A metaphor, as everyone knows, is a comparison between a subject and an object. She was so tall I was reminded of a tree is one example. A simile draws the same comparison but uses the words like or as to make the connection obvious. She stood tall as a tree.
Poetic devices like these can spice up a passage. But an author can go overboard and spoil his or her effect. Here’s an example from Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a mystery by Alan Bradley. In the scene, his an 11-year-old heroine finds herself in a graveyard, alone with a man she knows to be a murder. Here’s how she describes her response:
My arteries were throbbing like stink, and I could already feel the redness rising in my face, which, in spite of the chills, had instantly become as hot as a griddle.” (pg. 303)
Here, the author employs too many images and not all of them apt. How does stink throb for example? Stink speaks to intensity, true. I’ve heard the expression, ‘It hurt like stink.” But how does stink throb? And how is it that a child can suffer more hot flashes and chills in a single moment than a menopausal women? In sum, Bradley distracts his reader with his cleverness. The effect is to break rather than build tension.
A writer who works too hard at dazzling readers is apt to make them want to cover their eyes. The King James Bible is prized for its eloquent simplicity. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. We know nothing of how God performed: whether He worked at the speed of galloping horses or at the temperate pace of molasses dripping in winter. He simply did it. I suspect His actions didn’t throb like stink, however.
(Couresy of www.123f.com)