CREATIVE WRITING teachers who tell you that similes make for good writing should add a disclaimer:
Don’t go overboard. You don’t need three per page. And for heaven’s sake don’t reach too hard for them.
Here are some too-hard-reached-for gems that I jotted down from what otherwise might have been a decent novel. Never mind the title or author. I’m not out to shame or embarrass, but to illustrate.
“Panic gripped him like a cold iron glove.” Not having encountered many cold iron gloves a-gripping, I’m having a bit of difficulty empathizing with the grippee. And I have so many questions. Was it a giant or one-size-fits-all cold iron glove? Did it grip his entire body? His arm? His chest? His ... never mind.
“The need to warn and protect her surged within his chest, but the heavy quilt, the vise across his face, and the fear in his heart pinned him like Christ to the cross.” Where to begin? First, if any Christians happened to be engrossed in the narrative, this simile would be sure to jar them right out of it. In fact, I’m not a Christian and it jarred me out of it. (I need hardly add, I hope, that jarring your reader out of your narrative is ill-advised.) Second, pinned implies couldn’t move at all, as in a wrestler pinned to a mat. Crucifixion victims were nailed by the wrists and ankles so that they could writhe, adding to their torture. Speaking of which and third, torture, not restraint, was the point of crucifixion. This is a wholly inapt simile. Not that the others are any less so.
“The answer came immediately, soft but solid like an elephant appearing beneath a magician's wand.” I shall be brief: Huh?
“She had found that there was something about the way flesh bounced under silk that attracted men's eyes like a fishing lure.” If the author was trying to be sensual, he would have done better to leave it at flesh and silk and omit the fishing lure. I cannot speak for you, but for me the mental picture of a fishhook anywhere near a human eye is an arousal-killer. Also, gliding might work better than bouncing.
The book brims with equally awful similes, but I’ll stop here. You’re welcome.
... where I share thoughts about writing. I don’t consider myself a writing authority, but that doesn’t keep me from presuming to blog like one. Oh, and I reserve the right to digress when I feel like it.