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20-18: The countdown continues to the biggest blundersto help you avoid them.

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‘He was a lame duck. Not a metaphorical lame duck either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a landmine or something.’ − Pretty much universally agreed to be the greatest ‘comedic metaphoric trio-sentence’ of all time in English Literature, although the author was then an unknown American High School student−If they are not writing films for Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell and Zac Efron I’ll be a monkey’s genetic aunty…

 

20 Too many similes and metaphors. The simple rule is similar to ‘ly’ adjectives and adverbs, don’t use too many of them, and make sure the ones you use fit with the narrative. Similes liken things and metaphors compare two things that not literally the same. The reason you should not overuse them is because as the writer your role is to describe setting, emotions, place, action, and to rely on similes and metaphors is both lazy and will not be as interesting for the reader. You can also stray into the territory of cliché, something to be actively avoided. It is something to look out for when you are reading, (along with everything else!) − all authors use them, but they use them within context and character. If you don’t it will shift the tone and verisimilitude and although the character may not be saying it directly, they would never say it. It is hard to come up with new similes and metaphors, but a good device to use is to relate it to something already covered within the story, that way it is how the character is not only likely to think, but how they would speak. If in doubt, leave them out. This site sums it up succinctly http://www.novelpublicity.com/2012/03/ask-the-editor-how-often-should-similes-and-metaphors-be-used-in-fiction-is-it-possible-to-rely-on-them-too-much/

Simile: He wrote his blog like he wrote his shopping lists; numbered and in too much detail!   [‘as if’ can often be used instead of ‘like’.]

Metaphor: Writing a blog is like juggling with cold invisible words, until they heat up and appear.  

I challenge you to go to this site: http://kcbx.net/~tellswor/hsmetaph.htm  and read these High School metaphors used in essays without laughing. Tears fell from my eyes like wet wontons filled with a mixture of 65% Dead Sea seawater and 35% wallpaper paste that had been microwaved for half a minute.

Similes root your book in the real, and metaphor allude to the something less so. Do you want more realism or less?

 

19 Not accepting criticism, thinking you know best−you are just starting out! Be centred, take a deep breath and accept it with grace, the other people are only trying to help−honestly! I used to attend one Writers’ Group where two members could be quite scaving with their critiques of others’ endeavours. There was truth in their comments, but a little more tact and emphasis on the positive would have gone a long way. It is a steep learning curve, but they would have reached the same goal with kinder words and an arm around their shoulders.

Listen to the advice, you don’t have to take it, but ask for points to be qualified and quantified (against established writers), ask a critical friend if they think the same, or can at least see their point of view clearer than you can at present. I think one of the problems along with all the many aspects of the doubt the art can throw at you, is the fact you have made time to sit down and produced something you thought was good enough. By people pointing out it might not be, you will have to either re-write or start that part again. Try not to get too disheartened, it will get easier, if only marginally! As we all know, and as I have stated before, a book is never really finished, but you have to let it go at some point. This is why you often have to wait 10-12 years for some authors to produce their next eagerly anticipated work. (Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch, 11 years: Jonathan Franzen, 9 years; 22 years between John Updike’s Eastwick Witches tales and 400 years between The Old and New Testament! –How long to New New Testament 2.1?−just don’t hold your breath!)

Having the confidence to believe you can do it will get you over half the way there. But the remaining part will require reading, studying and listening to people that know more than you do!  

 

18 Too many adverbs (and adjectives) added to describe direct speech. This is a common mistake of the novice writer, if we think back to the ‘ly’ overuse adjective and adverb rule, you will not go far wrong by using them very sparingly. If you are describing how the character is saying their words out load and with what emotion, it is unnecessary and will jar on the experienced reader. Show don’t tell, is another good rule to remember here. There are obviously times when you want to describe some emotion or mannerism or associated action, but if your characters are clearly defined, the reader will have a strong idea who is speaking. Most writers do very little describing of direct speech, the reader is intelligent enough to work it out.

 

“I don’t love you any more, Trisha.” He said emotionally, the mouse shaking in his hand.

“I don’t care Tarquin, I still love you.” She replied, extremely amazed and shocked.

“I owe it to you be honest, after seven years together.” He stuck determinedly to his pre-rehearsed script.

“What is she called, this other woman. Come on, tell me?” Trisha forced the words out stoically, before the floodgates opened.

“It’s not a she, it’s, it’s−”  Tarquin stalled cowardly.

“Come on, tell me?” She interrupted assertively.

“It’s not a she, it’s, it’s… my computer. We are to be wed on a beach in Hawaii next week. I know you’ll find this hard to take, but as we’ve grown apart, Commy, sorry, that’s what I call her, Commy and I have grown closer.” He eventually uttered.

Wrong on so many levels! It makes the point. We know who is speaking, there are only two of them, they are doing enough telling for you not to have to show−If I’m not here next week I am writing a modern Mills and Boon novella.

The difficulty comes when you have more than two characters in a scene, then you will have to delineate between whoever is speaking. This is a real skill without slowing the dialogue down and making it clunky. The ballroom scene in Anna Karenina is a good place to see how it is done well.    

 

‘He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at High Schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.’ – And this is just a funny ‘single’ sentence by a High School kid who now writes exclusively for Seth Rogan.

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@thewritingIMP   www.ianmpindar.com

Ian M Pindar’s latest books, under his real name are: ‘Hoofing It’ and ‘Hoofed,’ the first and second novels in The Robert Knight Series and are on special offer http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Ian+M+Pindar 

He has another three novels out this year.

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