One subject of writing I think gets overlooked is the topic of analogies. All writers use them, but do they use them properly?
“Asphalt cut the country like a scar, a long, hot burn of razor-black.” — John Hart, The Last Child.
That is the first sentence of John Hart's book, The Last Child. I love this analogy because not only does it describe the road and setting in short, exquisite detail, but it also sheds light on the mood/atmosphere of the book, offers a fantastic and fitting symbol for the story, and even embodies the emotional influences of the characters before and after the events that take place - excellent. All of that in just 13 words.
This is one part of my writing I find easier to notice improvement in than say character and plot development. When I look back at old stories (like last week), I cringe at some of the analogies I have used. Analogies may also be one element of writing that stands out for editors/publishers too, showing just how adept the writer is in conveying their message and providing unique descriptions that adequately represent the passage and story as a whole.
Here are some of the side notes my editor has given me regarding analogies: could be better, does not clarify the message, is too common, interrupts the flow, and too confusing.
Below, I thought I’d put together a short list of things to consider when using analogies:
- Does the analogy adequately clarify the passage it is describing?
- Is the analogy too common, cliché, or boring?
- Does the analogy take advantage of the five senses?
- Does the analogy interrupt the flow of reading? (If it stops/slows you, it will more than likely stop/slow the reader too)
- Does the analogy fit the theme/mood of the story?
- Is the analogy too confusing, long or complex? (The purpose of the analogy is to use simpler terms to explain complicated terms.)
- Could it be better?
Please feel free to add your own thoughts and/or suggestions in the comments section below.