In yoga, the instructors always remind us not to compare ourselves to the other people in the class. We shouldn't, for example, compare ourselves to the guy next to us can put his foot around his head.
And, sure, I am not going to compare myself to that guy. That would make me feel bad about myself and my hips. I am going to compare myself to the person who can’t get her heels as close to the floor as I can in downward facing dog. That way I feel better about myself.
Comparisons can be rewarding. And not just in yoga, in writing too. Sometimes instead of using adjectives, the best way to describe something is by comparing it to something else.
For example, instead of
It is extremely hot today.
I might write
Today is as hot as me in the same room as Johnny Depp, Clive Owen and Gael Garcia Bernal.
We call that comparison a simile because similes use like or as to compare. When it doesn't use like or as, it's called a metaphor.
I am a sucker for a good simile or metaphor, which my feeble attempt from above proves I cannot provide. But, there are people out there who can. One of my favorites is novelist Tom Robbins. Check out this brilliance:
Love is the ultimate outlaw. It won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is sign on as an accomplice.
Louisiana in September was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air- moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh-felt as it were being exhaled into one’s face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing.
The only bubble in the flat champagne of February is Valentine’s Day.
She closed her eyes and tried to imagine sex entering the picture. Would sex enter the picture in a silk robe, or would it be as nude as a platter of cold cuts?
Okay, okay, indulge me. Just one more:
The Middle Ages hang over history’s belt like a beer belly. It is too late now for aerobic dancing or cottage cheese lunches to reduce the Middle Ages. History will have to wear size 48 shorts forever.
But, we have to be careful when using metaphors in our writing. A good metaphor requires some thought. There should be at least a moment’s pause when we try to think of that perfect comparison. If it comes too easily, we might be using a cliché.
A cliché is something that has become trite and commonplace through common use. It’s been so overdone it’s not interesting anymore. For example, it’s cliché to do a Forrest Gump impression of the name Jenny when I introduce myself. Seriously, it's been over fifteen years; let it go.
Some cliché similes would be:
Pretty as a picture
Light as a feather
As smooth as a baby's bottom.
We NEVER want to use clichés.
If we find ourselves writing
It was as easy as___.
The cliché would be to insert the word pie.
taking candy from a baby.
We want to search our brain for something that is unique.
We might, for example, write
It was as easy as Tiger Woods.
I know, I know. I already told you that I'm not good at this.
But, maybe some of you are. Let's have a simile off. How would you complete this one:
He was as slippery as______.