Wednesday, November 13, 2019

It was like ........the use of similes and metaphors in crime fiction

I love a good metaphor.  
I know I know, its cliche and trite in crime fiction but dammit a really good simile or metaphor makes me smile like a shark who just found a fresh whale carcass.

Sorry. Couldn't help myself. 

Crime fiction is filled with writers who can turn and twist a phrase like a demented contortionist. 

Sorry. Again.

The name that comes to mind for most people is Raymond Chandler.  Chandler never let a weak plot get in the way of beautiful language.  He made the manipulation of comparisons look simple.  I can assure it is not. And I've miles and miles of deleted sentences to prove it. That's the thing about genius.  It makes the hard things look simple and the simple things look difficult. 
   Another writer who was skilled at using a subjective analysis to contrast one thing  with another was the great Ross Macdonald.  Ross didn't use the technique half as much as Chandler but when he did it was incredibly memorable.  
  All literature depends on language but only the Southern Gothic story is as dependent on dense labyrinthine etymologically challenging phrases. One if my favorite modern practitioners of the art of the simile is Johnny Shaw. Shaw takes the technique and stretches it to its inevitable ridiculous limits then pushes it even further.  He will having you laughing like a hyena on nitrous oxide. 

Aaargh ...sorry ...

The technique is so ubiquitous in crime fiction as to almost be a pastiche but one must be careful with how and when you use it in your own work. As Christa Faust says think of similes and metaphors like pretty puppies. Pick the cutest puppy to put on display not the whole damn litter.

So go ahead, compare your protagonist to all types of granite, steel and iron but don't do all three in the same paragraph. 
You'll wear your reader out faster than an air mattress in all weekend orgy.

Sigh....sorry ....

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