For Writers #1

Since I have become very interested in editing as well as reading and writing, I've started to pay close attention to how writers write, and the errors that we make.

I'm not one of those who automatically applies a rule to writing, other than to correct egregious grammar errors. Sometimes a writer uses a sentence fragment, or repetition, or sudden POV shift, for effect. My immediate reaction as an editor is to leave it alone and see what the writer is up to (on the first read) before I start marking up the copy.

So what I write in these inserts (For Writers) will apply selectively!

Right now I am listening to a book called Infected! In many ways, it's an excellent bio-thriller - this writer has done his homework in terms of how an infestation could become a nightmare under the right circumstances. The author reads the book himself - there's a big mistake in this case, but that's for another post! - and perhaps in the hands of a more skilled reader I might not have been quite so aware of a writer's tic that bears mentioning.

The use of simile (A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things, usually by employing the words "like" or "as"... "if" or "than" are also used though less commonly) is a great writer's trick for creating mood, and adding dramatic effect to writing. "The man slammed his fist into his opponent's face like a hammer into a side of beef." Compare that to "The man hit his opponent like a child with a toy plastic bat." We've created two entirely different moods, attitudes, and visual images.

However, the overuse of this method of writing becomes tiring at best, draws attention to itself (all writing tricks should be invisible, for the most part), and finally ends up being silly and overly dramatic.

That's certainly the case in this book, where every other sentence - and I only exaggerate slightly - is a simile.

A light touch is needed. The reader should slide by these usages as they add to the visualization and enjoyment of the story.


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