I’ve been paying close attention to the subject of similes on Nathan Bransford’s blog. While anything can be over used in writing, I’m glad many of the writers defended similes. Reminders of writing blunders are absorbed usually like the criticism was written in stone. :) I’d like to make an observation pertaining to one of my favorite uses of a simile in my writing as well as what I read. I’ve read novels where the author describes a main character as looking or behaving like a very well known public figure, and it fits perfectly for me throughout the remainder of the novel. It’s not because the author was too lazy in descriptive phrasing. The usage fit a need perfectly. They wanted the reader to picture a certain person, many times as I believe they pictured the character while writing. Many times a well placed simile accomplishes what dialogue identifiers do, and readers generally register the comparison as they would an identifier. Just as we don’t really see ‘said’ when we read, other than a guide to who is speaking, readers generally file away the image a simile makes just as perfunctorily. Because agents and publishers read a vast amount of writing samples, and decide they’re tired of seeing certain identifiers or similes, it’s a bit self absorbed to subjectively yank writing tools out of our hands.
The guardians of the publishing universe proclaim no more adverb modifiers, and then no more dialogue identifiers, and now no more similes. Pretty soon, we’ll be writing: ‘See Dick run. Does Jane see him run?’ :)