Monday, February 11, 2013

The Secret to Writing WOWZA Metaphors

You know those moments: when the writer writers that one sentence and you're just like.... "That's not fair. That was SO FREAKING GOOD!"

From this fantastic book, I learned how to arrange words that make the reader go "Wowza!"

It's all about pushing your comparisons/similes/metaphors.

Don't settle for the first thing that pops into your mind. Or the second. Or the third. Even the fifth. KEEP PUSHING IT!

One example is in JK Rowling's A Casual Vacancy. She says Samantha "enjoyed [Miles'] pomposity with precisely the same spirit as she liked, on formal occasions, to wear a hat."

Another example is a lyric from the epic musical, Les Misérables. "We'll be ready for these schoolboys. They will wet themselves with blood."

Do you think those two quotes were first attempts? Do you think they just sprang into the writer's mind on the first try? No. They pushed it and pushed it, and this fantastic book gives a writerly exercise to help you do the same.

Basically, it lists a character trait (say, "silly") then gives you columns to write your attempts. Keep in mind the connotations of whatever word you decide! You can really flex those writing skills by choosing a word that has a connotation in touch with your voice/imagery. For example, in "silly," the various ways to describe silly can really add nuance to really describing what kind of silly that character is. Your first attempt might be: "She was a clown." BORING. 2nd. "She was a monkey." BORING. (But see the difference in effect when you use 'monkey' vs. 'clown'? Clown seems much more like her silliness is fake/a performance. 'Monkey' makes it seem like it's natural to her personality. 3rd. "She's one of those girls who would make out with her girl friend to piss off anti-gay protesters." This is so different than the first. It gives so much development to the character, and the connotation of "silly" is so different than "clown".

So what are the Secrets to writing WOWZA comparisons?

The Secrets to Writing WOWZA Comparisons

1. On a separate piece of paper, write down the word you are trying to describe. Then, next to it, write at least five (solid) phrases as attempts to describe your base word. PUSH IT! You'll be incredibly pleased with the results (I hope).

2. Incorporate voice and attitude in your comparisons. For example, if you're writing a serious, nonfiction piece, do NOT use silly metaphors. Your comparisons should reflect your story's voice and attitude.

3. Utilize your story's world! For example, if you have a city in the clouds, push your comparisons to be more related to clouds, thunderstorms, snow, sun, wind, etc. Use your metaphors to create even more of a believable world.

I actually haven't utilized the first Secret at all in my manuscript, and after writing this post, I think I will (I'm starting the editing phase).

The thing is, it takes a good deal of time to come up with stellar comparisons. It involves a lot of thinking. So I suggest you do it in the editing phase; don't bog down your first-draft momentum to create one delicious sentence (HOW YOU LIKE THAT COMPARISON, HMMM? 'Delicious' instead of 'amazing'! I'm learning already!!!).

How do you go about crafting luscious sentences?


  1. Thanks for the tips on Wowza. I don't think I do that often enough.

  2. Ooo... I loved all of this, SC. Great post. And the book looks fabulous! I love self help writing books! :)

  3. Great tips! When I'm drafting, I just get stuff down, then I go back and make it Wowza!

  4. I kind of do them, but definitely not enough. I'm all for brainstorming to challenge yourself further. :D

  5. I'm SO glad you shared this! I'm always looking for helpful books like this and this will help my goal of reading more of them this year. Sounds like it has some great advice! Glad you shared!

  6. They usually just come to me, but I love your tips for coming up with better ones!