That’s So Simile

When writing I often use a simple yet effective way to compare things. Similes. Going back to grade school here. A Simile is a figure of speech directly comparing two things.

Similes explicitly use words to connect: Like, than, as, so and similar verbs. Quite often similes are used to compare something living with something not.  These are often used to inspire humor, stark visual or comparison for effect.

Unlike Hyperboles a simile is a realistic and often visual inducing comparison.

For example.

His hug was like being wrapped in a warm sweater
Tom’s comment fell flat like a slashed tire.
A tear rolled down her cheek like drops of rain down a window pane.
The meatballs were as round as baseballs.
The show was as exciting as watching dust collect.

The idea is evident. I think when I write I tend to use similes in a sarcastic manner. Especially if they are in dialogue. I would have someone sassy say something sarcastic in a simile fashion. Sometimes I just like to say something or have them say something wacky and off the wall.

Dale stood over Amber’s Shoulder as she typed the message for the Territory Clothing company’s proposal reply. With Sasha gone she had been given more responsibilities and was flourishing with them.

“You’re in my space.” Amber said not breaking her typing.

“You type as fast as piranhas picking a carcass clean.”

“Gross and thank you.” She smiled. Dale had a way of complimenting her that wasn’t the usual pandering boring fluff.

Scott approached Dale and Amber at her workstation. They’ve been inseparable lately, like industrial Velcro. Dale had bailed twice now on guy’s night. Amber was a problem. He smiled and set her mug of tea down. 

“Just the way you like it. Hot enough to nearly melt the mug.”

“Thanks Scott.” Amber smiled. Scott was trying very hard to make up for his blunder.

I enjoy a good simile if it’s clever and fits the story or character. I don’t enjoy too many of them in novels. Poetry is sprinkled liberally with them like sugar on a cookie.

I often see simile and hyperbole mixed and interchanged. Even on websites claiming one or the other. I simply think; simile is a similar comparison why hyperbole is a hyper or exaggerated comparison. I’m sure there are those that disagree or say they are the same. Meh. I just like to know the difference when I plan to write them into a story.

My advice about Simile.
Writing a simile is like composing a mini poem in one sentence.  

What are your favorite similes?

-Sheryl

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The jerk-face warrior

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Territory

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The Runaway

I’ve mentioned run-on sentences. A single sentence containing two or more independent clauses joined without conjunction. What about runaway sentences? I don’t know if that’s the official label for them, but I like it. A runaway sentence is so long without break or punctuation that I have to pause, inhale or I simply lose my place.

A run-on sentence can also be a Runaway sentence. Sometimes a run on sentence may be ‘fixed’ and become a runaway one.

Amber picked up the broken pieces of her favorite tea mug while wiping her free-falling tears away with the sleeve of her now stained blue blouse that she wore today specifically to impress Dale. (34)

That sentence is 34 words long. Wow. While packed with information it’s a tad bit crowded.

The easiest way to break up a runaway is to well… break it up. This is easy but not necessarily the best way.

Amber picked up the broken pieces of her favorite tea mug. She wiped her free-falling tears away with the sleeve of her now stained blue blouse. She wore it today specifically to impress Dale. (34)

Still 34 words. Some words had to be changed to accommodate the sentence breaks. Now I would want to take that runaway, feed it, clean it, dress and groom the poor thing into a lovely polished paragraph. This means more or less words, different words and maybe even a different order…

Amber wiped her tears and picked up the pieces of her favorite tea mug. The dark smear on the sleeve caught her teary eyes. She wore the blue blouse to impress Dale, and now it’s ruined. (36)

Amber absently wiped her tears. “Just perfect.” She carefully picked up the broken pieces of her mug from the floor. The black smear on the blue blouse she wore to impress Dale caught her eye. “I’ve ruined my favourite tea mug and my blouse.” (44)

While the second one has 44 words, I might use this one since Amber gravitates to self-pity these days and she’s overly emotional lately.

Runaways are easy to do especially if I’m in just get it out on ‘paper’ mode. When I find them, I like to take a good hard look at them and make them better. I know personally, if I made a runaway, it’s likely because I had to much to say all at once and it was probably important information at the time.

My advice about runaway sentences that need to be shortened to make more sense so the reader doesn’t get frustrated and lose patience with what you are trying to say in that overly long point.
Well I sort of already said it… feed them, clean them, dress and groom the poor things into lovely polished paragraphs.

-Sheryl

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Creative Dialogue Tags

Dialogue is my favorite part of writing. Previously I’ve talked a lot about dialogue tags and how the world has a conflicting view on how they should and should not be used.

He said, she said tags are the most common and should be used more than ‘creative tags’ but even he said she said should probably be used sparingly or only when necessary. Thus creative ones even less so. Why?  because our brains are trained to skip ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ it’s automatic, we don’t even think about it. And while the occasional creative tag is warranted too much slows the reader down and it becomes noticeable.

I generally use a mix of everything but primarily rely on conversation flow (Sans tags) or action tags. Action tags give the reader a clear vision of what the character is doing before or after what they said.

Some examples of creative dialogue tags:  (these come after he, she or the name of the character)

Said
Answered
Replied
Murmured
Mumbled
Whispered

Blurted
Complained
Snapped
Yelled
Agreed/Disagreed
Teased
Jested
Stuttered

You get the idea. Now here are some things spoken words or dialogue cannot do. I see these words on lists and in text and personally I try to make them action tags not dialogue tags or combine them.

Sighed
Cried
Sniffled
Growled
Moaned
Groaned
Snorted
Snickered
Laughed
Giggled

Yes, there are instances when one may growl out their words or cried while speaking but plopping it at the end will remove the emotion or tone from the sentence and come across as awkward. Simply saying ‘She growled’ after the dialogue might not read to others as it did you me in my head.

Example time.

“I don’t feel well.” Amber murmured.

Not terrible but not great either. This sentence has more potential than this.

Amber rubbed her stomach and murmured. “I don’t feel well.”

or if she’s moaning the words…

Amber rubbed her stomach. “I don’t feel well.” She murmured.

While not good for keeping the word count down, sometimes it’s more important to relay the message properly than to over simplify it. Apparently, the word sighed is a big one that gets used too much. While yes people do sometimes sigh while speaking it might read better if it’s not so lonesome at the end of the sentence.

“Go home then.” Scott sighed.

I’m trying to convey frustration and while he might sigh the word go and maybe home, it may also look like he sighed after the fact. Reader interpenetration.

Scott sighed. “Go home then.”

Scott absently looked up to the ceiling. “Go home then.” He said with a sigh.

In these situations when I really, really, really want to convey tone in dialogue I read it out loud a few times to make sure what I’m saying sounds like what I’ve actually written. The best way is to have someone else read it aloud to you.

I don’t mind ‘said’ but I definitely try to use them sparingly or appropriately. Every dialogue sentence does not need them.

“I don’t feel well” Amber murmured.
“Go home then,” Scott said.
Amber rubbed her stomach, opened her desk drawer and pulled out the bag of herbal tea Scott brought her as part of a gift. A week after he barged in on her at her apartment and scared her he gave her a gift basket of things to help with the morning sickness she still had bouts of. 
“I have too much work to do. I’ll just go make some tea and see if it helps.” Amber said.
“Good idea,” Scott said.
“I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want anything?” Amber asked.
“No thanks. You go take care of yourself.” Scott answered.
Amber grabbed her mug and with the tea in hand, she went to the staff room. Scott watched her leave barely containing the smile that did not match the malice in his eyes.

For me it’s too elementary with all that ‘said’ going on. I feel like the dialogue is separated from the action too. When I read I find it tedious I like to mix them.

Amber rubbed her stomach and murmured. “I don’t feel well.”
Scott absently looked up to the ceiling. “Go home then.” 
“I have too much work to do. I’ll just go make some tea and see if it helps.”
Scott watched her open her desk drawer and take out the bag of herbal tea.
“Good idea.” 
A week after he barged in on her at her apartment and scared her he brought her a gift basket of things to help with the morning sickness she still had bouts of. 
Amber grabbed her mug. “I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want anything?” 
“No thanks. You go take care of yourself.”
With the tea and mug in hand, she went to the staff room. Scott watched her leave barely containing the smile that did not match the malice in his eyes.

Sometimes when I’m rushing I’ll plop out dialogue in the, he said she said constantly way. Then I’ll go back and dress it up better in editing. While I love a good creative dialogue tag It’s a balanced blend of the classic ‘he said’ action tags, no tags and creative dialogue tags that will help a story flow. “IMO of course.” She said and winked.

My advice about creative dialogue tags.
Whether the person is murmuring, sighing or crying. Make it clear if it’s before, during or after the spoken words. Read out loud or have someone else read it to you. It helps.

-Sheryl

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Murmuration
Tea

Under and over the descriptions we go

Describing things is tricky, too much and it’s boring, too little and it’s boring. Both for opposite reasons, yet they get the same result… boring. As a writer I know I’m capable of much better.

Common scenarios in books like sunsets, the ocean view, a busy city street can easily become under or dramatically over described. The problem is they are common so most people know what a sunset looks like so chances are, no matter how well it’s describe or poorly, the reader is envisioning what they have personally experienced. Unless there is something remarkable, totally uncommon or has never happened before I try not to patronize the reader.

In her apartment after dinner, Amber sat and watched the sunset over the city drinking a cup of tea. The beautiful colours reflecting on the clouds in the sky.
(29)

While accurate it’s boring…
Here’s a little overkill example, while not horrible it is a smidge tedious:

In her apartment after diner, Amber sat deftly on her couch. She carefully pulled up her feet beneath her and she snuggled into the soft comfortable cornflower blue fabric. Holding her hot cup of chamomile tea between her chilled hands, she inhaled the sweet calming aroma deeply. She watched eagerly as the scorching sun began to descend ever so slowly toward the horizon. It cast the hues of soft sunburst orange, delicate summer peaches and fluffy cotton candy pinks upon the once white clouds that dotted the crisp blue summer sky.
(91)

While I’m a fan of describing colour, for something so commonly seen it can be a bit campy.  This is what I might write now that I’ve had time to learn the value of words. It’s not always about the shortest sentence or the most described.

Amber tucked her feet beneath her as she settled onto her comfortable cornflower blue couch. She held the warm mug inhaling the calming aroma of chamomile, her favorite after diner tea. Smiling, she watched the cascading colours of orange, peach and pink play and shift on the clouds.
(48)

Sooo, one if it’s her couch its in her home. I’ve mentioned before she has an apartment, so saying again is overkill. Announcing its after diner is brash IMO so I slipped it in to a better position. it’s also after diner and she’s watching the sunset. While I love a good sunset, I’m not particularity fond of reading long passages about them. I get it, it’s awesome and guess what? I’m not imagining what’s written I’m probably envisioning the last pretty sunset I saw.

It’s a fine balance of making the words and sentences count. Sometimes when I’m on a roll and just need to get the writing down so I don’t forget clever dialogue or the scene I’ll skimp on my word selections. I’m not in denial or delusional I know I sometimes I get too wordy and need to dial it back. The thing is I try to remind myself to show the scene and not tell it or list it off like a shopping list.

My advice about too little and too much description.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Read it out loud. If you get bored reading it out loud or you gasp for breath to get through (Dramatic I know) chances are you can simplify and beautify the sentence or paragraph by rearranging a word or two… or twenty.

-Sheryl

Other wordy posts

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Redundantly Redundant Redundancies

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Capable

Denial

Roller-coaster Conversations

There is nothing worse than a drab, monosyllabic conversation. A parley with no point and no book gripping content. It’s like conversation for the sake of conversation. Page filler that is not going to get the pages turned quickly if at all.

I’ve mentioned before that conversations should have meaning to the characters and impact the story in some way to be effective. I’ve mentioned that showing emotion is important and so is including emotion in conversation.

The more personal the conversation the more emotionally charged it should be. I work hard to make that happen. On that note I like to throw the characters and the reader for a little emotional roller-coaster ride. No serious conversation or confrontation is limited to one or two emotions, they are fire, ice, steam and earthquakes from beginning to end. I try to have a point to the conversation, a reason for it’s existence.

This example of a roller-coaster conversation is a rough draft and not fully edited.

Amber crammed her hands into her jacket pockets and scrunched her shoulders against the cold breeze. Normally it wouldn’t affect her, but lately everything seemed to be different and not in a good way.
“That’s a mighty big frown. You didn’t like the show?”
Amber turned her head toward Dale. He was trying too hard. “It was okay. I just don’t think they deserved that huge standing ovation.” 
His brow nit and he sneered. “So why’d you join in then?”
She shrugged her taught shoulders. “Dunno, didn’t want to look like a jerk I guess.”
They walked in silence, each lost in thought and the tension thick between them. By the time they reached her apartment, Amber was shivering.
“You coming up?” She unlocked the door.

Dale nodded and followed. They agreed to talk after the show. It would probably be a waste of time like all their other attempts. They ended up hanging out neither wanting to actually bring it up first. The second Amber had her coat off she went to find a sweater then to the kitchen to make a tea.
“Want one?” She held up a box of herbal mint tea.
“No thanks.” He looked around at the overly clean interior, Amber may be a lot of things, but messy isn’t one of them. “Where’s Bea?”
Amber filled her mug from the hot spout from the water cooler. “At her girlfriends. I think she’s moving out bit by bit. She just hasn’t said it outright yet.”
“Why?”
Tilting her head to the side she dunked the teabag to a steady rhythm. “Why do you think?”
Dale stared at the bobbing teabag. “Right.”  He looked at her face. “So will you get a new roommate?”
“Yes.” She sipped the steaming tea. “In about seven months or so.” She laughed at his frown. “I can afford this place on my own no problem. I’ve been squirreling her rent away. Even on mat leave I can afford it fine.”
He followed her to the living area and sat on the couch bedside her as she pulled a blanket over herself and held the warm mug between two hands. “I’m screwed in the winter if I’m going to be this sensitive to cold.”
“My mom said you’ll be a furnace once you show.” 
She glared at him her cheeks flushing. “You told your mom?”
“I had to talk to someone Amber.” He rubbed his face with his hands. “You’re not the only one freaked out you know.”
Amber looked into her mug, a few flakes of mint leaf escaped the bag and danced at the bottom. “Great. Did  you tell her you knocked up the office slut?”
“I told her I got my girlfriend pregnant.” He held up his hand when her head snapped up and she opened her mouth. “But that we’re not serious and probably wont stay together. I thought it would be better for her to like you.”
“Thanks Dale.” She tried to smile and failed. “I think we can manage as friends.” She looked at him again when he snorted. “What?”
“Friendzoned. I don’t want to be just your friend Amber.”
“I know and I said I’d try Dale what more can I do?” She set her tea down on the coffee table.
“Try? Do? You’re not trying and you’re not doing anything Amber.” Dale shook his head and shifted sideways on the couch to face her. “I hate this, this.” He slammed his fist on the couch and she flinched. “Ugh. Do you think I like being the fool? The idiot that fell in love with a girl who only has eyes for the actual office slut?”
Her mouth fell open. Scott was perfect and she almost said so then closed her mouth. He wasn’t perfect by a long shot. 
“God Amber you said you wanted to see if we can be a couple but you’re not emotionally available. You’re in love with a shithead who doesn’t deserve the time of day from you.”

She replayed his words in her head while picking at a loose string on the blanket. Her infatuation with Scott was superficial. She looked up at Dale, his eyes dancing, his lips pursed and the muscles of his jaw working overtime. 
“Dale. I’m attracted to Scott. Less so lately, but I don’t love him as more than a friend or buddy or guy to have a crush on.” She blinked back unwelcome tears. “I don’t think I even have a crush on him anymore.”
“Then why not give me a real chance?”
Her eyes spilled over and she wiped her face. “I’m afraid of you Dale.” She wiped her face again. “Afraid you’ll make me love you then leave when it gets tough. Dammit I never cry, stupid hormones.”

Dale blinked at her. She did believe it, not because he’s given her any reason to, but because someone else had. Someone important. She had walls, big tall barriers that made her act and pretend to be easy going and happy-go-lucky regarding men and casual-sex relationships. It was all a facade. He shifted closer and pulled her into a hug until she stopped crying. “Want to know a secret Amber?”
She shifted back and nodded as he hooked a finger under her chin to force her to look up at him.
“I did a little happy dance inside when you told me about the baby and that you were keeping it.”
She furrowed her brow. “Why?”
“Because it meant one way or another you’d be in my life forever.” Dale leaned in and gently pressed his lips to hers, moving them lightly waiting for permission to continue. She moved her lips and set her hand on his bicep gently.  Permission given. He pressed harder and she opened her mouth to his. A low noise of approval escaped his throat when her tongue flicked across his bottom lip and met with his. 

In my opinion the better the ride, the better chance I have of keeping the reader at my theme park of a book. I wanted to show Dale’s commitment, Amber’s strife to change and that her transition is underway. I also wanted to give a bit more backstory to Amber and why she is who and how she is.

My advice about roller-coaster conversations.
Roller-coaster conversations are as enjoyable to write as they are to read. Emotional and pretentious characters can have the best unpredictable conversations. Let them be erratic and unstable, it’s really fun.

-Sheryl

Some other conversational posts I wrote

Hey! Its’ Interjection

Shhh… Don’t say a word.

Hold your tongue!

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