Most of what I have been sharing on this blog is stuff I’ve discovered, or am in the process of discovering, as I venture into the world of fiction — specifically kidlit. If you are not a flowery-word person, or exactly clever, you may be in the same boat as I am, trying to discover better, more interesting ways to say basic things.
When I first started working on my adult novel I kept trying to describe things by comparison. In this endeavor I found myself using the word ‘like’ alot. Such as ‘His nose was like that of a mandrill…’
One of the most obvious signs of an amateur writer is how often they use the word ‘like’ in their descriptions of persons, places and things. Instead of saying this or that was like something, try using that ‘something’ to do the describing. Here is a basic example from ‘Exposures’ by Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant. It is describing an older woman who has not given up on happiness:
“Lillian saw her life as an extraordinary banquet, and to her, growing older meant she was finally getting to dessert.”
They did not use the word ‘like’ (although ‘as’ is a close second).
Let’s look at another one from “Tumbling” by Diane McKinney-Whetstone. It’s about a couple who find an abandoned baby left on their doorstep. Here she masterfully uses ‘air’ to describe the neighborhood (and its inhabitants) late on a Friday night:
“They were heavy in sleep as the moving air wrapped around their chimneys, and stroked their curtained windows, and slid down their banisters…and then turned on through a short block where cardplaying-Rose lived; the light from her basement meant that kings and queens and aces were slapping her fold-up table adorned with red and green chips for quarters and dollars and IOUs. And then the night air moved all through Lombard Street and bounced up and down the long block where Noon and Herbie lived. Right now it caressed a brown cardboard box being slipped onto [their] middle step…”
She spends about a page on setting the scene but you don’t even notice it because you are pulled in and engaged.
This kind of writing gathers all the senses into one big comfortable hug, showing them love and affection without playing favorites, one over the other. That is the kind of writing you want to create, so you don’t need to ‘like’ your words in order for others to love them.