Friday, June 14, 2013

Please welcome our guest Karen Witemeyer

The Art of Analogies
By Karen Witemeyer
Editors are always talking about how they are looking for fresh writing, individual style, and characters that draw them into a story. Well, today I'm going to share with you my secret ingredient for baking up fresh writing.
Are you ready? Here it comes . . . the life-shattering secret . . . 


OK. So analogies on their own aren't going to sell your book. However, a well-crafted, unique analogy can sell your character, deepen your POV, and give your writing that pinch of freshness and originality that editors hunger for. It can be the touch of spice that sets your book apart from the others.

One of my favorite ways to deepen POV is to create fresh comparisons that are unique to my POV character's personality and background. If your hero is a western cowboy, the comparisons that mean something to him will be far different from those of a British nobleman.
This is an aspect of craft that keeps you from getting lazy. Clichés are nearly always the first comparisons that come to mind when we write. Don't accept that easy road. Work to make your analogies unique to your POV character. In doing so, you will deepen the POV and create memorable moments for your reader.

In my new release, Stealing the Preacher, I have three POV characters: the hero, the heroine, and the heroine's father. In one scene, the heroine is racing on horseback to reach her father who is out with the cattle. We are in the father's POV, and as he notes her racing in, he makes a comparison.

Now, as I wrote this scene, the first comparison that came to mind was that she rode as if a pack of wild dogs were on her tail. This, of course, is a cliché. I searched and searched for a better simile. I came up blank. Finally, I dug deeper into who my POV character was. He is an ex-outlaw who's eluded the law for two decades. He's gone straight, but that outlaw blood still runs through his veins. As I pondered this character trait, the perfect comparison finally came to mind.

He twisted his neck to the side to work out a kink, and caught sight of his daughter riding down upon them as if a hangin' posse were in pursuit.

Not only does this analogy capture the POV character's personality, but it deepens the POV because that isn't something I as the author would say in narration. But it is exactly what an ex-outlaw would use as a descriptor were he relating the story.

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Analogies can highlight the emotions of a character. Here's an example from near the end of the book:

Joanna's already frayed emotions shredded like a piece of antique lace being dragged across a thistle patch.

It creates a vivid picture, one that provokes an answering emotional response in the reader.

Sometimes analogies can be derived from something as simple as the setting. In this example, Joanna's been working in the garden all morning. Crockett has just returned and told her that he's willing to stay on and work at her abandoned church despite the fact that her father kidnapped him earlier. The news staggers her.

In an instant, Crockett Archer was by her side, steadying her elbow with a solid grip. He angled himself slightly behind her as if he were a stake propping up a drooping bean plant.

The analogy breathes another layer of life into the scene and draws a picture that shows instead of tells what the characters are experiencing.

Now it's time for you to practice. Take a clichéd comparison and rework it with your own character in mind. Here are some to choose from:

Light as a feather

Strong as an ox

Melted like butter

Stubborn as a mule

Leave a comment with a short descriptor of your character and your reworked cliché. We'll be giving away a copy of Stealing the Preacher to one lucky commenter (US residents only).

I can't wait to see what you come up with!


  1. Karen's soprano voice wafted in tones light and lilting as ashes floating in the wind.

    Thanks for the tips, Karen.

    The coffee pot is brewing.


    P.S. Are you doing choir at ACFW conference this year?

  2. Hi Karen:

    I like your book covers and I like your voice. I also enjoy reading writing that sparkles with originality as much as I enjoy the story itself. about. I’d appreciate seeing more writers do just what you have shown here.

    Old: Light as a feather
    New: With all the weight of a mirage

    Old: Strong as an ox
    New: like steel on steroids

    Old: Melted like butter
    New: faded like skywriting on a windy day

    Stubborn as a mule
    His opinions were superglued to his brain.


  3. Good morning, Karen, great post! I haven't had my cup of tea yet, so I'll hold off on the homework. You're right, sometimes it's easy to be lazy and just go with the first analogy that pops into your head. I will be working harder now to make mine more specific to the character or setting.
    I can't wait to read Stealing the Preacher!

  4. What a great idea, Karen. Thanks for sharing how to deepen POV.

    I'm running late for work, but I hope to stop by tonight. Maybe I'll have time to come up with something clever.

    Thanks again.

  5. Thanks for a great reminder!

    Light as a feather. She weighed no more than a handful of snowflakes.

    Ugh. Harder than I thought. But then I haven't had my coffee this morning. Will return.

    Hoping everyone in the path of the storms is okay this morning. Lots of power outages and trees down in our area.

    Put me in for the drawing.

    Peace, Julie

  6. Karen, thanks for a thought provoking post... it's harder than one thinks to be original and entertaining! I need to think on this.

    And Vince, yours are good! What did you have in that coffee? :-D

  7. Hi Karen! Welcome back to Seekerville! Thanks for the excellent reminder that our characters' comparisons should fit who they are. I try to do that, but keeping them fresh is hard.


  8. Vince, awesome analogies!


  9. KAREN! Welcome to Seekerville!
    I can't wait for Stealing the Preacher.

  10. Here's an almost--analogy I used in Over the Edge.

    Callie made a sound Seth had never heard from a human being before, like a wildcat crossed with a wounded grizzly bear during a Civil War battle in a cyclone—in hell. Only way, way more fierce.

  11. Mary - I love that one!!!

    And I love this Karen!

    But I'm not coherent yet. Like the others I'll be back!!

    I know I have a good one around here somewhere. Just can't remember what it was :p.

  12. Welcome Karen! Great (and helpful) post today--thank you!

    I'm heading out to a doctor appointment, so I'll come back to the "cliché homework" later on, LOL.

    Hugs, Patti Jo :)

  13. I really enjoyed reading this article. My daugher (13 next Tuesday) wants to be a writer. She is working on her first book. I will share this article with her do she can see the importance of all of those grammar exercises/assignments!!

  14. I love analogies like this! I'm mobile today but sent cheesecake before leaving home! Thanks, Karen!

  15. Red letter technoday! My first succesful mobile comment on Seekerville!

  16. Hi KAREN and welcome to Seekerville. Wow, an assignment. I was all set to say Zane was as strong as a marine graduating from boot camp and then I read VINCE's. Now VINCE, how can we follow that?????

    Come on folks, grab your coffee and be brave.

    Have fun today, KAREN.

  17. RUTHY, I KNOW how you're feeling. :)

  18. Wow - Such wonderful responses already! Thanks for the warm welcome to Seekerville. It's always so fun to visit here!

    HELEN - Bonus points for flattery always help! LOL. Yes, I definitely plan to sing in the ACFW again this year. That's one of my favorite conference experiences every year.

    VINCE - Great job on those analogies! My favorite is the "faded like skywriting on a windy day." I could picture that immediately. Perfect!

  19. KAREN - Wouldn't it be great if these original analogies came to us as easily as the cliched ones? I think I'm lazy by nature, so I have to fight extra hard not give in to the cliches.

    JACKIE - Deep POV is a multifaceted technique, but it's amazing how much difference these little touches can make. I'll look for you again tonight!

  20. JULIE - I like your snowflakes, especially for a winter scene. Thanks for giving it a go!

    MARY - I've been known to spend an hour staring into space trying to come up with just the right analogy. It can be arduous at times, but it adds so much to the manuscript, for me, it is time well spent.

  21. JANET - Always the consummate hostess. Thank you for having me in your blog home today.

    MARY - Great example. I love the use of over the top comparison to show how much the sound affected the hero. Fabulous!

    CAROL and CATMOM - I'll be looking for that homework later. *wink*

  22. TONJA - My daughter is 15 and she loves to write. She has about 10 different "in progress" fan fiction stories going now. I hope your daughter continues to follow her dream. Tell her that reading is the best training for writing.

    RUTH - Thanks for the cheesecake! Yumm. You sent the one with graham cracker crust and strawberry topping, right? Mmmmm

    SANDRA - Don't knock your marine analogy. He might knock you back. LOL. There is definite strength in that word picture.

  23. KAREN, this is such an important topic! Thanks for the reminders and suggestions about keeping analogies relevant to character and setting.

    I definitely try to do this as much as possible. And you're right, it takes effort to come up with something fresh and not clichéd.

    You got me curious to look for examples in my books, and here's one I just found in A Horseman's Hope (this is a single dad holding his sick child):

    "Christina sagged in his arms like a life-size puppet whose strings had been snipped."

  24. I'm no writer, but I LOVE your stories:) and I completely agree with this post....and it made me more interested in your new book, so now I need to read it lol!
    Please enter me.

  25. one i started to use yesterday in my scene rewrite, but cut because it didn't fit. will have to find a way to put it in somewhere.

    His kisses could melt all of her defenses, like sunshine on snow.

  26. Thanks for sharing! I remember reading those analogies, and I agree they definitely add freshness and interest to the story and characters. A writing group I'm in recently did this same thing with reworking cliches...great exercise.

    My main character is a mom of small children, so instead of melted like butter, I might say "melted like a crayon in the dryer" lol...(not that it's ever actually happened or anything)

  27. Wow, great blog post today... i'll definitely be employing these ideas. :)

    She was lighter than a newborn foal, but just as squirmy.

    No doubt about it, she was stubborn; like a coon after a silver dollar.

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. The analogies are wonderful! Seekerville sure has a talented audience.

  30. It was as light as the meringue on mama's pie :)

    What's funny is I've noticed and appreciated your use of analogies. It truly does add a depth to the writing. Thanks for blessing us all with your gifting!!!

  31. MYRA - I love that word picture! I can just see that child go limp. Beautiful!

    COURTNEY - Thanks for stopping by today. Readers Rock! I hope you get to enjoy Crockett's story soon.

    MICHELLE - Nice, with the sun on snow. Great job!

    CRYSTAL - LOL. I've got three kids myself and though I never had a crayon in the dryer, we had several melt in the mini van during the hot, Texas summers before I finally outlawed crayons in the car. Great comparison!

  32. Karen, WELCOME.

    I brought a special analogy treat to Seekerville.

    Dark chocolate chip cookies with pecans. I'd give you an analogy but I get my similes and metaphors mixed up with my analogies.

    BTW LOVE YOUR COVER. All your covers are so SASSY!!

  33. ANNA - I LOVE your foal, light and squirmy. Such a delightful picture. It makes me smile!

    SHERRI - I agree. It is so much fun to feast on everyone's creativity. Yay!

    DYED4YOU - What an apt analogy. What could be lighter than meringue? And the fact that it's Mama's just adds to the characterization. Perfect!

  34. TINA - Thanks for your welcome. And the treat! You made me feel as warm and gooey inside as dark chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven. LOL.

  35. What fun! Love the analogies folks have written. How about this? Stubborn as a two-year-old in the supermarket candy aisle.

  36. Great analogies! These make for colorful, interesting scenes and characters. Great post, Karen!

  37. "Better go inside and quit prowling around out here like a moonstruck coyote."
    From my historical romance, hero is checking his farm after a late night storm.
    I love analogies. Coming up with new ones is hard. Appreciate the post. Thanks, Karen

  38. I love analogies, but I always seem to struggle with them. Thanks for the great examples, Karen!

    Her heart melted like a late spring snowfall.

    Ughh! This is hard!

  39. Thank you for sharing this tip with me! I love how you advised to use the character's point of view rather than your own. I never thought of it like that before. My example here isn't the best, because I usually use descriptive words to let the reader feel the emotion rather than comparisons to show the emotion in another light, but they both work beautifully and get the reader to think.:)This example is from a story I'm writing called Suicidal where the main character has lost his wife at an extremely young age and all he has left are his children: twins, Jake and Sara, both infants.
    BEFORE: Looking down at Jake, his heart clenched at the thought of spending a night without his son – the last thing his wife had held close, the last thing she had touched.
    NOW:Looking down at Jake, his heart clenched as if a fist were wrapped around his heart, suffocating him of love, at the thought of spending a night without his son – the last thing his wife had held close, the last thing she had touched.

  40. Great post, Karen! It gives me a good focus as I head into revisions this morning.

    And I love reading everyone's examples!

    Here's one from my WIP: His cocky grin reminded her of a fox carrying off a chicken from the hen house.

    I'm looking forward to reading "Stealing the Preacher" :)

  41. Hi Karen,

    Love this topic! I agree. Fresh analogies make the writing shine! I need to remember this as I revise!

    The first time I really noticed this was in Julie Lessman's books - how she used comparisons to the setting or to what the character was doing. I also noticed this in your writing,too! It adds so much to the story.

    Don't put me in the draw: 1) I'm in Canada and 2) I just received my copy in the mail two days ago!


  42. BTW,I really loved Short Straw Bride. I remember reading somewhere about how that came about..the story idea.

    Where did you get the idea for your current release?

  43. Wow -- what a helpful blog. Love all the examples and the insight into going deeper into character. I've read all your books Karen, and I think you've just explained why they make such an impact on me!

    So -- I'm a school librarian packing up a bazillion books into boxes because they are going to paint the library over the summer. But whoopsie, the grade four teachers forgot to mention that they were hosting their medieval feast in the library today. Talk about chaos! So here's my analogy:

    I'm as done in as a skewered pig at a medieval feast!

  44. This was great! I loved the examples you shared and how you took your characters deeper, Karen. It really helps to know our characters.

    I am still discovering my characters for my story, so I haven't come up with cliches to moderate yet. I'll be thinking throughout the day though. :)

  45. Hi! I can't wait to read 'Stealing the Preacher'!! I have and love your other books! :)
    As for the homework assignment, my mind went totally blank! lol (I'm not a writer!) But I did have a bible verse pop in my head! :)
    "Malachi 4:2
    But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall."
    ~Joanna Chiasson (aka: ZachandZoesMom)

  46. Thanks for giving me something to think about; all I've heard is to avoid clichés, but you've given me a new way to look for an analogy. Great post, and thanks for the giveaway, too!

  47. Karen,

    I have a hard time with deep pov, but your examples as explained here make a lot of sense. Thank you for the post and I would like to be entered for the giveaway.


  48. Reading Nora Roberts was what taught me to do this. She uses it in her banter and her internal thoughts. Her early Harlequin romances are full of smile inducing analogies/metaphors. She had a knack for personalizing them that jumped off the page. Karen, Short Straw Bride: Delightful!

  49. Hi Karen! Taking old things and making them new is a favorite of mine. I love the way you refurbished these analogies to fit your characters.

    Hmm. "She felt light as a feather" might turn into "Her heart rose like warm yeast dough."

    And "strong as an ox" could easily become "stout as a grade 70 logging chain." :)

    I already have Stealing the Preacher on my TBR shelf! Thanks for such a great post!

  50. This sounds like a great book. Can't wait to read it.

  51. cool post. neat advice on how to rethink cliches. here's my offerings:

    toddler's mother: as light as her child's butterfly kisses
    a chef: strong as an early morning's triple expresso
    sweet-toothed heroine: melted like ice-cream on a hot sidewalk
    scuba diver: stubborn as a oyster refusing to release it's pearl

    now to look through all the commentor's offerings...

    thanks for sharing!

  52. Welcome Karen,

    I already have Stealing the Preacher and enjoyed it as much as a stroll along a country trail in late afternoon when honeysuckle perfumes the air.

    That's all I can do, but it says something about me. I like to walk in the country, and it infers that your story is sweet.

    I have to get back to editing out the clichés in my manuscript.

  53. For those of you haven't read it yet...

    Stealing the Preacher is FAB. U. LOUS!!!!!

    My hero is a rural Missouri farmer. Heroine is a city girl not used to big thunderstorms. She gets stuck at his house during one.

    She jumps at a close thunder/lightning strike and he thinks:

    Poor thing was skittish as a colt about to be saddle-broke.

  54. Hi Karen! Lovely advice today.

    My character is beekeeper.

    His hands were as soft as beeswax on a summer's day.

    I can't wait to read Stealing the Preacher!

  55. F.Y.I. Seekerville,

    Elaine does not use cliches in her manuscripts. That is all.


  56. oh, and p.s.

    would like a shot at winning your book too. if i did i'd be as happy as a bibliophile in a library.

  57. KAREN ... WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!! Fun post today, girl, and soooooo true!!

    LOVE your examples from your latest book, and can't wait to read it!!

    Ruthy's right about Nora Roberts, back when I used to read her, that is. I remember one analogy that has stayed with me FOREVER, and that was the following sentence from Born in Shame, which was about an Irish heroine.

    My parents were lace-curtain Irish, righteous as three popes.

    WOW, never forgot that one!!

    And, Sue Mason, seriously??? You saw that in my books??? Gosh, I was just thinking while reading Karen's post here that I need to learn to do that more ... :|


  58. Such wonderful comments. I go lunch and return to find the comment box overflowing! This is awesome!

    Some of my faves that you've shared:

    SARAH's - Stubborn as a two-year-old in the supermarket candy aisle.

    KAV's -
    I'm as done in as a skewered pig at a medieval feast!

    DEB H's - strong as an early morning's triple expresso.

    You are all doing such a terrific job with these!

  59. JOANNA - The Bible is full of beautiful analogies and metaphors. Great example.

    And you really need to get my new book since my heroine's name is...Joanna. :-)

  60. Wonderful reminder, Karen! Loved your examples!

  61. JULIE - Thanks for sharing that analogy. When those hit us they stick for years, don't they.

    When I was putting together a workshop on Deep POV (for which analogies was a part), I read back over some books from my keeper shelf and hit the jackpot with Linda Lael Miller. Let me tell you - that woman can write analogies. My book was flagged all over the place with stickies. Here's one of her best:

    "…she felt her heart crumble into dry little fragments, like a very old love letter found in the bottom of a dusty box and handled too roughly."

    Isn't that gorgeous?

  62. This makes me think of these ;).

    But one of my favorites is this one from Douglass Adams:

    "The ships hung in the sky, much in the same way that bricks don't"

  63. FYI - those all come from Bulwer Lytton's contest. That could be fun to enter.

  64. [which also gives us this one - a bit convoluted but maybe qualifies as both "inspirational" and "historical"??]

    Primum non nocere, from the Latin for “first, do no harm,” one of the principal tenets of the Hippocratic oath taken by physicians, was far from David’s mind (as he strode, sling in hand, to face Goliath) in part because Hippocrates was born about 100 years after David, in part because David wasn’t even a physician, but mainly because David wanted to kill the sucker. — David Larson, San Francisco, CA

  65. Betsy shyly looked up at him. She reached up and touched his lips, first with her fingers and then, light as a feather, she touched her lips to his. Immediately, that feather kiss became stronger and more demanding as he kissed her back, again and again!!

  66. Hello, Seekerville! It’s been a while since I’ve stopped by; it’s great to ‘see’ you all again.

    Karen, I must say, you are one of my favorite authors! (But all you Seeker people rank pretty high, too. :D ) I pre-ordered Stealing the Preacher in January. And I have re-read all five of your books at least once, most of them twice. And I loved your analogies. My favorite one from Stealing the Preacher was, "Joanna's already frayed emotions shredded like a piece of antique lace being dragged across a thistle patch." The imagery was perfect for the scene and the character.
    And just for fun here’s a great example from your book A Tailor-Made Bride, “Yet his surly demeanor riled her like a tangled bobbin thread that refused to unknot.”

    Here’s my attempt a changing ‘stubborn as a mule’ and ‘madder than a wet hen’ for my hero’s POV. He is an accountant for the family business (and also pretty mad at God): “When they argued about God, Katrina could be as unrelenting as a bank balance and it made him madder than discovering an error in the monthly budget.”

  67. I am a reader..not a can't comment on my character! I would love to win your book; it sounds fantastic. I have read your others and love them.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  68. VICTORIA - You get serious bonus points, girl, for breaking out a quote from Tailor-Made Bride. I'm super impressed!

    And I love the way you tie your analogies into your hero's profession.

    In my current project, my hero is a scientist who purposely explodes boilers in experiments to try to find ways to increase steamboat safety, and nearly all of the analogies that I've written for him have tied into boilers or mechanics. It's a great way to make his character voice unique.

  69. Jackie - So glad you stopped by today. You are definitely entered in the drawing.

  70. Oh, Karen, that is "gorgeous"!! Looks like I'm going to have to check Linda Lael Miller out!! :)


  71. JULIE - Her Stone Creek series is my favorite. I didn't enjoy her earlier books quite as well. She is general market romance, though, just to let you know.

  72. Old: Davis was as clumsy as an ox.

    New: Poor Davis was as awkward as a newborn calf.

    jy.foreman (@) hotmail (dot) com

  73. Thanks, Piper. I don't think I've seen any in your mss either.

  74. I love your books, Karen, and Stealing the Preacher is sitting beside my bed ready to start reading this weekend. Yay, me! So don't put me in the drawing.

    Reading all the different analogies has been so much fun and made me grin after a crazy day at work. Kav's literally made me laugh out loud!

    I have one to add, too. Our neighbors have been trying to get hay baled between rain storms and got caught today by a pop-up thunderstorm. We all scrambled to help get the fresh bales into barns and that's where my analogy comes from...

    Despair weighted her shoulders as heavy as a green hay bale that had been rained on.

  75. Welcome, Karen! What fun, great examples! It truly is worth the effort to try harder on our writing.

    Thanks for sharing!

  76. LOL, Crystal! I totally understand the crayon in the dryer! :)

  77. Finding just the right, fresh analogy might be one of the most fun & satisfying moments in writing. And you're so right, Karen, about the importance of matching the analogy to the character's voice & personality.

    In fact, during revisions I had to change an analogy in my current book when I realized the character would never think that way. Some characters, for that matter, might not think in analogies at all!

  78. Karen, what a delight to be able to tell you how much I enjoy your writing!

    One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever received in a contest was to express something the way the character would think of it ... which helped me come up with analogies like "she wore a dress until the fabric was so thin you could sift flour through it." (Please don't tell me someone else came up with that too!)

    Don't enter me in the drawing. I have all your books.

    Nancy C

  79. Karen, this is great stuff. Loving all the comments too.

    I've read several of your books, most recently, To Win Her Heart. Loved them all! :)

    And speaking of exploding boilers. Not sure what year your story is set, but check out the Boston Molasses Flood in 1919. Amazing!

  80. PAM - Amazing! I just listened to an account of the Boston Molasses Flood on a "Stuff You Missed in History Class" podcast. My gosh, it was awful! They really should have included it in history books when I was in school -- kids would definitely have paid attention.

    Had a great time reading all the comment analogies. Quite a talented group.

    Nancy C

  81. Karen, love your fresh prose. You've encouraged us to dig a bit deeper and come up with something unique to our characters.

    Thank you!

  82. Oh!!! I read this post on my phone earlier today (too annoying to try commenting on from a phone). Anyway, I was just doing my line edits for January's release, when low and behold, I saw a perfect need for an analogy. So I came to share. :-)

    Luke Hayes hadn’t hugged his sister in three years, two months, and thirteen days—not that he’d been counting—and he didn’t plan to stop hugging her because some fancy teacher squawked at him ***like a broody hen dead set on guarding her eggs.***

    Okay, what'd you all think? I was pretty proud of myself. ;-)

  83. Hi Karen,
    Can't wait to read your book. The cover is great.

    Sorry this is short. See everyone on the weekend!

  84. Hey, Karen!

    This probably isn't exactly what you're talking about, but it's one of my favorite lines. After Beth had gone through a very traumatic experience, her doctor gave Beth her private number and said, "Call me if you need anything.":

    "Liquid warmth spread through Beth’s heart."

    Adam is a southern gentleman from Tennessee. His main weakness is his stomach. Beth had a batch of brownies sitting on the counter when he stopped by:

    "Brownies?" His face lit up like fireworks on New Years.

    "Stealing the Preacher" is still on my wish list! :D

  85. The baker was considered an intelligent man, always using good judgment and common sense.
    But the baker's daughter? She was as flaky as the pie crust her father baked daily.