Simile and Metaphor

Simile and metaphor are things that we use every single day, whether in writing, speech, or thought. Yet many people are unaware of the differences between them. After all, they both compare one thing to another thing – so let’s take a quick look at them side-by-side.

Simile

Simile compare one thing (A) to something else (B) by saying that A is like (or as) B. It gives the reader an idea of what thing A resembles by providing the example of thing B.

Examples of Simile

He howled like a wild dog.

Life is like a box of chocolates.

She was as happy as a clam.

So if you use the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ to compare two things together, you are using a simile.

Metaphor

A metaphor is also compares two things with each other. However, metaphors do not use the words ‘like’ or ‘as’. Instead, metaphors say that thing A is thing B, which can help to paint a more vivid picture than a simile by creating a more direct link between thing A and thing B.

Examples of Metaphor

I’ve told you a million times not to do that.

My heart jumped out of my chest.

It’s raining cats and dogs.

There are countless examples of metaphors available online (all you need to do is search on Google).

Simile and metaphor are great fun and can be very useful in your writing – practice using them to see the comparisons you can come up with!

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Your Fiction Checklist

Have you …

  • Completed at least two drafts before moving on to editing?
  • Checked for plot holes?
  • Edited at least once to check for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors?
  • Edited at least once to check for consistency errors (e.g. hair colour, location, etc.)?
  • Edited at least once to check for errors in tense, active/passive voice, and use of language (e.g. is it too complicated for the reader to progress through the story)?
  • Proofread after the final edit?

Are your …

  • Characters memorable?
  • Descriptions vivid?
  • Plot twists surprising (without being ridiculous)?
  • Hints (at what is to come next) subtle?

Is your …

  • Plot believable?
  • Ending powerful (e.g. emotional, moral, conclusive)?
  • Story engaging?

A good way to discover these things is to ask someone else to read it and get them to explain the story to you. If they can’t explain it properly or they didn’t finish reading it, don’t think of it as criticism of your writing – ask them what they did and didn’t like and take the time to reassess your writing.

Language: Words

What is more valuable to a writer than their words? We feel the need to express ourselves in the written (and sometimes spoken) forms, and exactly how we say what we say is essential to our meaning and the mood we create in our audience. Our words should be captivating, enticing, and with just that much mystery to leave the reader wanting more.

Our theme this month has been language. We have discussed several key areas of language that writers need to think about before, during and after we write something: speech, the first, second and third persons, active and passive voice, and the past, present and future tenses. Today, I want to say something about the words we use themselves.

This is not a grammar lesson (seriously, grammar – ugh). I’m not going to lecture you on the overuse of adverbs, for instance – let’s just say that the overuse of any type of word can make your writing seem repetitive or even boring. Instead, it is a brief reminder to be selective and careful about the words you choose (especially in short pieces of writing) and whether they fit in with the feel of the rest of your piece.

Every writer has their own ‘voice’. This is how you write. You might find that your sentences are short and snappy a lot of the time. Or, you might find that when you really get into it and you lose yourself in the writing, your sentences start to run on until you discover that you’ve created a huge paragraph with only a few different sentences in it. You might find that you use a lot of dialogue, or a lot of description. You might find your writing sounds serious, almost like a textbook, or you might find that you have a jolly, easy-going ‘voice’. Often these things are difficult for us to spot about our own writing, because we are used to writing in that way.

Your own voice is not a bad thing. In fact, having a unique voice is something you should pride yourself in, because not everybody can find one and it will make you more recognisable to your readers. However, you need to be careful that your voice doesn’t take over to the point where it becomes difficult or even impossible for people to concentrate on your writing, because they’re still trying to figure out what you write two paragraphs ago.

This is particularly important for those of us who pride ourselves on throwing big, complicated words around. It’s not just something that the academically minded do – lots of writers love words, and will try to include new words that they have recently learned into their writing just because they can. And teaching people new words is great! Though beware: too many words that require a Google or a dictionary and your reader will lose their place – and the plot.


This month’s theme is LANGUAGE. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of language, then please post a link in the comments or email me on lauramarieclark1@gmail.com with the subject: Language.

Language: Past, Present and Future Tense

When I start writing something new, I tend to default to the past tense automatically. In my opinion, this is the easiest tense to write in, and that’s why I tend to revert to it. From time to time, I dabble in the present and the future tenses, too, although admittedly far less frequently. Each tense can give your writing a very different feeling.

Our theme for this month has been language. We have thought about some of the ways that writers can use language to make an impression on their audience and why we should think carefully about the language choices we make, So far we have covered speech, the first, second and third person, and active and passive voice. Today, we’re going to think about the tenses.

For this exercise, I’m going to assure that you are already familiar with how to change the tense of a verb and the different forms of each tense. If you think you might be a little rusty, you can find a useful table to help you here (scroll down the page to “Verb Tense Overview with Examples”). When you’re ready, let’s think about the impact each tense can have in turn.

Past

As I stated above, this feels like the easiest tense to write in for me. The past tense allows you to write a story or poem about events that have already taken places, whether at a specified or unspecified time in the past. It also allows you to easily move around between moments in time in the past without having the change the tense you’re writing in. I like to use the past tense because it helps me to distinguish between text and dialogue, as my character’s talk in the present tense as the events happen to them.

I believe that the past tense is the most useful tense for long pieces of writing. However, you can also argue that it makes things feel a little emotionally distant – the reader may not experience as many edge-of-their-seat moments compared to the present tense, because they know that what they are reading is not happening right now.

Present

The present tense allows you to write about something that is happening at the exact moment your audience reads it. This can make it the most exciting of the tenses when it is done right, provided there is enough action in your piece of writing (or it is short and snappy enough) to keep the reader excited. Consider using the present tense for something with lots of twists and turns to keep the plot moving.

One con of using the present tense is that it can be harder to stick to the correct tense. I know I find myself slipping into the past tense without meaning to. If you want to write flashbacks, then these will need to be in the past tense, and you will need to ensure that you return to the present tense when it is time to do so.

If you have a great, unique narrative voice, then present tense can help you to show it off. Voice is a very important tool in keeping a story in the present tense alive – so make sure you practice your own a lot!

Future

The future tense allows you to talk about actions that will or may happen at a specified or unspecified time in the future. I like to keep anything written in the future tense short and sweet. Again, flashbacks will need to be in the past tense, so watch out for when you move between the tenses to keep your verbs tight and accurate.

This tense is best for small pieces of writing, poems discussing the future of individuals or groups, short stories or piece of flash fiction imagining what the world might look like in a certain number of years time, or anything with a message of warning or hope. There are lots of possibilities with the future tense, as long as you work within the limits of predictions and potentials.

Do you have a “go to” tense? Which is your favourite tense to write in, and why?


This month’s theme is LANGUAGE. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of language, then please post a link in the comments or email me on lauramarieclark1@gmail.com with the subject: Language.

Language: Active and Passive Voice

There are many things that we often unconsciously do when we are writing. The more that we write, the more that we get to practice and hone our skills. Writing more also helps us to spot those regular patterns in our writing that could probably do with a bit of ironing out. One of the things I often notice about my own writing is that I often begin sentences in the same way, or with the same words, and so I try to vary them as much as possible. When this happens, I have to consider whether I am using the active or passive voice.

The theme on this blog for July is language. So far, we have thought about writing speech and whether to use the first, second or third person in our writing. Today, I want to look at active and passive voice.

This is about how you form your sentences. Typically, the active voice produces a smoother reading experience for your audience, making your writing easier to understand. Let’s take a look at both of them so you can spot when or where to use them:

Active Voice

The active voice refers to a sentence in which the subject (he, she, I, they, etc.) comes before the verb (walk, run, swim, fly, etc.). This means that the subject is said to be doing the action.

Examples:

He (subject) walked (verb) through the door.

Peter (subject) jumped (verb) over the fence.

I (subject) ate (verb) an extra large pizza last night.

The monkey (subject) threw (verb) a banana.

It is generally easier to read a sentence in the active voice than in the passive (see below for examples of the passive voice), because the active voice provides a more direct way to express the sentence. However, there are some times when the passive voice may be preferable.

Passive Voice

The passive voice refers to a sentence in which the subject is acted upon by the verb. This means that the verb comes before the subject in the sentence.

Examples:

The door was walked (verb) through by him (subject).

The fence was jumped (verb) over by Peter (subject).

An extra large pizza was eaten (verb) by me (subject) last night.

A banana was thrown (verb) by the monkey (subject).

You should be able to see from these examples that the passive voice has not only made you work harder to read the sentences, but has also forced me to add extra words to them. The meaning becomes a little lost.

The passive voice can be useful in some situations. For instance, if the doer of the action is no needed or unknown:

The world record was finally broken (verb).

Or if the action should be emphasised over the doer of the action:

The world record was finally broken (verb) by Mrs Smith (subject).

Of course, we can always use the passive voice to toss a bit of sentence variety into our writing. However, using it too frequently may overwhelm our readers and make your writing appear too difficult to read. If you are aware of whether you are using the active or passive voice in your writing, then you can be just a little more aware of it.

Remember: the passive voice isn’t bad, it just needs to be used in the right way.


This month’s theme is LANGUAGE. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of language, then please post a link in the comments or email me on lauramarieclark1@gmail.com with the subject: Language.

Language: First, Second and Third Person

One of the first things that we must decide when we start writing something new – or, in some cases, rewriting something old – is whether to use first, second or third person. This may seem like an easy decision, but each affects our writing and how it is received by the reader.

This month, we are talking about language. More specifically, I’d like you to consider how the language choices you make in your writing can affect your piece. Last time, we discussed speech. Today, I want to take a deeper look at how perspective can change through the use of first, second and third person.

First Person

Example: I saw him standing on the edge of the cliff, looking down at the rocks below. I couldn’t be sure, but for a moment I was convinced that he was going to jump.

The first person perspective is told from the main character’s point of view. This allows you to tell your readers what your main character is thinking and feeling in vivid detail, but it means that you cannot dive into the heads of other characters. It can help to introduce a lot of emotion into your writing, especially if you are writing about something that you have experienced yourself.

You can also write in some uncommon forms when you use the first person: diary entries, a journal, an autobiography of your character looking back on their life, just to name a few. This can help your readers to become attached to your character and deeply emote with them.

Second Person

Example: You see a man standing on the edge of the cliff, looking down at the rocks below. You cannot tell, but for a moment it looks as though he might jump.

This one is probably used the least, which is a shame, because the second person can be persuasive and very involving. You’ll notice that I’ve used the present tense here (more on tenses later in the month), because for your audience the second person can make it feel as though what they are reading is happening right now. It basically turns the reader into your character: they are the one who sees the man on the cliff, and who thinks that he might jump. Again, other character’s emotions have to either be guessed or directly expressed by them, because you cannot jump around into other people’s heads.

The second person is probably the most difficult of the three to write in. I think it’s fun, but I always feel kind of limited by the second person. It is, however, extremely rewarding when you can give your readers chills or delight them by putting them into the main character’s position.

Third Person

Example: He stood on the edge of the cliff and looked down at the rocks below. For a moment, he thought about jumping, but it passed before he could go through with it.

The third person is arguably the easiest to write in. Now we know what the man is thinking, because we can move from one character’s head to another and explore everybody’s inner feelings if we want to. Unlike the first and second person, which (typically) revolve around a single character, we are now free to do as we like.

The third person might make your readers feel less involved with your characters than when you write in the first or the second person. Your story or poem might feel more withdrawn from your main character or characters, because it is being told by an overhead narrator rather than by one of them. But it can be just as powerful with the right words and emotions.

Personally, I love the first and second person, but I always seem to use them in a more formal or experimental way than the third person, which I tend to use for longer pieces of writing. Which is your favourite and why?


This month’s theme is LANGUAGE. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of language, then please post a link in the comments or email me on lauramarieclark1@gmail.com with the subject: Language.

Language: Speech

I’ve recently started experimenting a lot more with dialogue in my writing. I have a tendency to write long blocks of text, which I think stems from my experience of essay writing. Speech is important, however, because it helps you to develop your characters, explore their personalities, and break up those sections of writing that some of us find it really hard to avoid. It’s interesting to see just how much we can explain through our characters’ words – as long as we practice the skill.

This month’s theme is language. Today, we’re going to think about some of the ways that writers can make speech a more central part of their writing.

Try Writing a Whole Piece in only Dialogue

Here’s a challenge to get you immediately thinking about the power of speech. Write a poem or story using nothing but speech – no descriptions, no “he said/she said”, just a couple of characters talking to one another. This will get you thinking about how your characters interact with one another. It will also show you how your characters’ words and the punctuation you use can affect the mood of their speech.

Say your Dialogue out Loud

This is a useful trick for those of us who struggle to integrate natural sounding speech into our writing. Read it out loud. That’s the simplest way for you to tell whether your characters are talking as people in the real world talk to one another. It also allows you to see whether the conversation flows and makes sense.

Use Contractions, Slang and Nicknames

… When you think it sounds appropriate. These are all ways that you can make your speech seem more natural. Contractions are when two (or more) words are combined to form a single shorter word (for example: they and are become they’re). Slang can make your characters sound less formal, and so can make their voice distinct from your other paragraphs. Nicknames, just like in everyday life, are common ways for characters to refer to one another. They can also provide a certain mood in the dialogue – for instance, Alexander’s mum might only use his full name when she’s angry with him.

Think About the Sound of Your Character’s Voice

Each of your characters will have a distinct voice. They may have a strong accent, or they may talk differently from everyone else in some way (think Yoda from Star Wars). If you want to portray an accent, think carefully about how you’re going to write it: it might be all right to ‘ave a character ‘oo misses a few letters outta words, but too many misspellings may confuse your readers or put them off.

These are just a few ways that have helped me to improve the dialogue in my writing. What helps you to get your speech right?


This month’s theme is LANGUAGE. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of language, then please post a link in the comments or email me on lauramarieclark1@gmail.com with the subject: Language.

Theme for July: Language

Each month, this blog will feature posts discussing writing tips and prompts on a specific theme. This month’s theme will be LANGUAGE. I will be discussing simple ways for writers to improve their writing by thinking more carefully about how they use language.

If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of language, then please post a link in the comments or email me on lauramarieclark1@gmail.com with the subject: Language.

Don’t forget that this blog is still accepting submissions, so hop on over to the Submit page if you are interested in having your writing or book featured here.