Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Add Spice to Your Writing

Adding spices to food transforms the taste and presentation into a mirade of possibilities.  Of course there are the moments when a creative spice destroys a culinary recipe, like the time my son added dill to the meatloaf recipe ...well, let's not go there.

Spice, according to, adds an interesting element or quality; zest.  Zest is a good word.  I wonder, would someone describe my writing as zesty?  What could I do to bring zest into my WIP?

Recently I read an article by Dr. Dennis Hensley in  The Christian Communicator.  He discussed ways to add literary depth to our writing.  Dr. Hensley, author and director of professional writing at Taylor University, pointed out the importance of adding metaphors and similes to our work.  When I finished the aritcle I realized metaphors and similes are a type of spice that could bring zest into writing.

Before purchasing a spice, I smell the aroma. This way I'm reminded of the unique scent and how it might enhance a particular food item. Let's smell the aroma of metaphors and similes.


Details:  A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance without using "like" or "as."

Example: The following very old chorus could almost be titled:   The Jesus Metaphor

Jesus is the Rose of Sharon
He's the Lily of the Valley
He's the Fairest of Ten Thousand
He's the Bright and Morning Star

He's the Rock of my Salvation
He's the Risen Coming Savior
Open up your heart to Jesus
Let Him Come in

See how this chorus gives clues, ideas, paints a picture, and helps us understand even in a small measure something about Jesus? 

 •"A man may break a word with you, sir, and words are but wind." (Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors) 

•"Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations." (Faith Baldwin, Face Toward the Spring, 1956)
A site that can give you practice:

Have you had a critque member say they didn't quite understand what your words meant? Perhaps a metaphor could help clarify.


Details:  A simile is a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared.  A figure of speech that expresses the resemblance of one thing to another of a different category, usually introduced by "as" or "like".

Example:   This phrase from Michael W. Smith's song Above All  popped in my head as an example of a simile

Like a rose
Trampled on the ground
You took the fall
And thought of me
Above all

Words like these help readers/listeners to formulate pictures in their mind and understand a piece of what Christ did.

•"She dealt with moral problems as a cleaver deals with meat." (James Joyce, "The Boarding House")

•"Life is rather like a tin of sardines: we're all of us looking for the key."(Alan Bennett)

A site that can give you practice:

How have you added a bit of piquant, interesting element or zest to spice up your WIP?


Casey said...

Great post Mary! I love what you said about adding "zest" to your writing. Great wordsmithing. I think to truly be good at adding metaphors to fiction you need to be well read and have a depth of knowledge that you can draw from. I love those metaphors that paint a picture and give an example without saying it was an example. The kind that subtly get their point across.

Like I said, great post and I really enjoyed it! Great food for thought. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Nice play on words, Casey.
Thanks. I think your're right that a well read person would have an easier time adding metaphors and similies. Recently Chip McGregor commented on his blog about know those who could snap up a metaphor, and those (referring to himself) who struggle. Love to have the top in the field comment on their own struggles.

Casey said...

I am definately one that struggles to come up with them! I was just reading Susan May Warren's latest book on writing and she can churn out metaphors like no ones business. Wish I had that ability. Guess I just have to work harder at making it so then. :)

Pepper said...

Great post!
And as a 'spice' I just had to add my shaker's worth ;-)
I love a well-placed metaphor or simile, but just like too much spice ruins the dish, so does using too many metaphors and similes. I've read books like that too, and they can really draw you out of the story.

I don't have the trouble of using too many thouhg. I'm with Casey, I could definitely do with a bit more 'spice' in my fiction :0)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Like any talent, it takes time to continually refine-but when we do, our work will pass the test.