February 8, 2012

51 Great Similes to Spark Imagination

I love similes. They say more in 5-10 words than a whole paragraph. They are like spice to a stew, or perfume to an evening out. They evoke images far beyond the range of words.

Simile–the comparison of two unlike things using the word ‘like’ or ‘as’. As bald as a newborn babe. As blind as a bat. As white as snow.

Wait–no self-respecting writer would use those. Similes are as much about displaying the writer’s facility with her/his craft as communicating. We are challenged to come up with new comparisons no one has heard before. I’ve seen contests on writer’s blogs for similes and most leave me bored, if not disgusted. It’s harder than it looks to create a simile that works. Look at these I found on G+:

  • #1 – Being with him was like sitting through a Twilight Marathon, all sparkles and self-loathing.
  • #2 – She was as nervous as my guinea pig, Mittens, when we turned him loose in the hog-stall last winter. Soon we found out that he wasn’t THAT sort of a pig .
  • #3 – The snow fell like billions of breadcrumbs, promising a flurry of activity and a huge pile of shit in the aftermath .
  • #4 – Her eyes were as blue as the ink in my pen, that trickled its life’s blood gently down the front of my pocket, as I tried in vain to get her attention..
  • #5 – His hair soared in the wind like a captive egret, finally released into the wild. Not a minute had passed before a passerby made a joke about “if it was truly yours, it’ll come back to you…” He punched that person.

OK, there’s one more rule about similes: Make them concise. If you look at the tried-and-true ones above, you’ll notice they’re pithy and quick:

  • dead as a doornail
  • blind as a bat
  • dry as dust
  • good as gold

They also seem to benefit from alliteration, though that isn’t required.

I’ve started collecting the ones I read that I like, hoping they’ll spark my imagination when the need arises. Enjoy these (and the occasional metaphor thrown in):

  • Stuck out like a leg in a cast, like a dick on a female statue (or, as I’ve read: like a blue dick on a pig)
  • Tangled as Grandma’s yarn
  • Like Vulcan Kal-tow
  • Sense of menace, like the purr of a puma feasting on an elk
  • As supportive as a good recliner
  • Like having someone else’s shadow
  • Hung around his neck like a dead skunk
  • Memories jumped him like muggers in the darkness
  • when the click of the front door lock behind her sounds like the trumpet of angels
  • Like putting toothpaste back in the tube
  • dug in like a tick
  • set up like a bowling pin (ala Jerry Garcia)
  • as flexible as a rubber band
  • fell on me and like mold, grew over the top
  • on it like a NASCAR pit crew & it disappeared in minutes
  • change his views like leaves change colors
  • they melted away like snow from a fire
  • computers are like dogs; they smell fear
  • like exchanging stares with a statue
  • It’s good to get up each morning as though your hair were on fire
  • Belly preceding him like a cowcatcher on a locomotive
  • like the difference between being thrown from the 15th and 16th floor–they both kill you
  • that’s a stretch like a fat lady in ski pants
  • looked like a college football player ten years out of shape
  • waste you like a popsicle on a warm day
  • stupider than a ball-peen hammer
  • limp like an uprooted weed
  • looked like a sunrise, extravagant and full of promise
  • like air, you never tire of breathing it
  • more beautiful than a bird dog on point
  • our troops are the steel in our ship of state
  • Is your garage like your garden or like your television set?
  • Like a violin in a marching band
  • Like a fireman, summoned only when there was trouble
  • As limp as a French handshake
  • Wanted to hear bad news like he wanted to remove a bandage—quickly as possible
  • Collapsed like the French in Algeria
  • Not unlike a long walk in tight shoes
  • It’s like tinkering with the Titanic
  • Vanish like my pay check during tax season?
  • I felt completed, like a plant that has been watered
  • She was as stiff and unyielding as a lawn chair
  • She was like a cable stretched too tight and beginning to fray
  • As subtle as a gun
  • As much curiosity as a parsnip
  • Her voice implied sexual desire the way an alto sax implies jazz
  • as easy to read as a large print Tom Clancy novel
  • page looks like somebody put it into a blender and hit the Whip button.
  • The potential for disaster was enormous, like a family picnicking on the train tracks
  • Like a rabies shot
  • Winter morning was as bright as a hookers promise and warmer than her heart
  • Beaming like a full moon
  • As welcome as a fart in an elevator

Do you have any to share?

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-sixth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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