Analogies. As a writer, you might love them or hate them. I love them. To me, analogies can make a description come to life. They convey a nuanced shade of emotion. They showcase the voice of our characters. But best of all, they don’t need to be fancy or complex.
Check out these similes that have popped out of my five-year-old daughter’s mouth.
“I’m as hot as the sun!”
“I’m cold like Antarctica!”
“I’m as fast as a motorcycle.”
“This boo-boo is like a volcano — it has red in the middle.”
How much more interesting it is to read (or hear) these statements than their generic counterparts! What’s fascinating to me is that even though these statements were uttered by a five-year-old, they have all the components of a good analogy.
1) They are accurate, in the sense that the sun is hot, Antarctica is cold, motorcycles are fast, and volcanoes have red lava in the middle.
2) They are easily relatable. Since we all know that the sun is hot, it is easy to imagine how being as hot as a sun might feel — which is to say, blisteringly, swelteringly hot.
3) They are surprising. At least they were to me. The first time my daughter bounded into the room and uttered an analogy, I laughed in a rather shocked way. I just didn’t expect something like that to come out of her mouth. Nothing generic or cliche about these analogies.
4) They give a good sense of character. To me, these comparisons scream out the literal mind of a five-year-old. Antarctica is cold, my daughter’s thinking goes, and I’m cold. So I must be cold as Antarctica. Never mind that the analogy doesn’t make too much sense. It works, in the humble opinion of this proud mama, in the context of the speaker.
Not to be outdone, even my three-year-old son has been known to chime in with his own simile.
“I’m as hungry as a bear!”
This statement, I admit, may be less original than the others. But if you could see the stick-thin legs and big brown eyes of the speaker, you might agree that the cuteness factor makes up for the lack of surprise.
I think all this goes to show that good writing doesn’t have to be complicated. Too often, we bang our heads over story structure, character development, world-building, and the million other things that go into writing a novel. And we should. This struggle results in the knowledge we need to grow as writers.
But we would do well to remember that good writing is rooted in something basic and instinctive. Something even young children can grasp. Something we’ve been studying from our earliest years.
Maybe then we can remember why we entered this crazy profession in the first place. Because we love it. And we always have.
13 thoughts on “I’m As Hot As the Sun!”
You have hit this one out of the ball park! What a wonderful way to make sense of the world of analogies as a way of showing character – and your statement is SOOOOOOO true: “I think all this goes to show that good writing doesn’t have to be complicated.”
I often get caught up in ‘writing’ the cool sentence or coming up with just the perfect analogy, metaphor, etc., when if it works for the character and shows character consistently – as he or she changes or doesn’t change – that’s good story telling, which is our ultimate goal, I think.
Also, I think I love your babies:)…too darn cute (big grin on my face reading this blog:).
I needed this post today! Thank you!
Aw, thank you, Denny! I love my babies, too!
I do the same thing as you, get caught up in the words. And when I do, I take a step back and remind myself: keep it simple. Keep it real. What would my character be feeling or thinking at this moment? Of course, this is all easier said than done!
Have a great day, and thanks for putting a big grin on my face!
“We would do well to remember that good writing is rooted in something basic and instinctive.”
This is very true for me. When I’m in a happy writing place, it just flows. When I’m stilted and second-guessing, I already know I’m writing crap.
Great post today! 😉
First of all, Kerri Carpenter, you never write crap. But I agree that being in the “happy writing place” allows the words to flow easier, so the trick is to get there as often as we can. That’s what lavish rewards are for. 🙂
I’ve been trying to find ‘my happy writing place’ because what I’ve been writing lately is crap! LOL. (It could be the mounds of paperwork/crap around me on my desk, too. That’s next weeks ‘To Do’ list.)
I love analogies. I used to play a word game with my mom every night before I went to bed. I love you as…”funny as a clown,” “red as a fire truck,” “round as a ball,” …you get the idea. But it’s funny as a clown that I do that with my own kids now. They are wayyyyy more original than I ever was. Much more imagination. 🙂 But it’s fun, and it’s great to play with words to set a scene or get a point across.
I love your game, Kim! And it’s true, children are so imaginative. Mine constantly blow me away. Maybe we had that imagination, too, when we were little, and as writers, we are doing our very best to salvage what we’ve lost? What I remember from my childhood is living in a constant dreamworld. But as we grow up, reality intrudes a little too frequently and shatter our dreams, so it becomes harder and harder to live in that world.
Your children are as talented with words as their mother–the apple(s) doesn’t fall far from your tree! Making that distinction in analogies (whether they know what one is or not) shows great imagination and growth for them.
Me, I try to find those analogies that are simple yet a bit out of the ordinary, too. That’s a bit harder at times. I have to remember . . . K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Silly!)
Thank you, Loni! I hope my kids share my love for words, but if they don’t, that’s okay, too. We will have to keep reminding each other about K.I.S.S.! That’s what mermaids are for, right?
I love analogies. This could explain my love for former news anchor Dan Rather:
“This race is shakier than cafeteria Jell-O.”
“Things are getting hotter than a Times Square Rolex.”
“This thing is as tight as the rusted lugnuts on a ’55 Ford.”
(When Georgia was called for Clinton in 1992) “Clinton is off to a start, rolling like a big wheel through a Georgia cotton field.”
“This race is tight like a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach.”
“He swept through the South like a tornado through a trailer park.”
“Don’t bet the trailer money on it yet.”
“It’s a ding-dong battle back and forth.”
“Look at that. Can’t get a cigarette paper between ’em.”
“His chances are slim to none right now, and if he doesn’t carry Florida, Slim will have left town.”
“If a frog had side pockets, he’d carry a hand gun.”
“You would sooner find a tall talking broccoli stick to offer to mow your lawn for free.”
“Turn the lights down, the party just got wilder.”
“It’s cardiac-arrest time in this presidential campaign.”
“It’s too early to say he has the whip hand.”
“It’s about as complicated as a wiring diagram to some dynamo.”
“This election swings like one of those pendulum things.”
“This will show you how tight it is – it’s spandex tight.”
“Al Gore has his back to the wall, shirt tails on fire with this race in Florida.”
“Smelling salts for all Democrats, please.”
“Maybe you can bring some perspective on this, we’re plumb out.”
“When the going gets weird, anchor men punt.”
“She didn’t go to school just to eat her lunch.”
Wow, Avery, how on earth did you come up with that long list? Impressed. By both you and Mr. Rather.
P.H., great post. I was just saying recently to a friend that I worried if a person could learn too much about writing. Get too far away from their inner story teller and similarly from those sweet analogies. Thank you for bringing that back with today’s post.
“Life is like a box of chocolates.” Forrest Gump’s Mama
Carlene, Thanks for stopping by. I don’t think you can learn too much about writing, so long as you let your knowledge shape your story, rather than dictate it. IMHO. Have a great day!
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