Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Love is like sellotape.

Lately I’ve been carrying around the book The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman in my purse so that I have something to read during half times at basketball games and gymnastics. Not that I don’t love watching my children play sports but it’s the end of May and I’ve been watching them since October. I’m tired.

Anyway I’ve learned a lot from this book and if I can apply even a tenth of the advice I think I’ll be doing well.

One chapter is all about comparisons. Using analogies, metaphors and similes to describe things. He says when used properly a comparison can help cut out a lot of description, which sometimes effects the pacing of the book. It could help make a tighter read.

Then he says:

While the benefits of comparison for the skilled writer can be huge, the consequences of badly worded comparison for a lesser writer can be disastrous.

What do I take from this? You have to be careful with how many comparisons you make and how you make them. It definitely is an art form. I recently read a book that used them a lot. You don’t want a paragraph that sounds like this.

John ran down the block like a banshee. He was sweating like a pig. He checked in to see his Aunt Shirley, who looked as pale as a ghost. She served him a drink which tasted as sour as lemon.

You get the picture.

Anyway since I’ve been so focused on editing lately, it’s my life really, I thought I’d ask you about comparisons. Do you like them? Do you use them?

Here's a song that uses comparisons, whether it's good or bad you decide.


Kasie West said...

Okay, first of all, that video was hilarious. I was laughing out loud throughout. Secondly, I like comparisons as long as there aren't too many of them and as long as they make the point one is trying to make more easily understandable and not less. I recently read a book where every comparison made had me stop cold and go "HUH?" I thought I understood what you were saying until you made that comparison. So, like you said, in moderation and as long as it adds to the story.

Kasie West said...

The part where I said "I thought I understood what you were saying until you made that comparison" was referring to the author of the book I just read, not you, Patti. I understood what you were saying. LOL

Patti said...

Kasie: For a minute I thought I needed to go back over and re-read what I wrote. Thanks for the clarification.

Heidi said...

Hilarious video! Loved the horrid use of similes! :)

Have your read The Plot Thickens (also by Noah Lukeman)? It's my favorite writing book... I thought even better than The First Five Pages.

I think comparisons are really hard to do. Do them poorly and it yanks the reader out of the text to say, "What the Heck??". Do it really well, and it yanks the reader out of the text to admire it.

It's a conundrum for sure.