Friday, December 3, 2010

The Shape of Fresh Similes

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I take immense pleasure in learning the recipients of both the Bulwer-Lytton and the Bad Sex in Fiction award each year. I also blame Stephen King for these misappropriated metaphors. Nothing but beauty can come from his hard, fast and well-publicized rule about cliches. To paraphrase: a cliche is anything you've ever heard or read before. Don't do it.

Ever? That's a ten ton elephant in a writer's already crowded mind.

However, this tenet of fiction encourages deliciously fresh similes like this:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.

--Molly Ringle, Seattle, Washington (2010 Bulwer-Lytton Winner)

Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.

--Rowan Somerville, The Shape of Her (2010 Bad Sex in Fiction Award)

Gawd, can't you just picture these moments? This is creativity at its purest. And while it's a mixed mess of distinction to actually win one of these-the publicity alone could vault an author into the stratosphere of sales-in an author's quietest moments, I'm positive he feels hurt. It's hard, bloody hard, to reveal so much of oneself and attempt to boldly go where no writer has gone before. To have even one line end up as the butt of a joke must feel akin to walking naked through Times Square.

Right on, Mr. Somerville. Write on!

More of Mr. Somerville's naughty bits...
Mr. Somerville's reaction to the "honor"

Have a cliche-free weekend, everyone!

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