Why I Like “Like”

This post is part of SoCS:http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-june-2114/

Trying something a bit different here, a non-fiction based prompt from another blog.  The topic?  Write about the word “like”.

Well, there’s a lot to like about “like”.  The straightforwardest (yep) and simplest is the fact that “like” is used to build similes, which are like the connective tissue holding the loose clunky bits of your prose to the solid, enduring ideas that everybody’s familiar with.  Similes are just those little bits of language where you say “this thing over here is like that other thing over there.”  They can be as simple or as complex as the situation demands, but they are infinitely adaptable and always appropriate.  In fact, I’m going to step out on a ledge here and say that the simile is perhaps the most important literary technique out there.

Why?  Because it creates inroads.  Pointing out that two essentially unlike things actually ARE alike, that they do share characteristics — whether their similarities are immediately apparent to the casual observer or not — is one of, if not the, most effective way to make the most opaque of subject matter clear to your reader.

Example?  Let’s say I took creative writing instead of calculus in college.  (This is true.)  Therefore I’m not particularly familiar with arcs and curves and the best method for calculating trajectories or … okay, I’m probably making my point perfectly about not knowing anything about calculus.  Let me try again.  Physics.  As the saying goes, I know a little about physics, enough to get me into trouble.  Say I’m trying to explain a concept in physics to somebody who knows nothing about physics.  Somebody who, for example, might prefer to watch Titanic again rather than branch out and watch something new and exciting, like Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos.  Just hypothetically speaking.  This is not a real person.  But this person’s perception of gravity, let’s say, might be that it makes objects fall down.  In a highly specific way, that’s accurate: here on Earth, gravity makes things fall down.  As far as capital “G” Gravity goes, however, that’s a horrifically simplified view.

Sharknado, I’m meandering off-point.  Let me return to the simile.  Right.  A simile allows me to explain to this person whose thinking is a bit myopic that gravity, capital “G” Gravity as it exists in the Universe, not just on Earth, is a bit like the attraction between Jack and Rose in Titanic.  Once they affect each other, they forever feel one another’s pull.  When they are close, they are nearly inseparable, but even when they are apart, each one is aware of the other’s presence, and is always trying to find a way to get back together.  Now, it’s not a perfect description of gravity by any imaginable stretch, but it’s allowed me to (hopefully) shift the way that this particular person thinks about gravity by tapping into what they know about something else.

So, similes are awesome.  They allow me to paint pictures in your head by saying for example that “the blood pooling around the dead man smelled like so many old, grimy copper pennies” or that “the colors of her eyes were blue like the bluest blue sky; endless, perfect, infinite” or, in a favorite quote of mine from Douglas Adams, that the alien ships “hung in the sky in exactly the way that bricks don’t.”  Each one lets you see one thing in another way, lets you consider my experience and my retelling of a thing, which then colors your interpretation of that thing in a way that’s perhaps different than the way you already thought about it.

Damn, that feels circular.  What I’m trying to say is that “like” is like a vicegrip — a simple tool with a thousand different applications.  “Like” is like water — you find it everywhere, always adapting, always flowing, always enriching.  “Like” is like salt: sure, you could eat without it, but would you really want to?

This has been an exercise in language analysis.  Those don’t tend to read well here on the blarg.  That’s okay, I’ve got a humdinger of a flash fiction coming in my next post.

10 thoughts on “Why I Like “Like”

  1. This is great! And it’s so true – the perfect simile is what immerses the reader in the story. They’re what turns your loved ones into distractions, like mosquitoes you swat away from your ears. 😉
    Thank you for joining in, Pav, and for your excellent interpretation of the prompt. I’m looking forward to reading your fiction!


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