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The Writer’s Village host John Yeoman has some great ways of banishing cliches and bland metaphors while improving the quality of your writing.
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Create Your Own ‘Fine Writing’ Machine (15 Original Ways)
Does the day smile at you? Or has the month come in like thunder? Do little lambs frolic in your heart? (Then best see a doctor straightaway.)
If you’ve ever felt those sentiments you’re on the slippery slope to writing Literature. And that way madness lies. Before long, you’ll be shaking your head like a bottle every morning to check if there’s still a brain in it.
Metaphor can become addictive.
Like a Thai chef with chili, you’ll put it in everything. As I just did.
But why not?
Figures of speech – like rhetorical questions – were once the bright plumage of literature, in the days when little distinction was made between poetry and prose. (The rot set in around the 1660s when England’s Royal Society banned the use of metaphor in scientific papers. Money was saved on printer’s ink but there’s no poetry in S = k log W.)
Today, we eschew all grace notes, along with any word that might seem difficult, like ‘eschew’.
Why? When writing fiction, we must focus on the story not the author, so we’re told. Pretty writing throws the reader out of the tale. “How well s/he writes,” we breathe. And we’ve lost the plot.
There’s room for both kinds of fiction. One says “look at my work (and pretend the author is invisible)”. The other preens “Look at me.”
Nowadays, the former style prevails, and it’s a shame. I see no harm in ‘look at me’ fiction, if the author’s an interesting person. Is our presence not intrinsic in our work? Yes. Would The Four Seasons be the same without Vivaldi? No.
Modern novelists have lost the music. Let’s bring it back.
Yeoman’s Metaphor Machine: 15 Artful Ways To Make Your Story Sing.
Step one: Create A Simple Figure.
Think of a clichéd simile. ‘He was as strong as an ox.’ (Every cliché was innovative in its time.)
Contract it to a metaphor. ‘He was an ox.’
Trim it to its essence then expand it. ‘The ox glared at me.’
That’s elegant. But we can finesse it. And have fun. Here are at least fifteen further ways to create original figures of speech, starting with a term as simple as an ox:
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