More common than air…. Damaging like a giant tornado hitting a chainsaw factory…. Similes are sweeping the nation as fast as a cheetah on a motorcycle.
For the grammatically disinclined (you know who you are, or rather, you SHOULD know who you are), a simile is a comparison between two or more things, often using the words “like,” “than” or the ever popular “as [blank] as a [blank].”
Now, as with any other writing device, similes can be done well. Some writers use them to tremendous effect, some wonderful writers even use them often, and I would not take their similes away from them. This doesn’t apply to everyone.
But as Johns Hopkins MFA grad and author May Vanderbilt told me this weekend as we were discussing writing over drinks at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference after our panel with editor Christine Pride (yes, this is what agents and writers do at writer’s conferences), she was once told in writing school that you get one or two similes a book. No more.
No doubt this is hyperbolic advice and not meant to be taken literally. You don’t got ONLY two similes. But unless your gift for similes is as grand as a Steinway piano (get it??), this is something to keep in mind. Similes are like jalapeno peppers. They can add some spice, but too many of them and your reader will spit out your novel and run away.