is powerful. It can linger in a reader’s mind, it can change how they see something. This draws an incredible amount of attention to the person, place, or concept it’s describing, so make sure you’re doing it with meaning. Does the lone bat in the middle of a baseball field deserve that much of our attention, or is it really just a bat little Timmy forgot? Overusing metaphors in places where they’re not entirely necessary dilutes the power of those that really serve a purpose.
4. Don’t mistake purple for pretty. There’s beauty in crisp simplicity. In clarity. Whether you’re going for a lyrical line or a straight-forward sentence, it still needs to say what it needs to say. Those fancy-sounding sentences we’re most proud of are often the ones that deserve our most scrutinizing edits.
5. And finally…Don’t insert a picture of Yoda from Star Wars into a blog post that references Spiderman.
Do you read for language, plot, or both?
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