A simile is a comparison between two things using the words “like” or “as”. Enriching your writing by using similes is as easy as…I’ll bet you thought I was going to say “pie.” It’s a simile you have probably heard before. That’s the trouble with similes. They can be used in all types of writing from stories to essays to poems, but there are certain things you have to watch out for. Some similes have been so overused that they have become cliché. The best way to enrich your writing using similes is to come up with comparisons that no one has ever thought of before. You don’t want to say the same things that someone else has already said. That’s one of the reasons you’re a writer. You have something to say that you don’t believe anyone has said before. Or you have ideas that no one else has had. Using similes is a great way to show your originality. But like any technique you use to enrich your writing, it takes work and imagination to put the technique to use.
So let’s go back to the simile I used at the beginning of this article: “easy as pie.” It is a very common expression. Frankly, I don’t know how it became such a common figure of speech. I mean, what’s so easy about pie? Have you ever tried to make a pie? It is no easy task. You have to mix the flour with just the right amount of butter and liquid. You can’t over-mix it or the crust will be too hard. If you under-mix it, the dough won’t hold together. So what’s easy about pie? Eating it? Sure, it’s tasty, but the filling falls out sometimes, or the crust breaks apart and you don’t get a good mix of filling and crust in every bite. Personally, I don’t think there is anything easy about pie. Maybe whoever came up with the saying was trying to be sarcastic. But sarcasm is a technique we will talk about in a future column. For now, let’s get back to similes.
One of the prettiest similes I ever came across in my reading was in a poem by Pablo Neruda. He is a great poet. In his poem, Ode to Birdwatching, Neruda is amazed that such a voice, such music can “come from a throat as small as a pinky finger.” Comparing a throat to a pinky finger—now that takes some imagination. Another one of my favorite similes, even though it comes from a song, not a poem or a story, is from the song “21 questions” by 50 Cent. “I love you like a fat kid loves cake.” That one always makes me laugh.
So let’s go back to our original simile and see if we can’t come up with something better. If I think about easy, I think about the easiest day of my week. That would be Sunday, when I spend an entire day watching football. So, my simile would have to be: Using similes is as easy as watching football on Sunday.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have a favorite simile? Are there any good similes in the book you are now reading? Or, can you think of another simile using the phrase “as easy as…” I look forward to reading what you will post. I’ll talk to you next week about some more ways to enrich your writing. If you have any particular literary techniques you would like me to cover, just let me know. Until then, I wish you richer writing.