Saturday, 25 August 2007


Often, the way we look at something plays a tremendous role in the way we understand it.
(Oh I do love those dualities [that themselves play a tremendous role in fattening the novel].)
So imagine that a simile is a comparison that uses the word like or as.
And imagine that a metaphor is the same thing, just with the omission of the word like or as.
Nice and simple. Not without caveats, perhaps, but certainly a useful perception.

So why use a metaphor?
Well, I have a fondness for anything that assists me in uncovering fresh and delicious language. Beyond that, however, we can see that the metaphor is a fine purveyor of tone, and has a definite place in my idea of the theme-set.

The difference between these two sentences is obvious, and yet the meaning is the same (the sun lights the way through the valley):
'The sun was a demonic eye in the sky that lit the way through the valley.'
'The sun was a shepherd of love that lit the way through the valley.'
Word of warning though: Metaphors are tools and, like all tools, they have a time and a place. Okay, that warning was aimed at my dear friend ricardo.

I'm hitting a handful of niggles that have pervaded chapters two, three and four for too long.
Midway through chapter two, a scene change (indicated by an asterisk sandwiched between line breaks) has caused universal confusion. I doubt it would make any difference if I added one hundred asterisks.
No longer in the lighthouse, P&B are ballooning across the sky.
I chose to introduce the word 'balloons' six sentences in. I guess I thought that the reader would be cool with the close-up dialogue and interaction between P&B before I pulled the camera back.
Seems I was mistaken. (Still not entirely convinced though.)
Anyhoo, I'm not going to argue with consistent feedback so it was time to address the niggle.

I needed to bridge the gap. Mention lighthouse (which is where the reader's head still is despite the asterisks), push it far away, and then mention balloons. A smooth transition from there to here; from then to now.
And how to liven up such a dull but necessary info dump, whilst immediately setting the tone for the scene?
You guessed it! Monsieur Metaphor.

I began with the clouds - with the rain storm. I saw the lighthouse vanishing behind the clouds through omniscient third-person eyes.
My thoughts tumbled over the ideas of seedy neon lights, and of drowning, both first-level consciousness ideas and not to be used! In moments such as these, I tend to ramble through the thesaurus, veering off in exciting new directions.

It was the combination of the words nettled (which means angry) and choked that nudged my thoughts to stormclouds as feral garden. (In particular, I was keen to use nettled as it works on loads of levels: it refers to the anger of the storm; it encourages one to imagine stinging nettles and the probable corresponding unpleasant experiences; it phonetically mimics the word netted, used shortly after to describe the canvas of the balloons; it dynamically shifts from the dark comfort of Penpa's manicured indoor gardens to the wild and scary outside world. The tone is safely established and momentum is maintained).
Note that I have still opted to save the details for later. The mere mention of the word ballooning (without any assignation) is enough to inform the reader that P&B are ballooning. Furthermore, by swapping the noun balloon for the verb ballooning, I found that the flow still works if ballooning precedes lighthouse.

The wind was favourable for ballooning and the lighthouse had far-since been tangled in nettled thickets of cloud as Penpa navigated across the sky ...

I daresay that I'm still not completely happy with this solution, but I'm hoping it'll caulk the hole for now. Hmmm ... how about substituting tangled with strangled? The tone would darken further. Hmmm ...


R1X said...

Boink! Message received (possibly not understood, but I'll get there). But seriously, I don't like nettled thickets - strains the sentence and adds nothing to the imagery (Mr Adjective)!

solv said...

Ah, those wetly milky, scampi silky adjectives. Have to assess whether the sentence does its job first, and it does.
Then comes the aesthetic overseer to tap his staff thrice upon the subjective value of the sentence. I like it (perhaps an eight out of eleven) and you don't (perhaps a sixteen out of fifty-twelve), and that's how it should be.
However, the matter's almost moot because my objective is to cover the right bases at the right time. Provided that I don't present anything amateurish to the pub/agent, I hope to wedge my foot in that door. And as we both know from maria, once there that foot becomes misshapen such that it resembles more an ear than a foot.
But do be sure to keep me on my mangled toes.

solv said...

Btw, speaking of amateurish, I really must show you some 'before's and 'after's. I'm still finding awful tells in my original ms (such as 'he seemed aggrieved at being summoned into the cold eye of a storm' - yuk!). Guess we've both come on in the last few years eh! :o)

R1X said...

What gets me though Solve, is how other writers still rely on this bold tells to get across their info - take Anita Desai's The Village By The Sea (have to read it for college - yuck) and not to moan about a published author and all that, but it's truly a poor read (made worse by having nothing with which to grip me). Okay, I'm being harsh - but I don't like it.