Spice Up Your Writing: Similes and Personification


Although not as strong as metaphors, similes are great ways to follow that time-tested literary maxim: show, don’t tell. They’re easily identified by the words like or as.


A simile compares two unlike things that have one thing in common.


Her heart fluttered like a butterfly.

His excitement soared as high as the moon.


  • Don’t use a simile that’s a cliché. Clichés are ineffective.

Cliché: Cindy was as busy as a bee.

Cindy was as busy as a hamster running on her exercise wheel.

  • Don’t use a simile where no comparison exists.

Bob flexed his biceps like spaghetti.

Be Original

The first similes that come to mind are usually cliché because we hear them all the time. Go ahead and write them in the first draft, if you need to, and then in your revision work on creating a fresh image, that is, something original.


Personification is a figure of speech that’s easy to use, helps create mood, and makes our writing more vivid.


Personification is a literary device that gives human attributes to non-human things.


Flames danced in the fireplace.

Darkness slipped into my room.


  • Don’t overdo personification.
  • Use personification strategically, in places where you can create atmosphere and mood.
  • Keep your personifications fresh/original. In other words, be creative with them.

More on figures of speech next week.

Spice Up Your Writing, Metaphors

Robert Frost (1874-1963), Author of “The Runaway”

Metaphors are the strongest of all the figures of speech, and as we’ll see in this post, there are several types. If well written, they’ll evoke emotion in our readers and draw them deeper into our stories.


A metaphor compares two different things, saying one thing (or person or place) is something else.


John is a ticking time bomb.

John is not a literal time bomb, but the time bomb image tells us he has a fierce temper and may even need to take an anger management class.

Analysis of a Metaphor

A metaphor contains two parts: the tenor, and the vehicle.

John is a ticking time bomb.

Tenor: John, because he’s the subject of the metaphor.

Vehicle: Time bomb, because it’s the metaphor’s image.

Types of Metaphors

Absolute Metaphor


The tenor has no connection with the vehicle.


John is a ticking time bomb.

No connection exists between John and the time bomb. In other words, he won’t literally explode. John’s metaphorical explosion, however, might build into a fit of rage. The connection exists between John’s rage and the bomb, not John and the bomb.

Extended Metaphor


These metaphors extend for longer periods in a sentence, paragraph, or page by using two or more parallels between two unlike things. They’re often used in poetry.


Robert Frost’s poem, “The Runaway.”

The poem is copyrighted, so visit this link to read it: The Runaway by Robert Frost | Poetry Foundation

The Metaphor: a horse. Frost uses a horse fearful of his first snow to represent a child who’s run away from home with no one to comfort him.

Mixed Metaphor



A mixed metaphor combines two or more metaphors that have no logical connection to each other.


Don’t count your chickens before they hatch and swim away.

Chickens hatch, but they don’t swim. Thus, I mixed two unconnected images—chickens and fish.

Next Week: Similes

Spice Up Your Writing, Figures of Speech, An Introduction

Use figures of speech in our writing, but don’t overdo them lest they conceal the story from readers.


A figure of speech is a literary device that enhances our writing but is not to be taken literally. It can be used to create a special effect, create emotion and make our writing more visual.

Figures of Speech, A List










Although there are other figures of speech, we’ll study the ones I listed above in future posts.

Next week: Metaphors and Similes

Some Copyright Basics

As authors, we need to become familiar with the basics of copyright and copyright law. In this blog, I share a few things regarding it, but I encourage authors to study and research it for themselves as well.

Why Register A Copyright?

The Law: the moment a work is in fixed form, it is copyrighted under the law. So, why register a copyright with the copyright office? Here are two reasons.

  • It provides proof in a court of law that you are the owner in case someone infringes on your copyright. The Copyright Office provides a Certificate of Registration and a Registration Number indicating the effective date of registration for each copyrighted work.
  • You cannot file a lawsuit for infringement in federal court if your work isn’t registered. Without registration, it’s more difficult to prove ownership. The law gives authors three months to register after publication, or else they must be registered before the first infringement occurs.
  • Your work will be listed in the Library of Congress.

For details on how to register your copyright, download Circular 2, “Copyright Registration.” See links at end of this blog.

Mandatory Deposit: It’s the Law

Although authors don’t have to register their work with the copyright office, the law requires them to deposit a required number of copies of their work with the office. If an author registers his/her work, they will meet this requirement because depositing their published work is part of the registration process.

For more information, download Circular 7D, “Mandatory Deposit of Copies or Phonograph Records for the Library of Congress.” See links at end of this blog.

Infringement & Plagiarism


Ideas cannot be copyrighted. After all, how many Civil War novels are out there? How many historical romances with similar plots? No plot is truly original but the story’s expression, the way the author writes it, must be the author’s original work.

For example, if I create a character, say an army scout just like Hondo Lane in Louis L’Amour’s novel Hondo, I’ve infringed on his copyright. I can write a Western using an army scout as the main character, but my scout must be unique to me— how I depict/express him.


Plagiarism is “literary theft.” It’s presenting someone else’s work as your own.

What Are Some Plagiarisms?

  • Copying another author’s work word-for-word and using it as your own.
  • Paraphrasing another person’s words and ideas without crediting the source.
  • Authors plagiarize themselves when they use one of their previously published works in a current work and don’t cite it.

The above information on plagiarism comes from the MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2016. I recommend every author get a copy of this book, especially those who write nonfiction.

I recommend going to the copyright office’s website, download the circulars that apply, then read and study them. As authors, we need to at least become familiar with its basics.

Recommended Links

Circulars | U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright Protection – Why Should You Register Copyrights? – Gerben Law Firm

Top 10 Reasons You Should Register Your Copyright – FindLaw

Recommended Book

MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

Be Original: Find Your Literary Voice

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. – C. S. Lewis

A Definition

What is literary voice? The term isn’t easily defined. Some writers write fast-paced stories, whereas other writers’ stories move at a slower pace, with long sentences and paragraphs. A writer’s literary voice is unique—original— and sets writers apart from other writers.

Two Examples

Let’s look at two excellent examples of literary voice. Our first one comes from Edgar Allan Poe’s story, “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839). He writes in a dark, gloomy voice.

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.

Our second example comes from William Faulkner’s famous short story, “The Bear” (1942). He writes in a stream of consciousness, using long sentences and other devices to imitate the natural thought processes we use.

He was ten. But it had already begun, long before that day when at last he wrote his age in two figures and he saw for the first time the camp and Major de Spain and old General Compson and the others spent two weeks each November and two weeks again each June. He had already inherited then, without having seen it, the tremendous bear with one trap-ruined foot which, in an area almost a hundred miles deep, had earned itself a name, a definite designation like a living man.

Developing Your Literary Voice

Each writer develops his/her own voice through lots of writing and practice. As we grow in our craft, we’ll discover our own unique voice that sets us apart from others. We must choose our words carefully (diction) and arrange them in grammatically correct ways(syntax) to express our thoughts in a voice unique to us.

Punctuation also plays a role. If we hear a pause in our prose, use either a period, semi-colon, or comma. Which mark we use depends on the pause’s length, something we’ll discuss later.

Things to Avoid

  • Monotonous writing. Monotonous writing has no personality. To give it personality, mix long sentences with short sentences, long paragraphs with short paragraphs, and vary different types of sentences within a paragraph. .
  • Wordiness. When writing sentences, whether they’re long or short, be sure every word used contributes to the sentence’s clarity. That is, be concise. This means getting rid of all unnecessary word(s): cut the clutter.

Have you found your literary voice? If not, keep on writing and eventually, you will.