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.
I’ve been reading Linchpin, by Seth Godin, trying to get my brain into this “entrepreneur” game. And it’s funny, because the things he’s saying are nothing new. It’s just fun to see them all laid out, kind of like the outline to a book.
A linchpin is someone who:
Goes the extra mile
Invests emotional work in going that extra mile (excitement! Energy!)
Tries new things
Doesn’t follow all the rules because there aren’t any
Generates lots of bad ideas and a few good ones, and the good ones are what deliver
They’re generous, and give freely without asking anything in return
I’m currently reading the chapter on fear, and it can all be summed up in that quote from Ratatouille:
You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true – anyone can cook… but only the fearless can be great.
Thinking about it, I know lots of people who are linchpins in one way or another, or working hard to become so. It’s funny, because being a linchpin is a state of mind, not a job. It requires humility and a willingness to be inconvenienced. I’m finding lots of advice for being a wife and mother, as well as an author. Like the chapter on fear–how much of my child-raising has been governed by fear!
It’s great to read shake-up books like this, because it makes me think about everything differently. And the nice thing is, it’s nothing new. Just like the vitamins and minerals shtick, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s how it’s applied that makes all the difference.
This year for school, I had planned a very laid-back year–having a baby due at the end of November kind of throws off all my grand academic plans. I found Education.com at the end of the summer (loads of printable worksheets for preschool to 5th grade), and realized that I’d struck gold. So many customizable curriculum options at my fingertips! So we started doing those, in addition to some mathbooks and a very nice dictation book.
Then I read about Thomas Jefferson Education. It’s more or less what we were already doing–I just tried to harness it a little more intentionally. Basically, you work on your kids’ character, as well as studying things that interest them. I couldn’t ever really do “unschooling”, because my kids do much better with a predictable routine and structure–but Thomas Jefferson ed seemed to fit the sort of structured-yet-unregimented style I was looking for.
So, one morning when the kids made “aquariums” out of glass cups, with water and the stamens of flowers for “jellyfish”, I embraced it. We checked out books on jellyfish from the library, and watched documentaries, and colored pages about the jellyfish lifecycle. The kids can now tell you the difference between a true jellyfish and a false one, that the top is called the “bell”, and a full-grown jellyfish is a medusa, and how baby jellyfish stick to the rock like a plant until it’s ready to break free.
This week, because Halloween is coming on, we’re doing bats. All things bats. Every day we discuss echolocation, and bat babies, and what it would be like to be a bat. Likely I’ll be drawing bats for my next Inktober pic.
We’re still drilling math facts, spelling, writing, and all that good stuff. I also ambitiously started reading Lord of the Rings aloud, buuuuut I think I’m going to switch to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory here pretty soon. LOTR might need to wait until later. 🙂