That pesky “like,” “as” comparison.
Some people absolutely hate them. I’m reluctant to use similes mostly because I read so many that I’ve read them before. You know the ones I mean: like a stealthy black cat, or slithered down the hall like a snail. And that’s how similes get a bad name.
Reading Ashley Warlick’s novel The Arrangement makes me reconsider the simile. Referring to Los Angeles as “a city like a nervous widow.” One sentence that tells me: “Sleep rolled him like a thief.” The beauty and clarity of her similes is stunning. They stand out not only for their originality but for their scarcity. Overuse similes, even wonderful ones, and the reader is apt to read right over them. Or worse yet, get sick of them.
I think that was my problem. Too many of the books I read throw similes around like confetti. (ouch) An abundance of similes doesn’t prove a writer’s talent or intelligence. Perhaps it reveals the opposite. Granted bad similes can be humorous; in fact, there are whole web sites devoted to them. Check out http://www.eddiesnipes.com/2013/01/bad-metaphors-and-worse-similes/ if you want a giggle. One of my favorites: “When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.”
But I digress. Reading Ms. Warlick makes me want to be a better writer of similes. Not just to use them, but to use them well. That, to me, is good writing.