... random thoughts
thu 2005-mar-24 18:11:18 pst
I was thinking recently about writing, and what makes some prose more
enjoyable to read. And in particular, I noticed a device that good
writers use well (and which I do not): they use similes. By drawing a
parallel between their actual literal subject matter and some aspect
of another perhaps not-obviously-related context, they are able not
only to conjure compelling imagery, but even (and this is part of what
I find interesting) to make their statements more concrete by way of
Perhaps this is obvious to anyone who, say, wrote a humanities paper
at any point in college (I did not) (seriously, not one). I mean, I
certainly grok the fact that people learn things well through
analogies, and that people are better at generalizing a rule from
specific examples than they are at forming specific examples from a
general rule. But I guess I hadn't thought to apply roughly the same
concept to general prose writing.
I think part of my problem is that I just don't think in similes.
When occasionally my brain for some reason starts up a sentence
heading towards a simile, I often wind up with silly utterances like
"it was going so fast, it was like ... a ... thing that ... goes
... really fast", and then I just let the participants in the
conversation who actually have a decent command of the English
language take over.
Of course, similes aren't everything. Probably my bigger problem is
that my vocabulary just isn't all that big. I do try to avoid words
like "thing" and "interesting" which carry very little meaning -- and
believe me, it's really a concerted effort -- and I think that helps
my writing a bit. (Though I probably wind up using "compelling" way
too often as a substitute for "interesting". Ah well.)
Anyway, I don't really have a point here (which of course is another
problem with my writing...), so I guess I'll just stop now.