Friday, 26 June 2009

Coffee Break: Introduction and Analogies

Morning everyone. I've been skulking round the back here without being brave enough to actually introduce myself for months now. I blog about writing here and about life in Newcastle here. I also am the main contributor to Newcastle upon Tyne Daily Photo. And the main reason I've never introduced myself is that...

(looks around for an escape route; can't see one)

... I've never decided which of the six novels that I've started (never getting more than a few thousand words into any) I should concentrate on.

I know (hangs head in shame).

So - it's time to commit, else I'll have to drop out and let someone else take my place. I'm B (also known as Beth; best call me that if you meet me in person) and I am writing on a novel around a young man who was abandoned as a baby; his adoptive mother; and his birth mother.

Aaaaah. That feels better.

Now, onto the Coffee Morning part of the proceedings. I have about seven different teas and various flavours of coffee (soya milk available if you'd prefer) and hot chocolate, with a lovely selection of pastries (dairy free available for anyone who wants them)... mmm.

Along with various other novel racers, I've been working on the Open University's Advanced Creative Writing over the last few months (as I'm sure many of you are sick of hearing about now!). One of the things we were expected to demonstrate a grip on was analogy.

I didn't get it. Why it's important. Why it's so hard to get right. Why I should care in the first place.

I started to understand when I likened the thoughts of one of my characters to a CD skipping in my final assignment; my tutor said she could imagine that this was something that was relevant to the character's life, that she could believe in that thought.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in my opticians, reading the February edition of Marie Claire. An article about drunk dialling - why you should (or shouldn't) get drunk and phone your ex/parents/whoever. And I came across this sentence:

I spent the next week bright red with shame, like a large, devastated strawberry.

[copyright Tanya Gold; Feb 09 Marie Claire]

And suddenly I got it. This one sentence made me happy. I spent the rest of the day grinning to myself. And I nicked the magazine from my opticians so I could write about it here today. Sorry.

I still don't understand how to get it right every time. But I finally that it can be an really, really useful tool. How it can bring colour (literally in this case, I suppose!) and extra depth to your writing.

Do you use analogy in your writing? Why/why not?

(sorry it's so long. Something shorter, and completely different, next week)

(and Michael Jackson! And Farrah Fawcett! What a strange day.)


Revisionista said...

Welcome B! This is a great question. I'm getting to the point where good analogies in other people's writing stand out to me (like the way that the "devastated strawberry" is so unique, fresh & so true). I'm still trying to figure out how to make these kinds of associations in my own writing. Part of me thinks it's something the subconscious has to do....I'll be noticing analogies a lot more now thanks to your post. :)

Debs said...

Good morning. This is a good point, and to be honest, I haven't really got to grips with analogies with my own writing. I do enjoy a good one when written by someone else though.

Now you've made me think of this, I'm going to have to go off and get a better understanding of it/them.

Fia said...

No more hanging your head in shame, B, I should be doing that. I don't know what an analogy is and will have to go and look it up. It's not a similie then?

Flowerpot said...

Welcome B and what a good post! I use analogies a lot - I think becuase I enjoy other people's so much! That strawberry one is GREAT and you were absolutely right to remove the magazine from the opticians so we could all enjoy it!

Flowerpot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ellie said...

I know I do use analogies, but I can't quite bring any to mind and I don't have a copy of my WIP with me. Some of the best examples of analogies, similes and metaphors I've ever come across were in 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak ( I'd recommend checking it out for some really mind-bending examples!

Leatherdykeuk said...

Great post, B. Score one for commitment!

I generally am not witty enough to use analogy in prose, but I generally manage it in my morning poetry.

NoviceNovelist said...

Morning Beth & welcome, Thank you for the great selection of coffee/pastries - a good way to start Friday. Good ques too - Sometimes I find an anology just comes out in the writing process and other times I feel the lack of it in a sentence and try and create one - doesn't always work for me when forcing them though - I like the spontaneous ones - the strawb one is fab!

Anonymous said...

Hi B - from a fellow blogger in the North East (nr Berwick).

Definitely tea for me, thanks, and just plain Tetley if it's there..

Like my tea, I write plainly, hoping things like analogies will crop into my head and give me a vibrant sentence to open the reader's eyes. I think, like Revisionista, I shall notice more in other people's writing from now on and maybe one day use them myself.

CJ xx

Mrs Boob Pencil said...

I use loads of analogy, I like it a lot. I'd like to use more. Sometimes I go through a dull passage consciously injecting analogy, like a hard-up bride sprinkling rose petals on the floor of the village hall. ;)

I really love Tom Robbins as a writer, and one of the things he's really good at is analogy.

But but but... one day I'd really like to find out, and remember, once and for all, what is the difference between analogy, metaphor and simile???

ChrisH said...

My best friend's an optometrist and we always have a tut tut and people like you :D! Trouble is, it's never the boring mags that get nicked - they always make off with the latest OK or MARIE CLAIRE!! I think on this occasion your need was greater! And now we'll all think of strawberries when we think of analogies. (Must remember that as I've just signed up for A363). I don't consciously think about working any particular device into my writing, I just try to get the words out but then fiddle with them later.

Mrs Boob Pencil said...

PS I agree with Ellie. The Book Thief is BRILLIANT. Everyone should read it.

PPS I am about to open a Tom Robbins book at random, and am hoping v much I can find a ocuple of amazing analogies to dazzle you all with. Hang on...

Ha! The man is a genius! I kid you not, I opened it at random and this was the first sentence on the page I opened:

"The relationship between Thunderbird Bowl and Thunder House seems about as close as that between toilet bowl and toilet water"

and then from the same paragraph...

"Good grief! It has taken you this long to think of that? You are to detective work what Grandma Moses is to German Expressionism."

and then two paragraphs later...

"You glance over both shoulders, while something cold and bristly, like Nanook of the North's toothbrush, runs up and down your spine."

Seriously, reading Tom Robbins is like standing under a waterfall of words. And it was after reading one of his that I came up with this one, which I've always been rather proud of: "Her blush was like a cup of tea, being poured from ankle to ear."

And now I'm going to go and find that sentence in the German copy of my book, to see how they've translated it. Should be interesting. And makes me think, analogy might often be hard to translate. Translating Tom Robbins must be a nightmare.

[excerpts from Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, although I can't remember what Thunderbird Bowl and Thunder House are, which spoils it slightly...]

Mrs Boob Pencil said...

...and the German cup-of-tea sentence reads thus:

"Henrietta ... wird rot."

Oh for fuck's sake, that just means "Henrietta goes red."

The title of that chapter, which should be "Cold Wash of Creep" has been translated to "Kalte Angst" which just means Cold Anxiety, and is much less colourful, don't you think?

So has my writing become a pale shadow of its former self via the process of translation? This is the only copy of the book available for the world to read. How annoying. Maybe the writing comes through in other areas. Maybe not. Harumph.

Karen said...

The best description of an analogy I read is that it's like a simile, but longer - if that makes sense!

I use them a lot - too much I think, and will have to cut some out when I edit mine, but I agree that they add depth to a piece of writing when done well.

sheepish said...

What an excellent discussion you have initiated, so well done for introducing yourself finally, it was worth the wait.
Love the idea of a "devestated strawberry". It's not something I have given much thought to for my wip but does feature in my poems. I think! Definitely something to consider and give more thought to.

Agree wholeheartedly about "the Book Thief" and am now off to look up Tom Robbins. Loads of good comments too.

Graeme K Talboys said...

OMG. I have no idea if I use it much or at all. (Scuttles off to read some of his own work).

Anonymous said...

"Using an analogy, Paul, is a bit like making love to a beautiful woman: first you've gotta woo her with your winning similes, then you've gotta melt her with your metaphors, before you sweep her off her feet with your steamy imagery."

Okay, enough of the Swiss Tony impressions. I think I need to have a strong coffee. Or maybe a cold shower.

I try to use analogies all the time, and not just in my fiction writing. They can also be a useful tool for teaching or just explaining something. I find you do have to be a bit careful with them, though. Otherwise you can end up sounding patronising.

Thanks for the introduction, B. As it happens I met you in person before I met you on-line. How traditional! Anyway, looking forward very much to meeting you all tomorrow...

Rowan Coleman said...

Do I ever use anaology! Only all the time - its is possible to over use them though so that everything is like something else, which can be a bit affected. If you get me (I need an analogy for this) and sometimes its better to be direct so I ty and keep and eye on that, but for me it comes naturally like buying shoes that I never wear.

Calistro said...

Yep, I use analogies. Sometimes I just think of one on the spot, while I'm writing. At other times I'll write 'he looked as depressed as a [insert something witty here]' hoping that, when I got back to edit the draft my witty/clever gene will have kicked in! Doesn't always happen and sometimes I end up deleting the analogy.

I think analogies are best used sparingly and only when they're really good ones otherwise you could be in danger of analogy overkill (and multiple analogies on one page lessens the impact of the good ones)!

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Good point Cally, and it could certainly be said that Mr Robbins a bit analogy-heavy at times (indeed, some people hate him for it), but for me he goes through the barrier and comes out the other side. He's like a deliciously stodgy pudding that makes you feel satisfied and full.

B said...

Oooh thanks everyone for being so welcoming :) I was terrified noone was going to comment!

Revisionista - thanks for the welcome! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

Debs - hope you enjoy playing with them!

Fia - according to the coursebook, analogies express a similarity between one thing and another. They are usually divided into similes and metaphors. So similes are analogies, but an analogy is not necessarily a simile (it could be a metaphor). Does that makes sense??

Aw thanks Flowerpot, glad to have that reassurance :)

Ellie - I'll have to check that book out!

Thanks Rachel!

Hi NoviceNovelist - glad everyone likes the strawberry analogy - I really did think it was great!

CrystalJigsaw, hi! The north east rocks :)

mrs b - hard up bride - heh :) definition according to the OU is above!

ChrisH - I might have thought twice if it was a more recent edition but it was about 4 months old? Also, I do redistribute my mags to the doctors when i finish with them :)

mrs b, i love those that you've quoted - they make me want to get it right. and yours is fab! i can't believe they didn't translate it. what a waste.

Karen, hee :)

sheepish, thanks - i'm glad everyone is being so nice!

Grum, do come back and update us!

Hey Kev! nearly a year since we meet IRL, we meet officially online - how bizarre :) i'm glad you use them in non-fiction - i wasn't sure if i was leaving out the non-fiction peeps with this post. i'm looking forward to tomorrow too! and btw, I love the Fast Show but do really hate Swiss Tony....!

Hi Rowan! That's a good point, well made. Are you still coming tomorrow?

Heh Cally - that sounds like something I would do! and Cally/Squirrel - I've read that you should only get one analogy a BOOK - but I think that is going a bit far, personally!

Annieye said...

Good evening. A nice cup of tea would be lovely.

I love analogy and when something pops into my mind I write it down to use somewhere.

I like to drop them into conversations too, as they pop into my mind.

liz fenwick said...

The sun has just gone past the yard arm so i think I may need something stronger than tea...

Like Graeme, I don't know if I do. Will have to check.....

I hope all who are making it to the meet have a fab time. I had hoped it would work but kids plans changed so I am in Cornwall and as FB knows its a long way from here!!! Enjoy.

PS - Great post B

Caroline said...

Welcome B, but now you've got me thinking! I've no idea! I am scuttling off to check too...

CC Devine said...

Apologies for the lateness...I love analogies but sometimes struggle to come up with something that doesn't sound naff. I do the same as Cally and leave gaps in the hope of inspiration at the editing stage.

Lane said...

Hi B. Don't hang your head in shame - the premise of your novel sounds great.

Sorry to be so late ... again.

I'm not sure if I use analogies. I'd have to check. I'm more conscious of using similies. However, I love a good analogy when I see it. As you say, it can add real depth (and colour:-)

Hope everyone has a good writing week.

lakeviewer said...

I dropped in from another blog-can't remember which-intrigued by the title. I'm caught in the mouth of this animal and can't extricate myself.

Kate Lord Brown said...

Hello B - I will never be able to look at a strawberry in the same way again. Hang in there - I'm sure we all have a drawer full of 'half born' novels.

B said...

Annieye, I'll join you for that cuppa, I'm parched! :)

Thanks Liz! It's funny how people don't know if they use it or not :)

Caroline, you too, how funny ;)

CC - I've never done it before today, but I did that too earlier!

Aw thanks Lane. It's good to feel I can really hang round here now without feeling guilty ;)

lakeviewer (great name) welcome!

Kate LB - I do hope it's not just me :)