Incredibly Awkward Similes: Potato Feet Stomp Out Tension

imageIf you are an insomniac writer, you’ve probably had one of those nights you think you’ve written something brilliant only to wake up and find the notebook under your face is crawling with awkward prose.  It’s so bad that you check to see if your cat’s grown opposable thumbs because there’s no way you wrote this.  Your dialogue is dead, your hero is bipolar, but worst of all, your similes suck.  What possessed me to use them in the first place when metaphors are stronger?–I don’t know.

potato feet:  hilariously exaggerated, ill-conceived abortions of written thought

Why call them potato feet?  There’s a running joke between my husband and I about a particularly bad simile in a manuscript I was writing that has since gone to never-been-book-heaven.   There was a chase scene during which I described one character as having legs “like a couple of toothpicks stuck in potatoes.”  Sure her legs were thin and she was running around in a pair of heavy combat boots, but my glancing reference to Charlie Chaplin’s potato dance was–well–stupid.  My style often includes humor, but this was absurdly cartoonish garbage that took the reader right out of the text.

Easing the tension in a scene with humor should be done with caution.  But if your goal is to completely obliterate the tone you’ve been building then by all means–insert some potatoes!

Michelle Joyce Bond

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18 thoughts on “Incredibly Awkward Similes: Potato Feet Stomp Out Tension

  1. Ah, yes, I’ve been there. Upon later reading my work and finding some bizarre metaphor or simile, I’ll ask myself, “What in the world was I thinking?” They say writers should use similes sparingly, because if you write a bad one, that will be what the reviewers pounce on and quote in their review. Gulp.

  2. Yep, you’re right. I’ve learned that I have to include this in the book-charting stage (before I actually write anything). Otherwise I waste time going back and re-writing it (lesson learned). My first novel, After Life, is dark/oppressive, and was in need of the levity I had to put in later.

  3. Omg yes! I recently dredged up a bunch of old stories from the depths of my external hard drive, and found many similes that made me outwardly cringe. I’m also a big fan of the cartoons! 🙂

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