Before I landed an agent and publishing deal, I read something on a well-regarded writerly website about similes. I think the advice went something like this: You shouldn’t have more than two similes in your entire story because they can be distracting. I did a quick check of The Last Will of Moira Leahy and found two similes in the first paragraph. And I liked them. A lot. Unpubbed writers have to take care with advice and learn to listen to gut instinct. I decided to reject the cautions and leave my similes. I’m glad I did. Similes are something that help define me as a writer. They’re also how I often make sense of the world.
I spoke with a friend of mine recently about her story. She’s big on color. There will always be splashes of red or blue or orange or yellow in scenes depicting either violence or passion or domestic angst or just plain silly happenings. Color as theme is something she hones in on in life; it snags her attention and captivates her imagination. Reading her work means seeing things through the lens she uses daily, and I think it sounds fascinating.
Some authors write detail amazingly well — down to the pores of skin, the grain of a wood — while others blur details, only focus on the ones they consider most important to the story.
Some see life through a veil of irony. Their stories may be dark, witty, smart.
Some are action-oriented, driving their story fast and fearlessly from one event to the next, while others linger in the introspective in-between.
All of these approaches can be good, brilliant even, when you allow the unique way you see, hear, smell and in all other ways perceive the world to come through in your writing. Consider our own Barbara Samuel who even lets us taste story–rich soups, flaky biscuits, the zest of life. It’s what she loves, and that’s why it’s on the page.
How do your perceptions affect your writing? What does your writerly fingerprint look like?
Photo courtesy Flickr’s chrischappelear