In the mid-eighties, I spent most Saturday afternoons roller skating for hours across my grandparents’ front porch, baubles on the ends of my pigtail braids clacking together, as I sung along to Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A. album. I knew every song by heart, even if the subject matter was a bit over my head. Two lines of the track “Downbound Train” stood out to me in particular:
“Now I work down at the car wash/ where all it ever does is rain.”
The singer has suffered through the loss of a job and a lover, and now he is depressed. At the ripe old age of nine, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s no wonder he was so unhappy, the weather was terrible. At some point when I was far older than I care to admit, I figured out that Bruce didn’t mean it was literally raining. That was probably somewhere around the time I learned about metaphors.
I think I’ve heard that somewhere before
The idea of weather being used to convey emotion is not new. For the most part it is universally relatable, so it’s an easy comparison to make. But making common associations can be dangerous, meteorologically speaking or otherwise.
The trouble arises when we start relying on metaphors, similes, and other phrases that have become so cliched they’ve lost all of their punch. Blue eyes likened to oceans, children described as tornadoes, and similar ideas aren’t new and they probably won’t stand out as particularly clever. We want to grab the reader’s attention and transport him into our stories, but we don’t want him to feel like he’s heard this all before.
As you carefully read your work aloud during the editing process, watch for those trite phrases. Grab the thesaurus I know you have on your desk and put it to good use. Each of us has a unique writing style and we want to see yours. No one can tell your story quite like you can, so come on, show us just how distinctive your voice is.
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Yeah write #123 is open…