This week in the fiction class that I'm taking, we talked about three rhetorical devices: similies, metaphors and personification. If you're not sure what they are, follow the links for definitions.
Then we did a writing exercise. For each of the three devices, we selected one of the cliches below and rewrote it. Our instruction was to generate at least 5 attempts for each device.
Fear seized me.
Her face fell.
The idea of doing this multiple times is that the first thing you come up with will generally be trite, but each successive attempt will be more original.
Here's what I came up with:
Fear performed a Heimlich maneuver on my rib cage.
Happiness slid from her face like a fried egg from a Teflon skillet.
Darkness stumbled across the landscape like a late stage alcoholic.
I was pretty happy with these, but the whole exercise got me to thinking about voice and point of view, and how they determine which metaphors, similes, etc. you can use.
Because, for example, "Fear performed a Heimlich maneuver on my rib cage" only works in first person. When you write "Fear performed a Heimlich maneuver on Suzy's rib cage," the narrator's voice becomes intrusive.
And for the happiness one, the narrator has to be a housewife or a chef, because if, for example, a cop, or a dentist, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company says something like this, it just doesn't work. (Unless he's the CEO of Farberware.)
Because it's not enough to come up with cool ways to describe things. You have to do it smoothly, in a way that is so integrated with the rest of your prose that it doesn't stop the reader, making her wonder, "Who would say something like that?"
This Week's Challenge:
Try generating 5 similes, metaphors or personifications for the above cliches. Submit your favorite(s) and I'll try to guess the gender, approximate age and job of the character or narrator who would say it.