Write fresh, we’re told. Be creative—but be concise! Don’t slow down pacing with too much description. Use colorful, active verbs. Slash adverbs. Don’t dump too many beats into dialogue. And above all, above all, avoid clichés like the plague! *oops*
So what’s an author to do? I swear I could write a book in the time I sit and ponder and deliberate and brood and contemplate and mull over a new way to write a simple but worn out phrase. But I’m learning. Using a Thesaurus helps with alternative word choices (like ponder, above). And reworking clichés can be fun. Instead of “quiet as a mouse” you can say “quiet as a sleeping mouse” or “quiet as the Night Before Christmas mouse” or “quiet as a Romano cheese stuffed mouse.” Hmmmm, *sigh* guess you gotta work on those too.
My favorite way to be creative is with similes and metaphors. They are truly jewels—precise, evocative, delightful to the reader’s taste buds (okay, that’s a mixed metaphor: jewels and taste buds have nothing in common—really, I just wanted to give a an example of what not to do!) But don’t go crazy and use them too often or they lose their beauty and become irritating (like the author is trying too hard and drawing attention to herself instead of letting the story flow). Space them out—maybe no more than one per page, at the most.
The Scriptures are full of similes and metaphors, especially in the psalms. Look at the power these simple images convey, and the emotion they evoke:
Psalm 59:14-15 And at evening they return, They growl like a dog, And go all around the city. They wander up and down for food, And howl if they are not satisfied. [The Wicked]
Psa. 61:3 For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. [Protection]
Psa.63:1 My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. [Joy in fellowship]
Psa. 69:1-2 Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, Where there is no standing. [Troubled]
Psa. 72:6 He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, Like showers that water the earth. [Messiah’s reign]
Psa 75:8 For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, And the wine is red; It is fully mixed, and He pours it out; Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth Drain and drink down. [Judgment of the wicked]
Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Yes! That’s what we want—fresh writing, words fitly spoken! Similes and metaphors are wonderful, pithy vehicles for creativity, loveliness, power, emotional impact, and uniqueness. Do you use them?Steph Prichard