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How Similes Can Help You Write Better Descriptions

How Similes Can Help You Write Better Descriptions Posted on January 11, 2019Leave a comment

Similes are one of my favourite descriptive tools. They create comparatives that your reader can instantly recognize, understand and make strong connections with. With an effective simile, you can paint a vivid image in your reader’s mind in as little as 4 short words.

Despite their effectiveness, many writers are afraid of using them through fear of sounding too clique.  

Yes. If you use lines like:  

As busy as a bee. As cold as ice. As blind as a bat. As white and snow. As cute as a button. As smooth as butter.  

You will run the risk of sounding unoriginal and predictable.  

However, if done right. Similes could strengthen your descriptions and make the characters and setting in your story more relatable to your readers.  

It’s the comparative word/s that plays the most important role in similes. It tells the story, allowing your reader to make their own connections. For example:  

‘It was as tart as an indleberry.’ 

Of course, the berry described in this sentence is entirely fictional. However, that does not matter. Readers are a clever bunch and will be able to vividly imagine what that food tastes like simply by reading the word ‘tart’.   

This makes it a particularly useful tool for fantasy and sci-fi writers basing their story in fictional worlds. These descriptions tether the places, sights, sounds and flavors of these magical and foreign places to our own world, making them more believable and relatable.  

Write descriptions that will shine and sparkle on the page with the help of similes — the most underrated descriptive writing tool.

If you would like to try out using more similes in your own work, I recommend using them to open a series of brief descriptions. For example:  

The mermaid’s fins flitted gracefully through the water like a butterfly’s wings on a spring meadow. The scales on her tail were sapphire blue and her rippling hair a cool shade of violet. As she swam to the surface of the water, her silver skin shimmered beneath the light of the moon.  

Here the simile gives the reader quick and simple comparative image to help them imagine how the mermaid is moving beneath the waves. Meanwhile, the descriptions that follow build on what the protagonist is seeing, providing the reader with a fully-formed image of the mermaid. 

It’s not my best simile (I was feeling the pressure) but you get the idea. 

Do you often use similes in your work? If you do, please share one of your favourites in the comments.  

Happy scribbling!

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