I’m knee-deep in editing the final book of Malevolent right now. In the big battle in the middle of the book, my editor keeps saying, “Too many similes … too many similes … can we have some metaphors instead?”
This is my confession. I love similes.
I never thought about them very much until I read Signal to Noise by Eric Nylund. It’s a cyberpunk book in which everybody has brain implants that let them interface with computers. They all work in these “bubbles” instead of offices. The bubble interfaces with their implant and lets them visualize their own thoughts and ideas as metaphors. For instance, one character’s office is a steel plant with lots of machinery running. When the hero gives her bad news, in the background, the steel plant has an accident and molten metal spills everywhere.
The whole book is like that. It’s crushingly vivid because there’s a powerful visual metaphor in every paragraph. I counted, once. Every single paragraph. But it has to be that way, because the things he’s describing are impossible to imagine otherwise.
So I developed a habit of way over-describing the crazy things I was trying to write about. Here’s a sample of what my poor editor was talking about, from the middle of Malicious:
As before, I felt the barrier as hot and cold at the same time, like having a fever. I slipped into a weird trance state, almost dozing with my eyes open. There were life motes here. I could use them–this barrier was like a water main under high pressure. All I had to do was give it a crack.
Instead of blocking out Mal’s immense death power, I reached out and grasped it. He made an awful sound, a soft scream I had never heard before.
“It’s okay!” I said, unwilling to break out of my trance. It hurts to have your motes yanked, so I tugged as gently as I could. His motes had a pull like a gravity well and a definite shape. Wielding them like a magnet, I aimed them at the mote stream of the barrier at my feet. Life motes poured into both of us, hot, violent, unpredictable. I pulled in more and more, the pressure building as a fever-heat behind my eyes.
The ghouls were twenty feet away and galloping toward us like apes. Mal stood paralyzed, eyes closed, suffering as I used his power. He wouldn’t be able to stop them.
But I could.
See? Six similes in three paragraphs. I’ll have to revise this. I think I have a problem.
In the meantime, have a few Inktober sketches!